South End as melting pot: Not really

Ryan Barrett agrees you can find all types of people from all sorts of ethnic and racial groups in the South End, but says the longer she lives there, the more she realizes the different groups aren't really mixing:

... I often wonder whether the South End set-up is an optimal first step towards a more diverse Boston. Perhaps the answer is yes. After all, how can we learn more about each other without co-existing? But I also fear that smashing groups of people together who share no common lifestyle threads might create and/or deepen racial stereotypes, prejudices and anger. Like the "I wish those Project kids would quit it with the freaking firecrackers!" or "Why do these Chinese people always cut the bus line!" anger, which has sneaked up on me from time to time. ...



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      so? who cares?

      By on

      Why must we be obsessed with assimilation? Only America has this "melting pot" Borg-ish concept: 'we will assimilate you'.

      In other countries, they talk about quilts. Or salads. Mmmmmmm, salad.

      At the very least, why worry about it either way? People will do what they wanna do. That's the beautiful thing about this country...or at least, it was...

      what I see when I hear the

      By on

      what I see when I hear the quilt type talk, is enclaves of people from the same background that do not have very much to do with anyone from a different background.

      Is that diversity?

      The US is far from a 'melting pot' but I think it's a good thing to aspire to.

      I hate to sound like some

      By on

      I hate to sound like some backwards redneck but if people dont appreciate the ideal of assimilation and think places in Europe are better than maybe they should immigrate to Europe instead of the U.S.

      I always get a kick out of it when people come all the way to the U.S. and then get mad when we ask them to be part of the larger community. The Chinese grocers in Boston dont understand why they cant open on Thanksgiving, they dont think its their holiday. I realize Thanksgiving had religious roots but it has come to be one of our biggest secular holidays, along with the 4th of July. The U.S. respects that people have their own cultures, but you cant forget that as a country we have a culture too.


      By on

      Gas stations, Dunkin' Donuts and video stores are open on Thanksgiving. Why not ethnic grocery stores?

      Personally, I think they

      By on

      Personally, I think they should also be closed.

      While were at it, we also need a national voting holiday, all businesses closed while the polls are open.

      All businesses closed? Really?

      No restaurants, no Dunkin Donuts, no 7-11s? That would annoy a lot of people, and that's not a good way to motivate people to vote.

      Gas Stations Too?


      I guess you have never had to travel to be with family on a holiday. That's just nuts.


      By on

      I always get a kick out of it when people come all the way to the U.S. and then get mad when we ask them to be part of the larger community.

      I always get a kick out of Americans who don't understand that this country was founded by people who simply wanted the freedom to do whatever the hell they pleased, by and large, as long as it didn't hurt anyone else.

      Like the freedom to associate, socialize, and assemble with whomever you like...

      It's tradition

      By on

      Chinese grocers wanting to follow their own holidays, or Hispanics speaking only Spanish decades after they move here, are just exercising the same American traditions as previous generations.

      My grandparents grew up in Sheboygan speaking German at home. Their parents were also born in the US, and did the same. So did their parents. I guess nowadays some redneck would tell them all to go back to Germany and take their damn bratwurst with them.


      My wife grew up about halfway between Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth.

      When I was quite young -- my father (born in Illinois -- though we were then living in Oklahoma) used to tease me by saying he would "ship me to Sheboygan" if I didn't shape up.


      Who cares? I do.

      By on

      Not the strongest argument: "Only America has this 'melting pot' Borg-ish concept: 'we will assimilate you'." Well yeah… we live in America. We talk about these things because we care about them. Diversity is one of our ideals, so we strive to do it well.

      I think mixing people is a

      By on

      I think mixing people is a good idea even if it leads to some tension. Look at places like NYC where it is not uncommon to have miles of city blocks of tenaments filled with poor people. Some of these areas dont have local markets, and its hard for the people there who want jobs to get them, they just arent there. No money=No offices=No stores=No jobs=No money and so on. At the same time you have places in other parts of the city where they cant hire enough people to work in the stores.

      If you mix people you have a situation where poor people have access to low level jobs. Poor kids might end up playing with middle class kids. I live in a mixed area, thats been mixed for a while, and have actually seen people go from living in a tenament as a child to being business men/women and leaders of the community as a whole. I dont think that would have happened if there wasnt any mixing.

      I grew up in the South End

      By on

      I grew up in the South End as my parents were in the first wave of gentrifiction in the 1970's. While I wouldn't go so far as to say it was perfect by any stretch of the imagination...

