Two stories about racism in the news today show the heartbreaking reality of racism in the Boston area.
The first involves a 21-year-old Black woman in Groveland named Julia Santos, who was chased and harassed by a middle-aged white man in a BMW convertible as she was picking up food for her dog. Steve Annear and Maria Lovato report in The Boston Globe that the man only stopped berating her after a neighbor intervened.
It’s a sickening story, and it easily could have have escalated into something much worse. Fortunately, Santos reacted calmly and recorded the encounter on her phone.
By the way, the Globe didn’t identify the the man who stalked Santos because the reporters were unable to verify it. But she named him on Facebook, and it sounds like local police are all over the story. Let’s hope he gets what’s coming to him.
The second, by Globe reporter (and distinguished Northeastern journalism alum) Meghan Irons, concerns a Suffolk Law School study showing that Black renters are subjected to horrendous discrimination. Among other things, the undercover operation revealed that would-be renters who identified themselves by names such as Lakisha, Tyrone or Kareem were, more often than not, immediately shot down, whereas those who seemed to be white had no problems.
“In subtle and overt ways, Black renters experienced discrimination by real estate brokers and landlords in 71 percent of the cases tested,” Irons writes.
One of the first in-depth investigative reports I remember reading was in The Boston Phoenix or The Real Paper sometime in the early 1970s. The topic: landlords who discriminate against Black people looking for apartments. And here we are nearly 50 years later.
There’s a context for the racial taunts directed at Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones at Fenway Park during Monday night’s game. After all, we had just learned that a Trump supporter from Winchester, one of the wealthiest communities in the state, had written a letter to his community weekly complaining about those “Hate Has No Home Here” signs that have popped up here and there (including in front of our house).
“It is offensive to imply that the rest of us — who don’t have a sign and who don’t think the way you think we should — are haters,” wrote John Natale in the Winchester Star. “That’s insulting.” It was a breathtaking display of cluelessness and insensitivity. And we never would have heard about it if a seventh-grader’s righteous response hadn’t gone viral.
There has been an enormous amount of commentary about the Fenway Park incident in the past few days. Here are three you ought to take a look at.
In The Boston Globe (owned by Red Sox principal owner John Henry), columnist Adrian Walker wonders why more steps haven’t been taken to curb racist fans. “Bad behavior can be stopped,” writes Walker. Indeed. As we have been reminded, Boston is one of the most inhospitable cities in the country for visiting black players. It’s disgusting. I’m glad that fans gave Jones a standing ovation Tuesday night, but it shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.
In the Boston Herald, sports columnist Steve Buckley gives Red Sox president Sam Kennedy high marks for acting decisively but criticizes him for blaming the problem on “an ignorant few.” Buckley’s response: “Every time the ignorant few do their handiwork, another episode of ‘Boston is a Racist City’ gets played out on the national stage.” It may be an ignorant few who drunkenly spew the N-word in public, but something is making them feel empowered to do it.
At WBZ Radio (1030 AM), Jon Keller draws a distinction between “real Bostonians” and “fake Bostonians.” The trouble is, though real Bostonians would never engage in racist taunting, they’re not doing enough to stop it, either. Says Keller: “Time for the real Bostonians to do more to see to it that the fakers are exposed, isolated and shamed.”
No rational person thinks the racist tweets that followed the Bruins’ loss at the hands of Joel Ward on Wednesday represented any more than a tiny, ignorant minority of hockey fans (see this, this and this).
But there’s still something uncomfortable about hockey and race, especially in a city whose racial history is as troubled as ours. (And no, we don’t know how many of those offensive tweets came from Boston.)
The fact is that there has always been a certain subset — subspecies? — of hockey fan who likes the sport in part because nearly all the players are white. I grew up here, and I heard plenty to that effect when I was a teenager, and even in my 20s.
It’s no accident that the Bruins of Bobby Orr (two championships) were far more popular than the Celtics of Bill Russell (11). Or that the Celtics finally became the toast of the town after the face of the franchise turned white, first with Dave Cowens and later with Larry Bird.
Of course, Boston is not the same city today that it was in the 1970s and ’80s. The Celtics of recent years, led by three star African-American players and a black coach, have been as loved as any team in Boston. Even the Red Sox have put their ugly past behind them.
But there’s a context for hockey that doesn’t exist in other, more integrated sports. Among other things, Boston Herald writer Ron Borges couldn’t have made his non-racist but stupid observation about Tim Thomas with any other sport because getting beat by a black player would have been entirely unremarkable.
And the mouth-breathing racist fans who tweeted the “N”-word would have long since come to terms with minority athletes (or stopped watching) if we were talking about any sport other than hockey.
