BEING AGAINST FORCED BUSING DOESN’T MAKE YOU A RACIST – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I was in the middle of what I honestly call the Boston busing fiasco. On center stage, it played as a racial divide between Boston’s white and minority communities. It played well in the media – especially national and international media where they didn’t understand the local sentiments. The local news stations did a little better — when they tried.

Boston was sarcastically labeled as “The Athens Of America” in this period.

The key which I discovered by listening to students and parents – white and minority — was lack of quality education. Busing poor, low-income kids -Black and White – didn’t solve the problem of inferior education. Old, outdated textbooks. Antiquated curriculums. Teachers disenchanted by the lack of respect in pay and regard. Oversized classrooms where teaching was a mission impossible.

Time and again, I heard the same complaints from communities that reportedly were “racially divided” by Federally-mandated busing.

Students were transported from substandard schools in one community to substandard schools in another community. Few bothered to mention this. Most said it was a racial divide which was a cheap way to deflect the ball dropped by courts, legislators and local politicians who saw this as a way to build their constituencies by playing the race card instead of dealing with the fundamental issue: the lack of quality education in Boston’s low-income communities.

After I heard the anger over lack of quality education which was repeated over and over by white and Black families, I went with that as the core of my reports.

Truth be told though, I usually led stories with the standard visual images of angry crowds shouting racial epithets, school buses being stoned, and students threatened. Those images were overemphasized and inaccurately interpreted by national and international journalists and commentators.

I often tried to explain things to the network reporters, but they blew me off, labeling me as a local unable to see the big picture. It was exactly the opposite. They didn’t see the picture and they weren’t looking for it, either.

Many local politicians and community leaders – who really knew better — preyed on their constituents for votes instead of trying to calm the firestorm which often turned violent. We in the local media played the violence up, too because it brought in big ratings and that’s what our bosses wanted. If you wanted your job, there was no escaping the error. Real efforts to explain the education issues were left to minority affairs shows which aired while most people slept.

Although I was proud of my body of work and earned an Emmy for coverage of that era, it was a bittersweet honor. Had I been able to cover it honestly, it would have been a different story.

There’s certainly no excuse – more than 50 years later – for politicians to use busing as a political tool. They are (again) ignoring the real issue of that volatile period in the name of getting votes from people who weren’t there when it happened and don’t understand it.

Shame on all of them!



Categories: #News, Boston, Education, Garry Armstrong, newspapers, politicians, Politics, reporting

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84 replies

  1. Wow. When my sister and i were growing up in Lincoln, MA, during the 1950’s and the 1960’s, there were racist/bigots running amok in that town, also. It was not the blatant, nasty, vicious hell of a fellow type of racism that existed in the old South, prior to the Civil Rights Movement, that resulted in damage to property, assaults and injuries to people’s persons, or the loss of life , as in many of Boston’s neighborhoods, but a more subtle kind of straight-laced mentality, if one gets the drift.

    There were a number of incidents, in which a black family attempted to move into my old hometown, but were very subtlety railroaded out of the town with a “Well, we’re not prejudiced, but you wouldn’t be happy here.” kind of attitude.

    There was even one guy on our street, a very liberal Jewish guy (believe it or not) who spearheaded the drive to prevent a black family from moving into our neighborhood, through the use of consensus, which most of the people, with the exception of my parents and a couple of other families, went along with.

    This particular guy, whose family was from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, which was a Jewish area prior to tipping black, and he spearheaded the consensus by stating that “we can’t have any blacks moving in, because they’ll up the crime rate and depress the property values.”

    Having said all of the above, it goes to show that nobody is immune to having biased attitudes, if one gets the drift. Frankly, even at the suburban public schools that I attended, there were kids who would’ve done the exact same stuff as a lot of other people did if they’d had the chance to do so.

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  2. You’re welcome, Garry!

    Most of my childhood, my adolescence, and my young adulthood–late 1950’s- mid-1970’s, Lincoln, MA. It reached a point where, while Lincoln, MA was a pretty, idyllic town, it no longer held anything for me

    January-September 1977–Cambridge, MA

    Fall of 1977-spring of 1981–Boston, MA

    1981-1988-Cambridge, MA

    Fall of 1988-Present: Somerville, MA, and I have no intention of moving, especially after living here for over 30 years..

    Garry–you certainly lived for a long time in the revised West End.

    I’ve done a good bit of research on the complex period when busing was happening in Boston, plus I’ve also had contact with a number of people who were caught up in the busing era, in some way or other.

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    • MLPO, thanks for sharing your residencies.