      It was idyllic as far as growing up in a city could be. I was the only white kid on the block and played freely in the streets, sidewalks and allies with kids of all colors, cultures, languages, and classes. I grew up believing in equality only to have my big ideas squashed by the complex realities of the real world.

      The other parents would look out for eachother's kids in a way you just don't see anymore. There was community and a sense of collectiveness. Just about everything was mixed then and everyone knew each other by name.

      Perfect? No. There was racial tension but I was too young to see it. There was alcohism, drug use, and violent gangs. Problems were many. But above it all was a sense of being all in it together.

      Now it's all locked doors and shuttered windows and people hurriedly looking down as they pass one another.

      As someone who was an adult

      By on

      As someone who was an adult at the time - you were too young to see.

      I admit there was likely

      By on

      I admit there was likely much I missed being a kid.

      But I enjoyed the benefits of a community that no longer exists, one that shared collective responsibilities and looked out for one another. I never see kids of different races playing in the streets anymore. To us, there were no such divisions even if there were among the adults.

      I don't know if the kids in Boston, or any other gentrified city, can say that now. Which is a damn shame and a great loss.

      You need to look in different neighborhoods

      By on

      At the risk of starting the same sort of mini-imbroglio I seem to have caused over at Ryan's post, you'll see that driving around the Grew Hill area of Roslindale/Hyde Park (and if one of the kids you happen to see is a girl with really long hair, ask her if her father is that crazy blogger guy). I'm sure it's not unique.

      Jamaica Plain

      By on

      And where is the perfect melting pot? For years I was told it was my old neighborhood Jamaica Plain, that dynamic blend of latino, white and black with maybe a Chinese take out or two. Journalists marveled over the census numbers and oooh ahhed to see brown kids at Wake Up the Earth. The unspoken truth was that white people only went to Hi-Lo as a goof and good luck finding a black group at Doyles or the Behan. Until the Stop n' Shop opened white people had no reason to go into Jackson Sq and outside of bodegas whites and latinos rarely mixed. Its gotten worse, not better, over time in JP. The real estate insanity all but insured theres no one but section 8 and yuppies left in JP. Once the cheap rentals vanished so did the best hope for assimilation, gone are the days where Mass Art kids and Dominican family daycares co-existed in one building on Green St.

      I guess all we've got left is shopping and sometimes public school.


      By on

      I'm not section 8 and can hardly afford to buy a condo with granite countertops. But a variety of people do co-exist here.

      Roslindale IS pretty much a melting pot

      My church (Sacred Heart) has people from almost every part of Latin America, the Caribbeans, Canada, many parts of Asia, many African countries, in addition to the longer term European-descended resident base (mostly Irish and Italian). Sacred Heart's school is similarly diverse.

      Shh ...

      By on

      Let's keep Roslindale our little secret :-). Much of it is basically quiet, solidly middle-class, no reason for the Globe to ever write about "the miracle of Roslindale," or whatever, but they can certainly keep writing about the boutiques of Roslindale Square (sorry, the boutique of Roslindale Square).

      Our church in Gerorgia.....

      ...was even more international than the one in Roslindale. The congregation in Stone Mountain (ironically the birthplace of the second KKK in the 1920s) had people from at least 70 countries. I think Sacred Heart tops out around 40.

      I think part of Roslindale's success might depend on the fact that it IS mostly ignored.

      So let's just pretend I didn't say anything.

      Besides ...

      By on

      If you want South Endishness without having to drive all the way up to Forest Hills for the Orange Line, there's always Geoffrey's (which used to be in the South End).

      Roslindale is a melting pot?

      I'd like to hear more about Roslindale? What is the racial makeup of the neighborhood? What about in the public schools?

      Also, last night when you had all your African-American and Latino friends over for dinner, what did you talk about?

      Lovely ...

      Well, I was serious about wanting to know more about Roslindale's public schools, or at least the perception. Since this blog's moderator lives there, and since I get the feeling he is "middle-class" I was curious what his thoughts were. In the South End, white parents are very active at the Hurley School, from what I hear.

      But, as an FYI, here's the US Census Bureau breakdown of races, Year 2000:

      Roslindale, 02131: 32,527

      White 20,687 63.6

      Black or African American 5,802 17.8

      American Indian and Alaska Native 119 0.4

      Asian 849 2.6

      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 17 0.1

      Some other race 3,352 10.3

      02118 (part of the South End and Lower Roxbury): 22,173

      White 10,850 48.9

      Black or African American 5,754 26.0

      American Indian and Alaska Native 141 0.6

      Asian 2,286 10.3

      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 21 0.1

      Some other race 2,176 9.8

      Ah, so you did look them up

      By on

      Bully for you. I suspect that come 2010, the South End will be whiter and Roslindale will be browner/blacker.

