Boston Blacks Respond With Muted Silence on White ‘Apology’ for Slavery

Last week the Boston City Council apologized for slavery to Black people in the city on the eve of Juneteenth. Mainly because Boston has been widely and roundly criticized as the most racist municipality in the nation, the gesture came as a complete surprise.

The apology for some Blacks in Boston, is so unimaginable that it’s very reality reflects a kind of otherworldliness — a kind of belief that “what just happened really didn't happen.” So dominant is the perception that Boston represents a sort of racial hell hole, the notion of white contrition is unbelievable in the so-called Cradle of Liberty: — For many, there is no way of understanding Boston as ever hospitable to any notion that Blacks should be valued at full worth as citizens.

So, when the Boston City Council issued an official apology for its complicity in the transatlantic slave trade the act caused shocked silence instead of celebration among the city’s nearly 100,000 African Americans. When the city council — a body which all too willingly remains stewards of the city’s white power structures — issued its regrets, Blacks in the city reacted with paralysis.

Black people from outside Boston, who find the occasion to discuss race relations with native Black Bostonians, are often wont to discuss how they perceive Black Bostonians as odd for how they live in a city which contradicts notions of democracy and justice for Blacks. While Blacks outside Boston are ever aware of racism as it might exist in some cities — like Kansas City or Orlando — they also see Boston as a place where the problem of racism is reflected in a harsher angularity. Anti-Black racism in Boston, seems more succinct.

To be sure, Boston’s Blacks have a spotlight on them. The larger national public scrutinizes them against the toxic racial reality observed across the culture. And so Boston’s Blacks have become a specimen about which the country especially examines its collective state of mind about its racism and the racial temperature as it persists.

Boston’s Blacks reacted to the apology from the city’s white power structure with muted incredulity. The apology was something that Black people in the city could not collectively believe — even for all of the importance that the apology represents. The distrust and insecurity among Blacks in Boston is so profound that there exist no appreciated approximation of the historical significance of the apology received from whites. And so the apology for Boston’s Blacks has become — for the time being, at least — a morbid fiction about which access to its salience is limited.

An analogy may work as functional here: It is possible that Blacks in Boston can be so physiologically and psychologically overwhelmed by the injury and harm endured overtime that any manifestation of reversals from the perpetrators of white supremacy in Boston is, for the moment, an alien thought and entirely untenable.



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The New Democracy Coalition of Massachusetts

The New Democracy Coalition of Massachusetts


The New Democracy Coalition, a Boston-based organization which focuses on civic literacy, civic policy and electoral justice.