      Yes, I lived at CRP for 20 years. It was easy for me to get to work at that TV station in Gov’t Center. Given my proximity, I was frequently the 1st call on breaking news. In the early years, I thought that was wonderful. Later, my mindset changed.

      You’ve obviously done your homework and so much more in the busing story. It’s a pleasure to share thoughts with someone who’s done all the research.

      I’m a Brooklyn, NY native who still broods over the Dodgers abandoning us for West Coast gold. My baseball progression is natural and obvious. Brooklyn Dodgers, NY Mets and Boston Red Sox. So many years of wailing “Wait ’till next year”. And, yes, I’m singing the baseball blues again this year. As the late Tug McGraw once exclaimed – “Ya gotta believe!”

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  3. I always thought that most busing was a waste of money. If I had said so in the 1970s when I got my teaching degree I certainly would have been labeled a racist. The only reason for busing, in my humble opinion, was to relieve overcrowding in one school by sending students to the nearest school that was not so crowded. Racial balance could be a consideration in those decisions, but the real purpose would be the number of students per class.
    The poor students and students of color were actually punished by the busing programs here. What did they learn from spending hours a day being bused to another part of town, especially if there were schools with room for them along the way? Busing from the south side of Chicago to the north side for “racial balance” when there were closer schools to accept students meant that money was being poured into busing, rather than into schools. Chicago was very segregated and busing from the far south side to the north side would be a very long trip in the best traffic conditions.
    Some busing is absolutely necessary. The amount of school-age children in a given neighborhood rises and falls with each generation. Adding on to buildings when the district has enough classroom space would also be foolhardy. We need to spend more money on education rather than increased busing.

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  4. This an interesting essay and conversation about an extremely tense, turbulent, and rather unusual time. Has anybody on here read the late J. Anthony Lukas’s book, “Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Life of Three American Families”? It’s about three families (i. e. an African-American family from Lower Roxbury and the South End, a white Irish-Catholic family from Charlestown, and a WASP family from Lexington, MA, who moved into Boston’s South End to help non-white minorities? For those who have not read or even heard of “Common Ground”, it’s an excellent book, which not only tells how all three families coped with Boston’s school busing crisis at the time, but what they all had in common: putting their kids through a deadly school system, how each individual from each family coped with everything that went on, and the role that various politicians on the School Committee, then-Mayor Keven H. White, the Church and the police, and the Federal District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity played, as well as the Media played in the whole crisis.

    For anybody who’s never read “Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Life of Three American Families”, you’ll find it very interesting, and it’s still a very popular book. The first few chapters are spent on the backgrounds of each of the three families, and Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr., but the book gets more interesting as it goes along.

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  5. This is an excellent essay on Boston’s mandatory school busing program, and why it was such a failure. There is much in the essay in which I agree. The all-white Boston public school committee, however, which was really steeped in patronage, graft, politics, opportunism, and racism , however, was so resistant, that the black community in Boston, despite preferring not to have to file a Federal lawsuit against the School committee, did so as a last resort, plus blacks were more aware than anybody as to what would transpire in Boston’s school, especially in Southie and Charlestown.

    However, it’s agreed that busing all too often consisted of sending both black kids and white kids to other substandard schools, and that, too was a problem. Had the Boston School Committee back then not coached and bent many of Boston’s white working-class ethnics into a stance of belligerence and resistance, and had the B-BURG (Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group) program been administered more fairly and allowed black and other non-white first time homebuyers access to housing throughout the city of Boston, instead of singling out the Jewish neighborhoods in Boston for the B-BURG program, there’d be more integrated schools and neighborhoods today, the need for such a large-scale cross-city school busing program eliminated, and there would’ve been a far better chance of neutralizing Louise Day Hicks and derailing her crusade before it had the chance to really get off the ground.

    Had the Real Estate Agents and Boston-area Banks affiliated with the B-BURG program not waged such a racist campaign and thereby expanded and re-enforced Boston’s ghetto areas through scaring most of the Jews by threats, break-ins, arsons, firebombing, and street attacks, but allowed black and other non-whites access to housing throughout the city, instead of denying FHA (Federal Housing Admn.)-insured loans to non-white homeowners who’d found decent housing that they liked that were just afew blocks outside the red-lined B-BURG area, neighborhoods and schools alike would be more integrated today, and better public schools for white and non-white students would exist today.

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    • MPLO, I agree with your take on the impact of the “sketchy” machinations of some Boston area realtors and bankers. They certainly contributed ANOTHER divisive layer to a city already led astray by self serving political and community leaders.

