June 14, 2017
Boston, like many American communities, has a recurring problem with race. Just this spring we heard about racial epithets hurled around Fenway Park, generating national headlines – ongoing questions about racial disparities at Boston’s exam schools – and a local school’s controversial policy targeting the hairstyles of young black girls. These are just a few examples of the kind of disturbing discrimination that people of color often endure.
In their wake, there’s a new forum for all city residents to play a positive role in tackling this problem. Beginning this summer and continuing through the end of the year, the Hyams Foundation is working with the City of Boston to advance the difficult conversation. From East Boston to Hyde Park, every neighborhood is invited to participate in facilitated dialogues on race.
While conversation can be a catalyst for change, systemic discrimination has deeper roots, often based on income inequality – the so called wealth gap. According to a Federal Reserve study, “The Color of Wealth in Boston”, the median net worth of a white Bostonian household is more than $240,000 compared to just $8 for a black household in Boston. Limited access to capital deprives Bostonians of color access to better housing, the ability to afford higher education for their children, and the pride and benefits that come with passing on wealth to future generations.
That’s why we commend the efforts of MassPort. In harnessing the collective wealth and experience of a diverse group of investors, contractors and trades people to build the new convention hotel on the waterfront, encouraging substantial ownership by women and minorities in the new Omni property and all future MassPort developments. It’s an innovative approach destined to spread the prosperity generated by Boston’s growth beyond the usual downtown players. It is also the kind of gesture which, over the long run, can help alleviate some of the wealth and opportunity gap, ease racial tension and improve Boston’s tarnished image.