      Public schools

      By on

      Really depends on the school and even the year you ask.

      As I've made clear before, I am SO grateful my daughter's school is now K-8, so we don't have to worry about her winding up anywhere near the Irving Middle School, home of the famous nipple threateners and teacher punchers.

      I can't really speak to public schools in Roslindale because our daughter doesn't go to one. I've heard there are good ones and there are not good ones. I know there are active parent groups at many of the schools. That's important because every couple of years, it seems another school becomes "hot" and all of a sudden all the active-parent-types try to get their kids into it. Our kid's school, yes, in West Roxbury, definitely has a very active parent community.

      But as I mentioned in another post in this thread, it's misleading to talk about Roslindale public schools because you can try to get your kid into any school in your zone, which in our case is Roslindale, West Roxbury, JP and, I think, a small bit of Roxbury. We took advantage of that, so it's always fun now to listen to people in West Roxbury complain about "outsiders" taking up spaces in "their" schools, only they don't give us sideway glances because, well, we look just like them.

      It's the same basic system as in the South End, except that's in another zone, no doubt with its own issues.


      By on

      I'm new to the Boston School thing (my little guy will be going not this year but next, and we're still trying to get it all figured out). But I'd say it's not entirely misleading to talk about neighborhood schools. You can try to get your kid into any school in the zone, but I understand that they give some amount of priority to kids who live closer to the school in question.

      I'm much more interested in schools that are closer to home, because who wants to trek across town? So the local school question becomes important, even though there's a zone.

      Closest to us is the Sumner School. I can find some stats online:

      Total enrollment: 512 students
      Black 26.2%
      Hispanic 62.7%
      White 8.2%
      Asian 1.6%
      Native American 1.4%

      Regular Education 51.5%
      Special Education 28.1%
      Bilingual Education 20.3%

      In the other direction, the Manning school:

      Total enrollment: 161 students
      Black 23.0%
      Hispanic 19.9%
      White 49.1%
      Asian 6.8%
      Native American 1.2%

      Majority white public schools are very very rare across Boston, as 75% of white parents send their kids to private school, and white kids are just 14% of the BPS population as a whole. I think it would be fair to say you'd be unlikely to find one in an area where the majority of kids in the walk zone weren't white, such as 84% white West Rox.

      I'm more naturally a hermit

      By on

      Last night, we had dinner all by ourselves. But, John, you're getting subtle in your old age - why not just come out and say what you're thinking, that I'm just another all-talk no-action white liberal?

      You'd really have to talk to my wife, who's the real mixer in the household. Or my daughter, who, now that school is out, can usually be found outside playing with the Haitian kids from a couple of doors down, the Cape Verdean girl from around the corner, an Irish-American girl from down the street and the Jewish girl from across the street?

      Or maybe you want to come by in the winter to see us all helping shovel out each other's sidewalks and cars. Or ask me how good I felt when my Dominican neighbor came by a couple of days after I was carted away in an ambulance (a "heart attack" that turned out to be just acid reflux), to make sure everything's OK. Like I said, our street isn't a block-party kind of place, and it's not perfect, but we look out for each other, just like you'd expect on a street where there isn't a ton of turnover.

      Hey, you're the statistics expert, why don't you go look up Roslindale's (outdated) census numbers or school-population numbers? Just a caveat with the latter: They won't necessarily say anything about the neighborhood's ethnic/racial makeup since Boston has a zone system and kids don't have to go to school in heir neighborhood (our daughter goes to a school in West Roxbury and, yes, it's a true oddity - a majority white school).

      You either have too much faith or not enough

      I never have a hidden agenda.

      I wasn't calling anyone out, I was just supporting the other commenters who said that "mixing" of races and classes is easier said than done.

      I also thought it was a pretty catchy comment.

      I have to say, I agree with the person who says it's as much (if not more) about class than race. Or income, I guess. I have little in common with some of my neighbors. We use the same brand of toilet paper, though, I've noticed. Guess I could start a conversation with that topic ...

      I have read a lot of the schools' reports on the BPS's site, and it's depressing to read - so many are classified as "needs improvement".