      But I don’t believe you can entirely blame these “greed is good” folks for the pitiful state of Boston public education then or now. That would be too simplistic. Trust me, applying simplistic answers to an issue that has torn apart families, neighborhoods and large chunks of our Commonwealth only exacerbates the problem. It’s an easy and dangerous road followed by many people who have currency in the public arena. It’s like rehashing “Boston Busing” in a two minute news report. I was tasked with such a rehash when assigned to do a ‘comprehensive’ 25th anniversary report on the court order, its implementation and impact on at least TWO generations of Boston students. 25 complex and controversial years – explained in TWO minutes? Yes, a mission impossible but I did my best to, at least, expose some of the myths and misconceptions that still surround that jarring era in “The Athens of America”.

      “Common Ground” is familiar to me. I think I may even be one of the media people referenced in the book.

      MPLO, I think we agree this is a very complex issue which has bedeviled multiple generations who’ve gone through Boston’s public schools. That it remains an issue is the real tragedy.

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      • You’ve made some good points, Garry, but I do think that both the school Committee back then, as well as the banks and the real estates affiliated with the B-BURG program, in their own way(s), helped perpetuate defacto segregation in Boston’s schools and neighborhoods. Having said the above, both here, and in my comment above, I firmly believe that both of the above factors that I mentioned were definitely at work here, if one gets the drift. In order to achieve integration, and better schools, one also must look at the housing, as well as the schools, and what the school committee back then, which, in addition to being racist, was really rife with graft, patronage, politics, and no small amounts of opportunism, and were a bunch of reckless politicians who exploited Boston’s white working-class ethnics for their own ends. Thank you very much for your support and your compliments to me.

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        • Redlining was absolutely a big problem, but it wasn’t only a Massachusetts problem. We had the SAME problem on Long Island and all of the New York suburbs. I know because when we were selling a house, the agent actually looked at me and said “white only”? I was horrified. I said “Only people who can get a mortgage and I do NOT care what color they are, what religion or ethnicity either — and if I hear you are doing that, I’ll find some way to report you.” That was the first time I had an inkling that such a problem existed.

          Yes, redlining destroyed neighborhoods and distorted land values, but it wasn’t by any means exclusive to Boston. It was generically American.

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          • Hi, Marilyn.

            What you’re saying about redlining neighborhoods happening throughout the United States is very true, but the fact that here in Boston, the B-BURG’s singling out Boston’s Jewish neighborhoods for redlining came rather close in on the heels of Boston’s school busing program really did help to make already-nasty situations even worse, as did the total razing of Boston’s West End and replacing the houses and buildings there with super-large, not-so-attractive high-rises. What was done to Boston’s old West End, which was one of the few racially and ethnically integrated neighborhoods in Boston was a real travesty, and that, too, had a very strong co-relation with how intense the resistance to busing in the working-class white ethnic neighborhoods became.

            Come to think of it, I have a longtime friend that I went to high school with, who moved to my old hometown of Lincoln, MA from Great Neck, NY. The family was about to sell their house to a black family who really wanted to move in, but had to back out of selling the house to the black family, due to a cadre of extremely bigoted neighbors. My friend’s family sold the house to a white family instead, and moved to our old hometown from Great Neck, NY.

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            • This is a very bigoted country. It was from the beginning and has never made a serious change. What caused what? I think you can’t say that one thing caused another things because in the end, we were fighting about slavery BEFORE THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. It was the hottest issue at the Constitutional convention and the “settlement” was wrong from the start.

              We also have never valued education. We have ALWAYS extolled “tough guys,” whether “settlers” or “explorers” or “cowboys” or actual organized crime thugs. We love gangster movies, shootouts and violence. With all of this idolization of crime, criminals, and just plain “tough” guys, we never valued education. We don’t admire scientists and intellectuals. We admire people who made it without an education — AND as a result, we have never properly funded education ANYWHERE IN THIS COUNTRY. Moreover, we still aren’t funding it. When they start cutting, it always starts with schools and teachers.

              You need a more holistic view and recognize you can’t ignore the rest of history and put busing and Boston in its own time capsule. Yes, there was busing. It was a disaster and yes, they tore down the West End and built Charles River Park, but destroying old neighborhoods to build expensive ugly ones is not by any means exclusive to New England or Boston or even the northeast. It’s a national catastrophe along with destroying our natural habitat for any number of idiotic and stupid reasons. The people who pay the price are ALWAYS poor because the rich are the ones DOING it. Native Americans, Jews, Black people, Chinese — just name the minority and they’ve been treated horribly — from having their neighborhoods destroyed to being actually physically slaughtered.

