Thursday, December 24, 2009
A lack of bigots
This is a quote from the Dec. 19-Jan. 1 issue of the Economist (a double issue I recommend). It appears in an article titled "A Ponzi Scheme that Works." The quote itself is on page 44, first column, attributed to "left wing British journalist" Gary Younge.
It's this quote that got me to thinking about Dorchester's racial divide. I am the target demographic Mr. Younge is describing, but I don't recognize myself in his description. I don't see it in my daily travels around Dorchester either, despite the cultural and economic boundaries that separate the sub-neighborhoods. Everyone recognizes that the different sections of Dorchester are different, but I don't see these as being particularly racially based as much as income-based. I don't see a lot of enmity either. Dorchester is not a hotbed of revolution and it isn't red in tooth and claw. Most people are just exchanging pleasantries and gossip from where I sit.
This may be for one of two reasons. Firstly, I am a white man in a suit, and I am well aware I am accorded courtesies that other people are not. They are unnecessary and usually embarrassing. Secondly, I spend most of my time around Columbia/Savin Hill. The races are used to mixing there and not just a simple black/white mix; most available genetic and cultural shades are stirred around in an amicable slurry. I am also located in a neighborhood full of students who may be lending their open ideas of meritocracy to the woof and weave of social life.
Be all these things as they may, I do get out and about farther beyond and I don't witness a lot of animosity between any parties. I certainly can't say that I have never seen my fellow Americans as anything but perpetual enemies. I don't even see them as potential allies. As Americans, we are all natural allies. What's better than being an American? Being an American in Dorchester, Mass. I think we can both agree to shake on that.
I think this British rabble rouser is talking through his hat, and The Economist article supports my viewpoint with statistics rather than my personal impressions. When I read the paragraph that introduces this essay, it doesn't match my lived experience.
This isn't to say it doesn't happen. I just just can't attest to to it.
Mr. Younge's opinion must have come from somewhere. As a journalist, he cannot conjure stories out of thin air. If Dorchester is a community of relatively peaceful race relations, I am sure there are pockets of racial discord in other parts of America. The question is: why not here?
The answer, I think, is that all the bigots have moved out of Dorchester. It's no secret that Dorchester's population today, like most other Boston neighborhoods, is less than it was 50 years ago. The people who didn't like city living, with its close quarters shared with different types of fellow citizens, moved away. The people who live in Dorchester now are either those tolerant Dorchesterites who valued pride in place over homogeneity, their children, or those who moved her by choice knowing what they were getting into.
Where did the malcontents go?
If Dorchester lacks bigots, and they can be of any color, I pity the communities in which they went to roost. They must not be pleasant places.