      The Hurley School parents seem to have become very involved. They also seem intent upon bringing two groups of people together - a lot of classes are multi-lingual. I can't explain the whole program, but the South End News did a story about it, recently.

      When I was at the South End Landmarks Commission meeting on building the new playing field at the Hurley School, only white parents showed up.

      The gay community in the South End is overwhelmingly white, as well. However, at Pride, I was amazed at the diversity. And, I was at a "gay" party in Billerica last weekend, and it was a surprise to be in the minority of the minority, for once. The suburbs are different, I guess?

      I hadn't read your comment about the population numbers before I pulled the Census figures. Unfortunately, they don't give a true understanding of the South End, since it is broken in two - part 02116 and part 02118. And, of course, the "South End" can be stretched or shrunk, depending on circumstances.

      It wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if it turned out that the majority of Asian and Latino and African-American residents in the South End live in subsidized housing, of course, whether housing projects or Section 8.

      And, actually, I think I did do an analysis of the South End, for 2000 and 2005, and the "minority" numbers hadn't changed, at all. The percentage of "white" residents went up, but only because their #'s increased, while the others stayed constant. No doubt a result of the new construction and due to rental properties (there are still a lot) being converted into condos and sold to new arrivals.

      I don't think you'll see much change in racial breakdown in the South End, because it is pretty much broken down by class, and that's not going to change.

      Actually, here is some data, courtesy of the City of Boston:

      Race -- 1980 -- % -- 1990 -- % -- 2000 -- %

      White 9,554 35% 11,433 40% 12,780 45%
      Black 10,503 39% 9,088 32% 6,422 23%
      Hispanic 3,443 13% 4,633 16% 4,773 17%
      Asian or Pacific Islander 3,192 12% 3,458 12% 3,358 12%
      Other 433 2% 230 1% 556 3

      If other races are moving out, it's for many socio-economic reasons. My guess, at least.

      Yeah but

      By on

      Did you have them over for dinner? Hah?

      You all-play, no-dinner white liberal!

      I noticed that about Boston right away

      As a college student I noticed almost immediately that this was a less integrated area. I don't know why that is anymore now than I did about fifteen years ago.

      I was spoiled by growing up outside of NYC. It isn't anywhere near 100% integrated, but one could go to some bars or restaurants in Manhattan it would seem like a UN meeting just let out. It's the only area I know of with a truly integrated nightlife. This is especially (or mostly true) below 14th St..not every place.. but many places. It was naive of me to think it was like that elsewhere. I wouldn't begin to know how to export it. Even NJ is more integrated than Boston.

      But, how do we fix it? Nevermind - I just shut everyone's ears off to listening to me just by the mere mention of NYC.


      By RyanB on

      It's great that there are in fact a few diverse neighborhoods (and thanks for citing them here!), but what really upsets me about Boston is the downtown, which is anything but integrated. I always thought of downtown areas as being the central place for all to enjoy - that's how it is in many other American cities. But here? No.

      I guess the problem, ultimately, is that other races don't seem "integrated" in mainstream Boston culture.

      That I find more troubling

      By on

      Than lack of mixing in a neighborhood where Section 8-type housing is being replaced by multimillion-dollar condos (and where the issue is probably more class than race, not that that's necessarily any better, just different).

      Why is it still like that?

      Race + Class

      By on

      How about not just race, and not just class, but race plus class? Ryan isn't complaining that there aren't any black people; she's complaining there aren't any middle-class black people, for example "a well-to-do Black family dining at Ivy."

      The races aren't mixing because the classes aren't mixing, and the cleavage increasingly coincides. I'm not an expert, but I believe black flight could be a factor in this. Over the past decade, middle-class blacks have been moving in greater numbers to the suburbs as well as back to the South. As black flight has exceeded the departure of whites from Boston since 2000, whites again became a majority in 2006.

      As middle-class whites have been moving into the city to gentrify neighborhoods like the South End, middle-class blacks have been moving out, to places like Milton, Malden, and Maryland.

      Milton, Malden, and

      By on

      Milton, Malden, and Maryland

      Maryland is my favorite suburb of Boston lol

      Downtown != South End

      When I'm in Downtown Crossing I see lots of different people of all races and ethnicities.

      Downtown Crossing

      By RyanB on

      I actually addressed Downtown Crossing in my post: "You might see a bunch of Black kids laughing it up on the streets of Downtown Crossing, but try spotting a well-to-do Black family dining at Ivy."

      Fair enough

      Point taken. (Menawhile, maybe I'll run into you at the Villa Victoria festival next month?)