by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter
May 31, 2020
I grew up in a very poor section of Dorchester. The Parish was (and is) quite diverse — White, African American, Hispanic and Latino and many other cultures and races and creeds.
The School Yard: In my school yard, blacks and whites played together, talked and interacted and it was no big deal what color someone was. We were all poor kids from the same neighborhood. We didn’t hate anyone. We didn’t even talk about it because we just didn’t care. There were fights, sure, but they were never racial. It was more of who was the best fighter. Schoolyard nonsense.
The City: But Dorchester was a VERY racially divided city. As I kid, I knew there were sections of Dorchester I could not walk through — I didn’t belong there and was not safe, my high school friends later told me that some of them were reluctant to come to my house because of where I lived. See, Dorchester was and is a melting pot of ever-changing culture and demographic. It had not always been peaceful; it has not always been safe.
Generational Racism: When I was a kid, I saw so many (not all) of the “old folks” say the neighborhood went down after “THEY” moved in. “THEY” might be Irish, Jews, Catholics, African Americans, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Latinos — didn’t matter — some of the old generation made it clear the newcomers would be tolerated but never accepted and taught that poison to their kids. Some of the kids listened, thankfully the majority didn’t. We were poor, and like all Dorchester families did our best to live. Me? I didn’t care if someone was white, black, or green, gay or straight, Catholics or not. Didn’t matter to me, still doesn’t.
Today: There is racism in Foxboro. In 2017, an African American woman was called the N word by a white man in a truck who said something like “we don’t want your kind here.” This was during the white supremist marches in Charlotte. This community responded with “A Night against Hate” a peaceful event celebrating love and inclusion for all races and creeds. Many people showed up, it was heartfelt and wonderful. Foxboro made a powerful statement that night: Everyone is welcome here. We don’t hate.
But…. every now and then, we DO hear about racism in Foxboro. It’s here. It’s not always obvious, but it’s here. This week we have learned of several previously untold stories of people of color who live here, not feeling safe here.
It is wonderful that over 200 people gathered on Foxboro Common Sunday May 31 in support of peace, to remember George Floyd, to demand justice for his murder, to support racial equality, remind everyone black lives matter, and support justice for all. Sadly, that same evening, a peaceful demonstration in Boston turned deadly overnight with fires, looting, vandalism, and arrests.
Where do we go from here: What happened this week is not new and indicative of a much larger root cause — centuries of racial, ethnic and religious (and more recently, gender and sexual) persecution and hate. Centuries of taught hatred and intolerance and us/them and even those “harmless” racial / religious / gay ethic jokes that are the tiny seeds of hate.
The United States is not united and we desperately need to change. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. This country HAS to evolve and get past centuries of deep-seeded racial and ethnic hatred and division or we will surely destroy ourselves. We HAVE to reject five hundred years of oppression against anyone the previous generation considers different.
We HAVE to be better. And it starts with each of us just treating each other the same. Treating everyone regardless of creed, color, ethnicity, orientation — as equal. Worthy of respect.
We HAVE to teach our kids that no one is better than anyone else and that we are all equal, all God’s children, regardless of creed, color, orientation, ethnicity, etc. And we grown-ups, if we’re not practicing what we preach, it’s time to start, NOW.
Sadly, there are so many in this country who will refuse to do that because either they can’t, or they won’t. Some people will never change. But we must still call them on their hatred and intolerance (and indifference) every single time.
MOST of us CAN change — and we have to. NOW. We HAVE to start.
For people who say “Pray for peace,” I say that’s NOT enough. Peace is just quiet and lack of violence. I tell them “Yes, Pray for PEACE, and also Pray for equality. Pray for equal treatment. Pray that the law applies equally to all, not just the wealthy and those in power. Pray for justice — equal justice. Pray for friendships. Pray for understanding. Pray for acceptance. Pray for change. Pray for Dr. King’s vision.”
JFK said something during his inaugural address, that can be applied to 2020 America: “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
LET US BEGIN.