The recent racists acts at Fenway Park in Boston seem to have shocked many people. I don’t know why people are shocked-do you? It is Boston right? Boston aspires to become a wonderfully inclusive town but those of us who have grown up here know it remains a work in progress where it feels we take a step forward and then three steps back too often.
Like every other town in the USA Boston is still a place where institutionalized oppression and racism are alive and well. I wish it were different today than when I was a child in the late 60’s but it really isn’t! We all know about racists acts that take place in classrooms, in colleges where the use of the ‘n’ word continues to be used by faculty despite student protests, in churches, at the market, in business offices, at community agencies, at the playground and yes—at Fenway Park!
As a Puerto Rican woman who grew up in this state, I know first hand what racism feels like, looks like and acts like having faced racist as well as sexist attacks much too often within school, in politics and the work place; even as recently as 2016! From when at the age of ten a teacher kicked me out of the classroom for speaking Spanish at lunch time, to when as young parents my husband and I took our babies to the playground in Wellesley and the Caucasian parents picked up their children and left the playground when we walked in to use the swings, or when a landlord took one look at my husband and i and said "Your are the Rosas? oh, that apartment is not available.", I have known racism and prejudice are part of life in our state. And, yes even as a successful, executive many have tried to undermine me, because yes, in professional circles well educated, very polite, somewhat evil racists persons do exist. And, I would be remised if I did not mention that as an elected official in the nineties I faced both racist attacks as well as sexual harassment. Yes, all of this in our state!
I share these very personal experiences to say: we are definitely striving to do better in Boston and in our state. I applaud the leaders who have called out the Fenway incidents saying‘not in our town’; but as a retired judge once said while speaking at a forum on race and justice system, ‘the civil rights movement was less than a century ago—there is no way we have wiped away hundreds of years of racism, this country has not even begun to acknowledge the results of oppression and slavery!’
And, I believe the Judge on that panel was correct. Institutionalized oppression and racism is real; unless we acknowledge it as such and begin to break down the systems, policies and practices that keep oppression alive we are only having polite conversation. Let’s be honest with ourselves-we have a very long way to go!
So, lets keep talking; let’s keep embracing our differences; let's keep calling out acts of racism; let's keep respecting one another; let's keep moving toward creating an inclusive, caring, civil society. Experience has taught that only through: open, honest dialogue; respect, civility; and genuine understanding that we will continue to improve as a nation. Inclusiveness will only become reality when policies, practices and systems change ensuring true access and equity for ALL.