Reflection from our Brighton Story Circle – 2

Posted: March 20, 2013 by meghandoran in Uncategorized

After our story circle in Brighton we asked the folks who were there if anyone wanted to write up their reflections. Two people very kindly obliged us and we are long overdue in posting them. Here is the first, by Emily Berg:

Thoughts on the Brighton Story Circle

by Emily Berg

I dropped out of the sky into this meeting, having just met up with the Busing/Deseg History project, so I had no idea what to expect.  What I found was a group of maybe 25 people, of various ethnicities and ages, who brought and shared some delicious food and then stayed for 2 hours more to talk about their recollections and/or evaluations of that turbulent history.  And of course the discussion moved, at times, to broader issues related to racism and power, including immigration.  Due to the size of the group and the fact that we didn’t have all week, the topics raised could not be discussed in depth; at several points in the conversation, however, people spoke bravely and honestly about things that are so “touchy” that they don’t often get talked about.

 

A white man who had been a student at the time talked about the racial fights in school, saying that they were absolutely unavoidable, no matter how much you wanted to avoid them; he commented that he was at times “saved” by his Puerto Rican friends, because they were not seen as black or white.  He had gone to an integrated elementary school (the Trotter) and did not expect to have trouble – but he did.  Another white man, who had been a teacher at South Boston High, said the situation there was “a mess;” and that it was often impossible for education to go on.

 

A younger black man, at the time a resident of Columbia Point project, remembered his parents talking about the violence, and wondered whose fault the violence was: did it bubble up from below or was it created and led by politicians?  And is racism actually weaker now, or are racists just “more conniving?”  A white woman who was a school bus driver at the time noted that noise, of which there was plenty, does not necessarily equal chaos.  There was some back-and-forth discussion about Irish culture, or maybe cultures; an Irish-American woman said that she had been raised to fear South Boston and would never have dared to go there.  A couple of people said that immigrants – including immigrants of color – often seem to believe (and are they correct?) that part of becoming American is to “buy into” racism.

 

So many more things were said!  Several people gave little personal histories of their thoughts, feelings and actions during that time; perhaps a greater number said very little but listened closely (I was among them).  Many people brought the discussion into the present, by talking about how the past events (whether they were involved in them or just read about them) influenced their later life choices. 

 

The evening was at the same time fascinating, moving, and unsatisfying; it brought many questions to mind, and began to discuss a few but answered none.  The seriousness and honesty – and kindness –  people brought to the discussion was awe-inspiring and touching.  There will probably never be one united, accepted opinion about the busing crisis and its results, but there doesn’t have to be.  What we need is more talking and especially more listening; more conversations like that story circle.

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