Fall 2013 Editor’s note
Our cover story on minorities in the workplaces of Greater Boston started out small.
Our cover story on minorities in the workplaces of Greater Boston started out small. Contributing writer Colman Herman proposed a story about the racial makeup of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the agency charged with bringing three casinos and a slots parlor to the state. Herman thought it was odd that a new agency starting from scratch had only four minorities (two blacks and two Hispanics) on its 29-person staff. One of the minorities was Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, who was appointed by state Treasurer Steven Grossman.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the story proposal was that Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the gaming commission, is also one of the founders of the Commonwealth Compact, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote greater diversity in Massachusetts. So if the commission was doing a poor job of hiring minorities, he certainly couldn’t plead ignorance on the issue.
In an interview with Herman, Crosby indicated the minority hiring numbers were lower than he would have preferred. “When we started out, we had a lot of things that we needed to focus on to get things off the ground,” he said. “But we can and should do better.”
Many people in Boston believe the city has turned the corner on its racist past. Polling data suggest Boston residents overwhelmingly feel the city has come a long way on racial issues under Mayor Thomas Menino. His spokeswoman says the racial tension that once characterized Boston is gone.
Certainly race is not the divisive issue it once was. In the campaign for mayor this year, race hasn’t been a focal point. When no minority candidate made it into the final, no one cried racism. Instead, there was a lot of talk about the quality of Charlotte Golar Richie’s message and whether a minority would have won if the minority community had coalesced around one candidate.
I recalled the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles it ran in 1983 on the absence of blacks in Boston workplaces. I went back and re-read the series and began to wonder how far the city had come over the last 30 years. So Herman and I decided to find out. We updated some of the statistics the Globe reviewed 30 years ago and we talked to some of the same people the Globe quoted.
But we also went off in new directions, in part because the city has changed quite a bit over the last 30 years. The Globe series focused exclusively on blacks, but we also looked at Hispanics and Asians because their numbers in Boston have been growing dramatically. The city’s black population, by contrast, has hardly grown at all since 1983.
Our research led us to conclude that minorities are moving into Greater Boston’s workforce in growing numbers, but not at the upper management level. Indeed, minorities seem to be underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder and overrepresented at the bottom.We heard a lot of explanations for why minorities aren’t moving more quickly into the upper ranks of business—a more welcoming atmosphere in other cities, better opportunities elsewhere, or a lower cost of living in other areas. The more we talked to people the more we became convinced race was still a very serious problem in Boston, one that was not getting the attention it deserved.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.