RIGID MINDS DON’T MAKE GREAT DISCUSSIONS

For a few days, I hooked up with a Boston Globe group. Its purpose was supposedly to address racism in Boston. Though we don’t live there anymore, we did live there a long time and we lived in Roxbury, the darkest part of the dark part of Boston. We lived there for ten years and they were ten of our best years. If that condo had anything other than electric heat — electric heat in New England is not really heat; it’s just burning money to take the chill off — and there was a way to get from the ground floor to third floor bedroom, and they hadn’t decided to redesign every road in Boston, AND we had somewhere to exercise our dogs, we’d have stayed. But I could see the future and a 3-story walk-up condo didn’t look like a good choice for us. Especially not for me.

Red lights in Roxbury

I found this house online. It was the right price. It had land and two fireplaces. The house needed work, but seemed structurally sound otherwise. It was in the whitest place I’d ever seen, so we found ourselves moving from the darkest area of Boston to the whitest area in central Massachusetts.

Having lived as a mixed couple in Boston, I thought we might have some interesting feedback to offer the group.

It turned out, this group was exactly like talking to a bunch of Republicans, but from another part of the spectrum. These were people who made pronouncements like “Black men have a lifespan in Boston of just 21 years and everyone hides their children.”

Roxbury

We lived on Circuit Street which is right in the middle of Roxbury. Garry was a lot more than 21 and so were all our neighbors — none of whom hid their children. It was a safe place to live because everyone watched out for everyone else. The crazed drive-by shooters never drove by our place. Probably half the men in the complex were police officers, sheriffs and a reporter, so it was probably just as well. I never felt unsafe walking the streets, though I have always preferred to avoid gangs of teenage boys. I have a firm belief that gangs of teenage boys are inherently dangerous, no matter what their class, color, or ethnicity. They are hormonal and quite probably, insane. They will not become sane until their mid twenties when the hormones slack off a bit and their brains clear.

Otherwise, I walked downtown and to the post office. I liked my neighbors and I think they like me. We had block parties with great food, music and laughter. It was a jolly place to live. I miss it.

So when whoever it was said “Men are doomed to die before age 21 and everyone hides their children,” I took umbrage. It was just like Trump telling Black people that they might as well vote for him because “what did they have to lose?” In fact this guy who was supposedly “fighting” racism was essentially going out of his way to prove all the crap people like Trump say, is right. Sometimes, you have to step back and consider what you are really saying to the world.

Making racism the whole story is stupid and not true. Most people in “the hood” live normal lives. Those reputed heavily armed tanks full of crazed shooters don’t roam the streets. In the ten years we lived there, NO ONE shot at me, near me, or threatened me. I wasn’t raped, assaulted, or propositioned. Men were polite and helpful. Women were charming and funny. No one tried to break into our house. No one stole our cars, which  is more than I can say for living on Beacon Hill where both of our cars were stolen.

There’s racism in Boston as there is everywhere. In my humble and apparently insignificant opinion, the serious racists don’t live in Boston.  They live in the white, wealthy suburbs. Those liberal places where everyone tells everyone tells everyone else how they many wonderful Black Friends they have, but you never see any of those friend around. They don’t visit — or get visited. Scratch that thin, brittle liberal surface and you’ve got a butt-load of racism underneath.


In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties. 


Boston is a real city. Black neighborhoods, many mixed neighborhoods. In fact, most neighborhoods are mixed. Some a lot, some just a bit. There’s a lot of intermarriage. Kids go to school together and it stopped being a big deal a long time. If Boston isn’t the most diverse city in the U.S., it is also very far from the most racist.

Boston is a complicated city. People in Boston are often surprisingly casual about race. People work together, walk together, shop together. And — Boston has never had a lynching.

So I was in that group and just a few days later, I resigned from it. I can’t talk to people whose minds are rigidly made up. If there’s no chance of anyone changing his or her opinion, there’s no point in talking.

At some point in time, everyone will have to stop and hear what other people are saying. Otherwise, there will never be any problems solved in this land of ours

16 thoughts on “RIGID MINDS DON’T MAKE GREAT DISCUSSIONS

  1. Fandango December 18, 2017 / 10:49 am

    In my experience, a lot of people are so focused on what they’re going to say next that they don’t hear what anyone else has to say.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn Armstrong December 18, 2017 / 12:01 pm

        That’s the thing. It wasn’t a “life experience.” It was just life. In a neighborhood. With neighbors. JUST LIKE ANY OTHER LIFE IN ANY NEIGHBORHOOD. I wasn’t there for the experience. It was our HOME.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Marilyn Armstrong December 18, 2017 / 12:02 pm

