Today is as good as any to conclude my South Boston series because if you are from Boston you cannot think of St. Patrick’s Day without thinking of the South Boston parade which I went to in my early years as a child and teenager. It used to be celebrated on March 17 and not a neighboring Sunday. It used to be a parade of bands, politicians, beer trucks and fun (and a fight or two). I said what I did in the parenthesis because while writing this I recall I was very young at my grandmother’s house up on East Fourth Street and a brawl broke out in front of me in which some relatives had a jolly good time.
Now to think of the parade one thinks of the issue surrounding the GLBT group marching in it. Fortunately and happily that has been resolved once and for all so the parade can again go back to its roots of welcoming everyone brave enough to march.
Its roots also include my memory of the 1957 parade when its marshal Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe “A religious, Jewish, Irish mayor was an unexpected presence who represented much of what Cold War Americans hoped was possible in their own country: courageous patriotism from members of all parties of the Judeo-Christian tradition” marched with the gold chain emblem of his office around his neck. I’ve read the parade was delayed for two days to accommodate his appearance.
The Southie I know and remember is not the Southie that is portrayed in the media. I’ve shown how prominent people from South Boston and Boston (mainly Irish Catholics) have been in the forefront of the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry, much more so than the Johnny-come-lately WASPs who sought to keep America free from the strangers coming in from Europe, especially the Russian Jews and Italians.
I’ve told how the headline read “bad old Southie.” Other Globe writers chimed in in the past week. Adrian Walker commented: how the exclusion of LGBT is “reinforcing a reputation for intolerance and insularity that much of South Boston desperately wants to shed;” Yvonne Abraham commented: “The tired, tribal Boston of “The Departed” has largely departed. But here are these guys, dragging us all into the old ugly.” She added excluding gays was a: “reinforcing the stereotype of South Boston as a bastion of intolerance, . . . “
Did you ever stop to think of where this reputation for “intolerance and insularity” or “bastion of intolerance” comes from? It has been the Globe’s false mantra toward Southie for years and is picked up year-after-year by its writers. In that newspaper, as Abraham repeated with her mentioning of the movie Departed (that was almost an exact copy of a Hong Kong movie “Infernal Affairs”) we are to think of “tired tribal” Southie and criminal Whitey Bulger.
The gang Whitey led was supposed to be an Irish gang even though most of the leadership was Italian; it was called the Southie gang even though most of its leaders were from Roxbury and it was stationed in Somerville and then the North End. When the true facts are ignored and a minor one emphasized then you can see the animus.
Southie was mostly white. So were most of the suburbs surrounding Boston. Did you ever hear of Newton or Brookline mostly white communities, where many people moved to when their parts of Boston were becoming occupied by African-Americans, being called tribal, insular or intolerant? What about other parts of Boston or the tony suburbs that will take in black kids from Boston (METCO program) but won’t bus their kids into Boston? Have any other parts of Boston with their gangsters such as the North End or Dorchester been labeled by the worst among them as Southie has?
One may think its reputation comes from the days of busing. I’ve told how I told a fellow lawyer who lived in Brookine that the Boston School Committed (I represented them) planned to include Brookline in it busing plan and he almost died from fright thinking his kids would be bused into the city. Southie did rebel against busing. It and a handful of other poor Boston neighborhoods were the only places in Massachusetts where their kids could not go to neighborhood schools. The people protested. Unfortunately some few acted violently but the whole neighborhood was unfairly tarred as intolerant because its people wanted what almost every other family in the state had.
The plan was to bus Southie kids to schools to inferior schools other areas of the city. Those not affected like the Globe staff, the residents of Wellesley (where the judge lived), and other suburbs cheered this shuffling of poor kids to achieve an objective that was not achievable. The hypocrisy was astounding. To cover it up, the speck of intolerance sawdust in Southie’s eye was highlighted, and is still to this day, while the log of intolerance in the eye of those condemning Southie is ignored.
Perhaps it is time for the Globe and other media to treat Southie like it treats every other section of the city and state. I would think by now it desperately wants to shed its old animus and no longer be looked as reinforcing the stereotype of [the Globe and other Boston media] as a bastion of intolerance” when it comes to Southie.