              We have Native friends and sometimes, we get together and argue about which of Our People has suffered the most and then we laugh because if you can’t laugh, you won’t survive. Frankly, with the way we are destroying our environment, we may not survive anyway, so we might as well enjoy what we can WHILE we can

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              • Hi, Marilyn!

                You’ve made some very good points. There’s not a single group here in this country that did not suffer some sort of prejudice and persecution, to some degree or other. Anti-immigrant history has always been strong in this country, and so has racism. Sadly, history does have a way of keeping on keeping on, if one gets the drift. As Mark Twain accurately put it, ” History doesn’t repeat–it rhymes.”, which means that victims always come up to victimize other people, if one gets the drift.

                You’re correct about the USA having always been a bigoted country. The decimation of the Native Americans and enslavement of the black Africans set the stage for all that.

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                • Actually, I think Clemens was wrong. It really DOES repeat in all the wrong ways.

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                  • That’s a good point Marilyn. History DOES repeat in all the wrong ways; by victims becoming victimizers, if one gets the drift. When people have been victimized, they’re put on the defensive, and victimizing other people is their way of attempting to get off the defensive and to shake the feelings of inferiority that results from having been victimized, if one gets the drift.

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                    • Mostly, it’s the rich trying to push the poor into being even MORE poor while keeping all the money for themselves. I’ve watched this country for a lot of years and it has gotten worse and after Trump, worse that I imagined it could get.

                      Not that Trump was the cause. He was the RESULT. He was what we got by being a country rich in hate and never letting go of the hate. We got used to only saying “that stuff” when we were in certain company. Mainly, people who agreed with our hates. Trump is the president we got when too many people felt it was unjust that they weren’t allowed to freely hate everyone who wasn’t “just like them.” Trump gave them permission to go out there and hate and worse, as long as they could get away with it.

                      We EARNED Trump. We applauded his ugliness and bought \his lies — and continue to do so when everything shows him for the bastard he is. We bought and paid for him with PACs. We didn’t make a fuss because we were too busy to fight for the right things simply because they were the right things. Trump wasn’t the cause. He was the summary, the totality, the end result of our hate and ugliness.

                      Now that all the cats are out of all the bags, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Who ARE we anyway? Is there anything left we can do that will make a difference? Because all the other stuff we did which we thought made a difference turned out to not mean anything.

                      What’s next? IS there a NEXT?

                      It makes me angry and sad. I don’t know if we will survive as a species, much less as a nation. I used to think I knew something, but now? I don’t know anything.

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                  • While you’ve made some very good points about the rich and the poor being pitted against each other, as well as non-whites and whites being pitted against each other, it’s also true that not only were the rich pitted against the poor, but poor people, especially of different racial and ethnic groups, were pitted against each other, which is still going on in our society at large.

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                  • I think Ft. Sumpter is on red alert again!

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                • MPLO, there’s that scene in Mel Brooks hilarious, equal opportunity race baiting flick, “Blazing Saddles”. The scene where they are gathering volunteers to build the phony town to confuse the villains. They reluctantly accept most of the minority workers but still say, “(but) not the Irish”. It’s a reminder, via Prof. Brooks, that almost EVERYONE has encountered prejudice in our home of the brave and land of the free.

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                  • I did see Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”, years ago, when it first came out. It was funny and I enjoyed it. You’re absolutely correct in pointing out that, via Prof. Brooks, that this film is a reminder that everybody here in the USA has encountered prejudice, oppression and discrimination.

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        • MPLO, thank YOU for your well researched and shared opinions. If only we had more folks like you in the bigger conversations.

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          • You’re welcome, Garry! Thank you for your intelligent, interesting responses to my comments. I’ve enjoyed corresponding with you and everybody else on here

            I’ve also been in contact with people who were students and were bused out of their areas during the time, and people whose kids were bused to other summer. He was a young white pharmacist who lived in Boston’s South End, and he told about a lot of stuff that happened there at the time, as well.

            One day, the young pharmacist came home from work, and found the door of his condo had been forcibly jimmied, and entered. He threw a five-dollar bill at the guy who was in the process of burgling his place, and then tried to make a run for it. The guy that he’d surprised in the act of burgling his condo shot the young pharmacist in the back, and rendered him a paraplegic. He had no income and had to totally live off of his savings, and he had a very difficult time dealing with his situation. He ended up going to San Diego. Have not seen or heard about the pharmacist since.