      For most people, a pause in the conversation just gives them room to say what they were planning to say and usually, it has nothing to do with what the previous person just said. It makes conversation kind of pointless. We are having a national conversation like these now. No one hears anything anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Covert Novelist December 18, 2017 / 11:29 am

    I’m so glad you are here to shed some light on the reality of the situation. I get frustrated and sometimes quite fatigued when I read or hear the news, which is why I seldom listen to it any more, preferring to read online, the true accounts of the reality in which we live. Not the “trumped” up version of how terrible it is, how bad the racism, the cop killing, the danger of whatever….Fear being the common denominator in all things these days. People freeze, flight, flee in such instances and it boggles a mind, filling it with fog and the inability to think clearly and rationally. Good way to control the masses if you ask me. Appreciate hearing the truth from someone who was there!

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong December 18, 2017 / 11:59 am

      Make no mistake — it is, in its own way, terrible. But that doesn’t mean that every day in every life is equally terrible all the time. Black men get shot by cops a lot and for no apparent reason. Garry got roughed up by the cops TOO and was not allowed to say anything about it. His bosses said “No” and he was a contract player.

      However — every Black neighborhood isn’t a sewer of depravity or gun madness. People are born, live, and die of natural causes there too. Don’t get it into your head that “Black Lives Matter” is just some silliness. It most assuredly is NOT.

      Like

  3. swo8 December 18, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    When I reflect on our life in Deep River, Ontario, Canada, it was like living in a small town but population was largely international. Some of our biggest problems was how to keep the bears out of our garbage and what to do if you ran into a moose.
    Leslie

    Like

      • swo8 December 18, 2017 / 4:17 pm

        We had a shed for the garbage cans. That kept them at bay.
        Leslie

        Like

  4. Bette A. Stevens December 18, 2017 / 5:37 pm

    Over the last 50 years, Dan and I have lived in upstate New York, Maine, Southern California, Northern Virginia and back to Maine to retire. We’ve lived near, worked with and had the opportunity to meet and make friends with wonderful people from diverse racial, religious, cultural and political backgrounds. We’ve become better people because of them. If only more people would take the time to listen–really listen–the world would be a more beautiful place!

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong December 18, 2017 / 10:16 pm

      Getting to know others — really know them — involves a lot more listening than talking. Even before I married Garry, I always lived in mixed neighborhoods. I didn’t want my son growing up in a place where everyone looked the same and I’m very glad I did that. It made HIM a better person, too 😀

      Like

  5. momshieb December 18, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    I’ve been reading the Globe series, and have had several reactions like yours. I went to UMass Boston, and had friends from every age/demographic/race. It was fun. It was warm. It was challenging. I don’t know how to react anymore…..

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong December 18, 2017 / 10:11 pm

      I originally thought I might have something to offer, but rapidly realized I didn’t. Garry and I DID live in Roxbury for a decade and we only left because we had dogs and the Big Dig had moved onto our street — a double whammy for us. I loved the neighborhood.

      I sometimes wonder if these people who make these claims are actually the people they say they are or they’ve just read statistics and they are creating a story to wrap around the “stats.” Because no one who lived in the same neighborhood we lived in would talk like that about the hood. He would be embarrassed to say such awful things. Yes, there are problems. Yes, there are big problems, but many problems are Boston-wide, like the appalling school system. Diversity isn’t just a matter of “moving people” into other neighborhoods. The lack of good middle-level jobs and lack of income parity — and the enormous distances between the very rich upper middle classes and everyone else. The places they complain aren’t diverse — hell — I couldn’t afford to go there, either.

      I gave up. I can’t talk to people who have opinions etched in stone. If they aren’t listening, there’s no reason to talk. It’s too bad because you can’t fix anything if you can’t be “moved” in any direction but the one in which you are stuck.

      Like

  6. evelyneholingue December 19, 2017 / 5:17 pm

    It says a lot about a city to never had a lynching. I love Boston and would not mind returning there at all. Talking of racism I read an interesting book called The Blindspot. It’s filled with quick hands-on exercises to demonstrate how stereotypes about race and by extension about anyone different are deeply ingrained, even within “good” people who don’t think they are biased. The results of the tests are often shaming, but at least they allow people to be aware of their involuntary biases. Correcting them is much harder, but I still have great faith in the people, now younger than 30. The changes are slow but will happen. We may not witness them but this generation will.

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong December 19, 2017 / 6:11 pm

      Thank you! I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people who can’t imagine that they have any kind of bias. I think when you can’t imagine it, you probably DO have them. Because I can easily imagine it, no problem. I’m going to have to look up that book. Is there an author? I’m always hoping whatever I’m looking for is on audio. I have a lot of trouble with a lot of words these days. My eyes have pretty much had it.

      Liked by 1 person

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