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Racial healing

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 10, 2008

What do you two think about the state of race relations in Boston today? What's improved and what's still problematic?
FLYNN: Look at the vote Deval Patrick got in Boston. He had the mayor against him, he had all the politicians against him; they were all supporting Tom Reilly. And look at the vote Obama's going to get in Boston. It's unbelievable.

I think the issue of race made an enormous level of progress in the '83 mayoral campaign. It wasn't contentious, it wasn't divisive; we discussed the issues on their merits. As mayor, I was able to support a human-rights ordinance. I was able to integrate public housing in South Boston. I don't take credit for it, believe me. I give credit to Mel King. I give it to the people of the city who were tired of the division of the past. We had just gotten over school busing, which was the most contentious, divisive period of time in this city's history. People forget that, because they weren't around at the time. But as far as I'm concerned, the city's come a long, long way.

You know what I think? I think that the issue of economic disparity between the wealthy and the poor is such a big issue now in Boston. The poor can't afford to live in the city. . . .

KING: Race is always — that's a strong word — either an issue or related. The proportion of people who are low-income is higher among folks of color. And so the history of denial, the problems with the schools — the majority of the students in these schools are young people of color.

Let me just put it this way. If housing access is limited, and if the young people see their families being moved out because they can't afford to live in this neighborhood, and they look around and see it's them and their friends and people who look like them being moved out, then you have to understand that race is a part of what is going on. The young people who've been killed and impacted by the violence have been black and Latino, by and large. You're talking about something that's impacted the folks in the communities of color. That's not accidental. That has to be systemic; there has to be something that's in the culture of this country and the culture of this city. So what is it?

One of the sorriest aspects of this current campaign — the Globe wrote an article about how the presidential candidates haven't talked about the violence that exists in this country. They don't touch on the fact that more young people of color are killed in this country than are killed over in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may be safer for them to be over there than over here. There isn't any conversation in this political campaign around that dynamic, so that ought to tell you something about whether there's interest in the lives of these young people by the population overall. Are these young people seen as part of this society, as part of this country? I do not believe they are.

You ask if things are better, improved, et cetera. It's interesting: there were fewer of us dying when there was more overt racism than there are now, when it's really subtle.

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  Topics: News Features , Deval Patrick, Arthur Garrity, South Boston High School,  More more >
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