            I’ve sincerely enjoyed conversing with you and everybody else here on this forum.

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  6. No – being against forced busing in and of itself doesn’t make you racist. But having lived in Boston for a number of years during and after college, I’d say racism was probably a strong factor. I’ve lived many places, including in the South, and I have never seen the type of open racism I saw in Boston.

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    • That may be true but I’m white, so I really am in no position to say. I’m pretty sure racism and bigotry is doing pretty well everywhere in America. Garry would know more about this as this is his side of the road.

      What I DO know is that racism had little to do with the failure of busing. Court-mandated busing was supposed to improve education — at which it failed. Completely. Both the poor white and poor black schools were as bad or worse after busing as they had been before. I think that pretty much defines failure.

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      • I don’t know if the Boston schools were necessarily worse than they were prior to busing (They weren’t good prior to the busing, either–that’s for sure), but the fact that roughly half of Boston’s public school students, even today, fail to graduate from high school, indicates that the Boston School System is still failing many of its students, both white and non-white, even now.

        Socio-economic class, as well as race, definitely did play a part in what took place during the busing. Some politicians, such as Louise Day Hicks, a very intelligent, well-educated woman, who could’ve done a lot of good, instead, helped do a great deal of damage, much of which is permanent, thus resulting in the disastrous Federal Court-mandated, large-scale cross-city school busing edict, leaving a city and its people psychologically scarred.

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    • Skanlyn, I agree about the open racism in Boston. I encountered it many places even our beloved Fenway Park where racism existed on and off the field but was never fully covered by the tradition bound media who didn’t want to rock any boats. The Fenway scene eventually evolved when the Yawkey administration was replaced by more forward thinking adults – changes in baseball and blatant societal wrongs that couldn’t be ignored with sports cliches.

      Yes, racism was one of the layers in the busing order but it wasn’t the “big picture” issue. That was quality and equal education for ALL students. The education issue was less sexy for those who played up the racism that was part of Boston’s history. If you talked to all those students caught up in the 70’s fervor, you’d find they were victims whose dreams of success were quashed by how the court ordered desegregation order was implemented. They were a “lost generation” when it came to education. I talked to many, years later, as adults with their own children. It was very sad.

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      • I’ll also add that the total razing of Boston’s old West End (which was one of the few racially/ethnically integrated neighborhoods in Boston), displacing the old, original residents of the area on the pretext that they were going to give people brand-new housing, but instead, completely razed Boston’s old West End and replaced the existing buildings and houses with humongous, not-so-attractive high-rise buildings, building highways that sliced through many of Boston’s neighborhoods, airport expansion, and very poorly thought out and/or maliciously done urban renewal policies, including the B-BURG (Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group), also have a strong correlation to the resistance to mandatory school busing in many areas.

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        • Blame THAT one on Mitt Romney. It wasn’t redlining. It was good old fashioned GREED. The people in the neighborhood didn’t have the wherewithal to fight the developers, so they lost. A lot of people are STILL angry about it all these years later and Garry still intensely dislikes Romney because of it.

          They’ve done THE SAME THING in the north end and with the entire waterfront. What was a casual fun place to go to eat and where there were Italian festivals on the weekends. Now it’s so expensive, merely parking your car costs as most people use to buy a week’s food. Greedy developers don’t care whose world they are destroying or whether or not the land supports wildlife and birds, fish, whales, or anything else. \If they can make a few buckets of money destroying something beautiful and building high-rises and condos, they will do it.

          There is plenty of greed that is non-racist. Developers — white, black, brown, or any other color — are in it for the money. The only color they care about is green.

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          • OMG, I can not start in on developers. I could rant all day. Then there are the aldermen/women who help them by pushing through zoning exceptions for them. Of course, developers will in turn donate to those aldermen’s reelection campaigns.

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            • Developers — LIKE TRUMP — are the worst of the worst. Romney was a developer. That’s how he made his millions.

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              • Not many are happy here that we have a Trump Tower. How he got permission to build a high rise in that location along the river is a mystery for a Democratic stronghold. I guess we have to follow the money.

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                • Ugh! Trump is the absolute worst president that we had so far, and the fact that he had a Trump Tower built, with a high rise in that area is rather unbelievable! If he runs for POTUS in 2024 and gets re-elected POTUS, we’ll be in really, really deep trouble!

