Walsh, Connolly say Boston racially divided

Pledge to bring people of color into city government

The two candidates for mayor of Boston told a large crowd in Roxbury Wednesday night that the city in many ways remains as racially divided today as it did in the years after busing.

At a cordial debate in front of 500 people at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center, John Connolly and Marty Walsh said they grew up during the busing era, when the city was divided along racial lines. Both men said the city remains divided today, with sharp disparities among the races in educational achievement, employment, health, violence, income, home ownership, and wealth.

“We need to talk more about racism,” Connolly said in his closing remarks. He then explained that the predominantly black crowd didn’t need to talk more about racism. “You live it every day. White Boston needs to talk about this more.”

Walsh offered a similar message, specifically mentioning the divide created by busing. “That divide is still there,” he said. “I am going to work to close that divide.”

The debate, sponsored by the NAACP and the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and moderated by the Rev. Liz Walker, was held shortly after a CommonWealth investigation revealed that blacks and Hispanics represent two-fifths of the city’s population but are largely absent from the Boston power structure. Blacks and Hispanics are also underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder and overrepresented at the bottom.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said earlier this week at an event in Lowell that his greatest achievement as mayor was helping to change Boston’s reputation as a bitterly racist city to one that prizes its diversity.

Both Walsh and Connolly pledged to bring people of color into their administrations and to make the city’s business sector more racially inclusive. Walsh said there are 64 positions of leadership in city government and only four of them are held by people of color. Walsh said his administration would reflect the racial makeup of Boston and added that “leadership of color” is needed at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Connolly said half of his cabinet would be people of color and two of the four top jobs at the BRA would go to people of color. “That’s not a quota,” he said. “The talent is there.”

Both candidates said the Boston school system needed more teachers of color, and Connolly called for more “culturally competent teachers.” CommonWealth reported that the racial makeup of city’s school children is 36 percent black, 40 percent Hispanic, 13 percent white, and 9 percent Asian. By contrast, the school system’s teachers are 63 percent white, 21 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian.