Along with all the art on the walls, Boston seventh graders on a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts last week saw some upsetting displays of modern-day racism.
It was another shameful chapter in Boston’s long-running history of making black people feel unwelcome. The incident received a lot of press coverage, probably because it illuminated something that can seem intangible at times but also all too prevalent.
Students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, who are predominantly black and Latino, were subjected to racist comments by staff and visitors. Teachers at the charter middle school claim that museum security closely watched them while letting white students get away with touching the artwork.
“The [worst] part about all of this is seeing the hurt look on my children’s faces as this was their first time experiencing racism first hand,” Marvelyne Lamy, an English teacher, wrote on Facebook. “It’s sad that although our students are well behaved and our teachers are well educated, that we are still seen as less than and as criminals.”
When she first complained to museum staff, Lamy didn’t get the apology she wanted, she said, but yesterday the MFA posted a public apology for the “range of challenging and unacceptable experiences” that made the students feel unwelcome.
Makeeba McCreary, the museum’s chief of learning and community engagement, said the incidents are under investigation and she plans to meet with school officials about it on Thursday.
Racism is a completely irrational mindset but also a powerful force that has caused wars and hardship going back centuries. Racism was one product of and also a contributing factor to the nation’s original sin of slavery, and it spurred the Civil War, which killed more Americans than any other conflict. That’s something worth remembering heading into Memorial Day.
It is also maddeningly difficult to get people to acknowledge that they did or said something racist, because as ever-present as racism has been in American life, it has also become more taboo in recent decades. While some racists have grown more vocal and violent in recent years, even avowed white nationalists prefer to be called “racialists” rather than racists.
The seventh-graders, whose trip to the museum was a reward for their good grades and behavior, were allegedly told by a museum staffer “no food, no drink, and no watermelon.” A student who danced in a musical exhibit was compared to stripper by a museum-goer, and a teacher heard one visitor complain about “[expletive] black kids in the way” of an exhibit of African arts.
There have been sincere efforts to grapple with racism locally. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has convened a public dialogue on the topic. The Boston Globe thoroughly examined the region’s racial disparities and reputation for racism. Philanthropists led by tech entrepreneur Paul English are building a monument to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who advanced the cause of racial equality.
But if there is a way to ultimately defeat the ugly specter of racism it hasn’t been employed yet. The latest incident is a reminder that racism is not confined to musty history books, nor is it only a problem of the backwoods and sports stadiums. It continues to exist today even in the most prestigious corners of the city.
Sen. Joseph Boncore of Winthrop withdrew a pharma-friendly budget amendment, suggesting the Senate will stick with the tougher language on drug pricing already in the spending plan. The move means the Senate and House will be at odds on how best to rein in pharmaceutical prices. (CommonWealth)
A filtration system failure has halved the amount of water Rockport can treat and the town issued an indefinite ban starting Monday on all non-essential outdoor water use. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign released a list of corporations that she did work for as a bankruptcy lawyer, an effort to air out early in the campaign any questions about the populist crusader’s record in helping companies entangled in financial crises. (Boston Globe)
Boston business honcho Jack Connors pens an op-ed defending Rep. Richard Neal’s prodigious fundraising efforts, painting it as a party loyalist’s effort to use his new powerful position in the House to bring in donations that he then redistributes to Democratic candidates and causes. (Boston Globe)
The Globe’s Larry Edelman says Eric Rosengren would be a solid pick for the vacant seat on the Federal Reserve board, even though the longtime leader of the Boston Fed seems far too even-keeled for President Trump, whose inclinations for the selection seem to draw him to candidates Edelman describes charitably as “outside the economic mainstream.”
NSD Seafood has purchased National Fish & Seafood, and plans to reopen the business that abruptly closed on May 10. The new seafood processing entity will be called Atlantic Fish & Seafood, and the new owner plans to hire back as many workers as possible. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Confronting the popularity of meat substitutes, the meat industry is lobbying to prevent the word “meat” from appearing on vegetarian products, and it succeeded in Missouri, prompting a lawsuit. (WBUR)
School districts on the South Shore are spending more money per student than ever, going beyond a national trend. Administrators like Thea Stovell, the Randolph superintendent, say that there is more of a demand for technology and emotional support for students, as the area districts all spend more than the state average of $13,047 per student per year, and are well above the national average of $11,392, according to the Census Bureau and state data. (Patriot Ledger)
The population of students gaining admission to one of Boston’s three selective exam schools is getting whiter — despite an initiative by the district to provide free test prep, targeted to black and Hispanic students, for the exam that determines admission. (WGBH)
Rep. Katherine Clark says Purdue Pharma “corrupted” the World Health Organization in order to increase sales of its opioid painkillers. (Boston Globe)
Officials have identified Chloe Ricard, a student at Solstice Day School, as the 13-year-old who was pronounced dead at Lawrence General Hospital, but police won’t say who dropped her off there. (Eagle-Tribune)
Students and other groups are making plans for the future of New Bedford’s arts, including future uses for the Orpheum. (Herald News)
US Rep. Richard Neal says it is possible to welcome the jobs Chinese-owned CRRC brings to Springfield to assemble subway cars while taking steps to protect national security. (MassLive) A Globe editorial says there’s too much hyperventilating over supposed risks from the contracts without any hard evidence to back the concerns.
Martha’s Vineyard bus drivers are threatening a strike — just as the island prepares for the first big weekend of the summer. (Boston Globe) Meanwhile, the state unveiled plans to improve traffic flow at the two bridges that take drivers on and off Cape Cod. (Boston Globe)
The MBTA Retirement Fund, which has faced criticism over its management, is still without a permanent director three years after its last leader departed. (Boston Globe)
What’s in your electricity bill? Watch the Reel Deal and find out. (CommonWealth)
Two developments on the Everett casino front: the top official at Encore Boston Harbor says the casino will open on June 23 and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission allows the facility to serve complimentary alcoholic drinks to active gamblers until 4 a.m. (CommonWealth) Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham says, lo and behold, casino companies don’t always operate on the level with communities.
Former Sex Offender Registry Board executive director Jeanne Holmes has sued the state for $2 million, alleging that her firing in 2014 was the result of then-Gov. Deval Patrick’s “wrongful, personal interest in retaliating against, and punishing” her. (Salem News)
Prosecutors say a Brockton man with a history of gun and drug offenses, including an attempted murder conviction, fatally shot his neighbor when he complained that he was on his lawn. (Brockton Enterprise)
Celebrity chef Mario Batali is facing indecent assault and battery charges in connection with an incident in which he allegedly groped a woman at a Back Bay bar two years ago. (Boston Globe)
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet speaks out on a wide variety of subjects at an international conference. One alarming prediction: Five years from now, he predicts, most local newspapers will be dead. (International News Media Association)