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          • Actually, however, Marilyn, the destruction/razing of Boston’s West End out of existence and replacing the existing houses/buildings in that area with big, ugly high-rise buildings occurred back in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, long before Romney was even heard of. I realize that the North End and the waterfront were overdeveloped, as well. Highway and airport expansion, both of which also occurred in the 1960’s, and encroached on and sliced through various Boston neighborhoods was also a factor. Having said all of the above, I believe that there’s a very strong co-relation between the destruction of various neighborhoods, and the fact that politicians played to white working-class ethnic fears and resentments along the lines of class and race, and the intense resistance to mandatory school busing in white working-class neighborhoods, especially Southie and Charlestown.

            Having said all of the above, however, I cannot excuse the fact that many of the whites in Southie and Charlestown acted so viciously towards the non-white kids who were being bused into the schools in those areas.

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            • It was his Rappaport who got it started and Mitt who put the finishing touches on it. Does it MATTER? Seriously? The rich do what they do and the poor suffer. American “ideology” has made it worse because we aren’t a democracy OR a constitutional republic. We are a capitalist autocracy.

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              • That’s very true that Rapport got the destruction of Boston’s West End started, but I honestly did not know about Mitt Romney’s participation in that. My family and I knew some people who originally lived in Boston’s old West End before it got destroyed, we even visited them in their old West End apartment, and we also visited them afew times when they moved out to Somerville, after having been displaced from the old West End.

                If the USA is not a democracy, then I’m not sure what it is. It’s so, so weird.

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              • I actually recall Mitt’s dad, George. Seemed like an affable guy. Who knew?

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            • MPLO, now “Southie” and Charlestown, once bastions for “stay out of our neighborhood”, are yuppified and “those people” – once reviled — can be seen on the streets and in the yuppy housing. Yes, follow the money.

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              • Southie and Charlestown were once bastions of the “stay out of our neighborhood” attitudes and behaviors, but, when one really stops to think about it, pretty much all of Boston was like that. Not only was it racially and ethnically motivated, but it was also very turf-motivated, as well.

                For a long time, well before busing, the Irish and Italian neighborhoods were rivals, and neither the Irish or Italians could venture into each others’ neighborhoods without getting harassed, beat up, or possibly worse. The same was true of the various black neighborhoods, as well. Blacks in Roxbury, Mattapan, and North Dorchester could not venture into each others’ turf without getting harassed, beat up, or worse, either.

                J. Anthony Lukas, in his book, “Common Ground” touches up on that somewhat, when, from the 1950’s through the early 1970’s, prior to busing, the predominantly Italian North End, and predominantly Irish Charlestown, directly across the bridge from each other, were also rivals, and one could only venture into the other neighborhood at the risk of harassment, beatings, or worse. When many Italian kids in Boston began transferring to Charlestown High School, in the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s, the Charlestown Townies were greeted with ethnic slurs, and physical attacks, as well.
                It was just as much turf as race and ethnicity. Blacks could not enter Charlestown or Southie, or any of the Italian neighborhoods, or other white neighborhoods without being harassed, beat up, or worse, either.

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        • MPLO, I agree about “The West End” being yet another example of an old, ethnic neighborhood being razed — with residents whose families originally settled the area — being forced out and the neighborhood yuppified for newcomers.

          Truth shoutout here. In 1970, I was one of the newcomers who moved into that prominent West End apartment complex (“If you lived here – you’d be home now”)- highly recommended by my new employers. Not proud of my ignorance.

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          • Hi, Garry. Thank you for your responses to my answers to the article, and for informing me that you now live in what’s now the new West End neighborhood, in Boston. I’ve driven by that on numerous occasions. I haven’t noticed the “If you lived here, you’d be home now” sign lately, however. Even though I lived in the suburbs at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on at the time. When I moved from the suburbs to the city, and began having contact with more different types of people, including people whose kids were involved in the busing, and who were bused to different schools as students, I found it interesting to learn what they had to say about busing during that period, and hearing about their experiences during that time.

            I enjoyed reading your article, and I also enjoy reading the replies of various people to the article, as well as your replies to people, including myself, who’ve read your essay. Thank you very much again for a great essay on a very complex subject.

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            • We moved out of Boston long ago to Roxbury in 1990, and in 2000, from Roxbury to this little town in Worcester country. Talk about neglected parts of the commonwealth! I think our town support about 12,000 people including several other towns we adopted because we had schools and they didn’t. It’s a poor area that was dominated by mills and is now dominated by trees and (finally) an almost unpolluted Blackstone River.