It’s not the NHL’s fault that there are so few black hockey players — it’s a function of geography and culture. Indeed, Major League Baseball itself has very few African-American players today, a demise that has been masked in part by the rise of Latino players of color.
Nor does this have anything to do with the vast majority of hockey fans. I don’t like hockey, but I know plenty of people who do. And they are good, decent people who follow the Celtics, the Patriots and the Red Sox just as avidly as they do the Bruins.
But race is an issue in hockey in ways that it just isn’t in other sports. And when you combine that volatility with Boston’s reputation, what happened this week was perhaps inevitable.
Photo (cc) by clydeorama and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
Four years ago, conservative blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs reported that the Vanguard News Network, “one of the ugliest neo-Nazi sites on the Web,” was complaining that Paul had whispered sweet nothings in their ear while taking a very different stance in public.
Johnson reproduced part of a post by Bill White, the “commander” of the American National Socialist Workers Party, who wrote:
Both Congressman Paul and his aides regularly meet with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review, and others at the Tara Thai restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, usually on Wednesdays. This is part of a dinner that was originally organized by Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Joe Sobran, and has since been mostly taken over by the Council of Conservative Citizens.
I have attended these dinners, seen Paul and his aides there, and been invited to his offices in Washington to discuss policy….
Paul is a white nationalist of the Stormfront type who has always kept his racial views and his views about world Judaism quiet because of his political position.
At the time, New York Times blogger Virginia Heffernan made mention of Johnson’s findings and got slapped down in an “editor’s note” for passing along “unverified assertions” and for failing to contact Paul for comment. You can no longer find Heffernan’s post at NYTimes.com, but I wrote about it for the Guardian. I also sent an email to the Times’ then-public editor, Clark Hoyt, asking why a Times blogger was being punished for blogging, but I never received a response.
So when is it appropriate to write about the claims of the “commander” of a neo-Nazi group? I’m not sure there’s a good answer. As Johnson began his item four years ago, “Take this one with a grain of salt, please.” But given that the Times today goes page-one with a detailed report about Paul’s ties to Stormfront and other white-supremacist groups, it seems to me that White’s assertions are relevant and worth checking out.
And given the facts that we now know about Paul, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to believe he might have sat down and broken bread with these hate-mongering whack jobs.
It’s interesting to see this stuff finally going public. As I recall, Paul was doing well in the polls four years ago, too. But I guess since he was in no position actually to win the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, as he is (or was) today, the executives at major news organizations saw no need to devote the resources needed to investigate Paul’s background.
Paul’s last defense seems to be that though these groups support him, he doesn’t support them, and that he’ll accept help from anyone who offers it. Which means that he may not actually be a racist in the sense of believing that non-whites are genetically inferior to whites. But how finely do Paul’s supporters want to parse this?
It’s good to see that Ron Paul’s dalliance with racists and anti-Semites is getting another airing. The Weekly Standard is recycling James Kirchick’s splendid New Republic article of four years ago, in which we learned that newsletters with names like Ron Paul’s Freedom Report and the Ron Paul Political Report were filled with gems such as a reference to Martin Luther King Day as “Hate Whitey Day.”
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, in the course of thrashing Colin Powell, cites a 16-year-old William Raspberry column in which Raspberry apologized for accusing Rush Limbaugh of bigotry without having listened to him for more than a few minutes in bits and pieces.
Powell, who’s been critical of Limbaugh, must be similarly ignorant, according to Jacoby.
“Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”
“Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” [Spoken to an African-American woman who’d called.]
Two of the most incendiary quotes on the list — a paean to James Earl Ray, who assassinated the Rev. Martin Luther King, and a comment that the streets were “safer after dark” during slavery — appear to come from a book by Jack Huberman called “101 People Who Are REALLY Screwing America (and Bernard Goldberg is Only #73).”
I do not know the provenance of those quotes, and Wikiquote says they are in dispute because Huberman did not provide dates. So we’ll leave those in the interesting-if-true category.
On the other hand, there is no question that Limbaugh lost his gig as a football analyst after he made racially insensitive remarks about Donovan McNabb, a quarterback who’s black. And he’s had great fun with a parody song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” not least because he gets to claim, over and over, that his critics don’t get it and he’s not really racist.
William Raspberry retired in 2005. But he might want to consider his 1993 apology to Limbaugh. The evidence is clear that Raspberry got it right the first time.
Sean Delonas’ cartoon in today’s New York Post may not be racist in intent, but it is racist in effect. How anyone — Delonas and his editors — could be unaware of the way African-Americans have historically been compared to apes in order to diminish them is beyond me.