              We don’t even visit Boston anymore. It’s about 70 miles away and between the price of parking and the hideous traffic (with all the money they spent on the Big Dig, you’d think traffic would have improved, at least a LITTLE bit, wouldn’t you?) — we stay out here in the rurals. I think the last time we actually went into Boston was when Garry did a thing for PBS on busing. The show has never run, but supposedly they’ll let us know when or if it will run.

              But Boston is a long time in our past. Garry’s been retired for more than 20 years and me for about 15. I think Garry is still troubled that he was unable (not ALLOWED) to tell the story the way he thought it deserved to be told. I always laugh at TV series that show reporters basically doing whatever stories they want because it isn’t and wasn’t like that at all. They had to fight to do what they wanted and as often as not, they lost.

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              • Marilyn, the old man was right.

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              • What the Big Dig accomplished was putting the traffic on the Southeast Expressway underground, and there were a lot of problems with it, at first. One woman from Jamaica Plain was fatally injured when a huge chunk of concrete slammed down from the ceiling of the Big Dig Tunnel, when she and her husband were driving through it to get somewhere.

                If public transportation in this area were better, and there was better and more extensive public transportation going to and from the suburbs, the need for cars would not be so great. As it is, unless one lives right near a train station, or a bus depot, they really are better off with a car.

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  7. I remember this all so well and cannot believe that some still don’t really understand

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    • I lot of people think they know what happened, but if they weren’t there, they really don’t know. Regardless, busing was a huge failure. It didn’t improve education which was its purpose. Instead of improving relations between the people, it made them much worse. I think those same schools have the same lousy education now as then. Or worse. And we spend a FORTUNE on that education. I don’t know how we can spend so much money on it and still never manage to get it right.

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    • Beth, there are folks who still follow the serpent tongued leaders who prey on ignorance.

      I had a very closeup view of how things evolved. It was so easy to use racism as a political football and ignore the faulty education that devastated so many families.

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  8. Thanks for sharing, Garry! It’s never to late to reveal those things that really need to be understood and changed.

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    • I think the main frustration is the forced busing — fifty years later — is STILL being used as “an issue.” Never mind the real underlying issue of poor education for poor people. Pushing it as a racial issue takes the pressure off state and federal education officials to deal with making sure kids get educated. You’d think 50 years after this mess, we’d be way ahead, but we might actually be worse off than we were.

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      • “…poor education for poor people.” Same old song. When will they (towns, cities, states and our nation) ever learn? Quality education should be the norm everywhere.

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      • It’s happened all over the country, including the lack of decent public school education. A big part of the problem is, however, is that our military spending is much too high, and there’s other things, including education, and the restructuring of our roads, highways and bridges, etc., as well as good decent national healthcare plan, which more of that money should be spent on.

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        • You know I lived in Israel for a decade and they spent a huge amount on the military. They also made sure everyone who could got decent schooling. Call my crazy, but I think in the U.S. we don’t respect education or educated people. We don’t admire them or want to become one. Why should we be surprised when our educational system is really BAD? NOT just in Boston or in big cities. It’s just plain bad EVERYWHERE.

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          • You’ve made some very good points, Marilyn. Thank you so much! You’re not at all crazy to say that education here in the United States, as well as educated people here in the United States, is not respected or admired by many people here in the United States of America.

            As the oldest of three children, I was the only one who stuck it out in the public schools, and I didn’t get the greatest education overall. My academic record was quite poor, and growing up in a very small town, which offered little to do didn’t help much either. But, anyway, when I grew up and moved from the suburbs to the city, I was committed to staying in the city, and learning about how and why various people responded as they did to a very complex, intense and turbulent bunch of events.

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    • Bette, thank you. I hope some folks are listening with an open mind or more generations will be lost to shoddy education. Elected officials and those seeking elective office need to do the right thing and deal with education – head on – without fanning the fires of racism. It’s a cheap way of gaining political success. So many young people are lost in the rhetoric that ignores the importance of quality education.

      Imagine all the Elmer Gantry types spewing their vitriol to folks who don’t know history.

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  9. I’m excited to hear that Garry is being asked about those times or that topic by PBS. What a major issue it was, and apparently still is. I appreciate, very much, you’re sharing this writing today. I agree with you a hundred percent the subject matter needing addressing is really fair education for low-income areas and all children (and not only for medium to high income neighborhoods or via a seat on a bus or some luck in a drawing). I’ve wondered what the purpose was in Joe and Kamala bringing up the controversy and her attendance at a “white” school; I don’t see the inclusion in their campaigns as happenstance. Perhaps to show there doesn’t have to be a strict divide based in viewpoint on busing itself.

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    • I wondered about it too especially because after all was said and done, busing didn’t accomplish anything. As Garry so well put it, they just moved students from one bad school to another. I don’t know why we have such poor education in places that ought to be much better.

      These days, it’s all about standardized testing. No one learns anything. They just learn how to take tests. If enough students flunk the tests, they just lower the bar until most everyone passes. That’s NOT education!

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    • Marleen, this continues to be a hot button issue/political football.

      Joe & Kamala – the “White” school? A not so slick PR tool. But it plays to those not really thinking. It’s not happenstance.

      I recently visited Ray Flynn who was Boston’s Mayor (previously State Rep) during those tumultuous “busing” days. Flynn was a conscientious political leader who did his best to serve his city and communities while navigating the shark infested political waters that almost divided Boston. During my visit, Mayor Flynn and I shared regret about what we could not accomplish but agreed we did our best to help those left in harm’s way – Boston’s school children. That’s a chunk of history that is seemingly forgotten or misremembered by today’s political and community leaders.

      The race card is still played with today’s students a new generation of victims when it comes to quality education. A genuine pity.

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      • A melancholy and disconcerting, even worrisome to heartbreaking, true evaluation — “forgotten or misremembered.” It’s good you could reminisce with the mayor.

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  10. I’ve heard this story many times although recently, probably because there is an anniversary date coming up, Garry has been interviewed by PBS and other stations interested in taking a new look at what happened. Of all of the work he did which got him praise, I think he most regrets never being allowed to tell this story the way it should have been told.

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    • Yes, a genuine regret. Maybe I should’ve pushed harder. I really did try.

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      • I know you did. And even now, you still fret about it.

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        • Amid my tongue lashing of political and community leaders who misled their constituents and followers, I should give a shout out to those leaders who did their best to calm the racial fires and focus on the education inequity that was the heart and soul of the federal court order.

          Mel King, a Black Community activist and Raymond Flynn, a White community activist who served as a state legislator and then later as Boston’s Mayor — did their best to bring Boston together. Hats off to these men and all the others who fought the good fight but were often ignored or misquoted.

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      • Having read your essay about Boston’s school busing crisis, I think you did a great job. Keep up the good work. Your recent visiting of former Mayor Raymond Flynn was interesting, too.

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        • MPLO, My Charles River Park stay was 1970-1990.
          -Beacon Hill. Less than a year. What a disappointment. Even the rats were blue bloods.
          -Roxbury – 1990-2000. Moved because of the “Big Dig” and its disruption of all things great and small.
          -Uxbridge; 2000-present. Far from the madding crowd & current life in “the boonies”.

          MLPO, it’s been great sharing thoughts on a very complicated story. Thank You!

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          • Hi, Garry!

            You’re welcome! Thank you for your great posts on this very complex issue. It’s been great to share thoughts with you and everybody else on here regarding a very complicated story.

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            • MPLO, thanks again. I believe YOU may be the catalyst for the tremendous volume of comments on this RE-posted story. It’s good to have people reading and sharing their thoughts on a story that’s been misremembered or misunderstood by too many for too long.

              Thanks, again, FRIEND.

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              • MPLO, tell me more about YOU.

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                • Aside my being interested in complex historical events, both in Boston, and even some other parts of the world, I like to watch older movies, and I like a lot of the rocknroll music of the 1960’s the best. My interests were expanded when I moved out of the small town that I grew up in, and I’m glad of it.

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                  • MPLO, you’re an ‘older movies’ fan. I think we are kindred spirits. I LOVE the older movies – 30’s and 40’s. Last night, I watched “San Francisco” (’36/MGM). Gable & Janette McDonald with Spencer Tracy billed BELOW the title. I’ve always admired this film for its earthquake special effects — EONS before CGI. I usually watch an oldie before fading to black.

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              • Hi, Garry! You’re welcome. Thank you for your compliments. I’ve enjoyed conversing with you and everybody else on this website, and about the story of a very tumultuous, tense, and complex time in Boston. It was an interesting time, as well. Meeting different types of people when I moved out of the small town that I’d grown up in was interesting, as well.

                I think that the busing situation in Boston, and the Northern metropolises, generally, was very complicated, because both socioeconomic class and race were intertwined, if one gets the drift. It’s true that many people tend to think of Boston’s busing situation solely in terms of race, but it’s not. When I lived in Lincoln, MA, I was in contact with a number of people who saw it that way, but I knew that mandatory school busing in Boston was far more complex than that.

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                • MLPO, I get the drift.

                  I’m sure I did a few stories in Lincoln but, in the moment, I can’t recall which ones.

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