Race and Policing in Boston | City of Ideas

Posted 07/15/2016 by James Burnett

WCVB Town Hall

But we wanted to have a conversation right? So on Thursday, July 14, a team from WCVB-TV, Boston's ABC affiliate, spoke up too. And they co-hosted with the Boston Foundation (TBF) a town hall discussion on race, policing, and implicit bias in the city.

Much of the town hall was driven by a poll conducted by MassInc for TBF. The poll was revealing and sometimes surprising. One question/answer suggested that one-third of African Americans in Boston feel Boston Police treat them unfairly, while a related question/answer showed that 65 percent of black respondents and 82 percent of white Bostonians have a favorable view of Boston Police. Only 40 percent of those polled felt people of different races and ethnicities have equal opportunities to access good housing in Boston. See the poll's topline data results here.

It was without a question an uncomfortable conversation. Panelists, including TBF President and CEO Paul Grogan, John M. Borders IV, Founder of Breakfast IV Brothers, Michael Curry, attorney and President of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, Rahsaan Hall, Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts' Racial Justice Program, Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, Michelle Montilio, Member of We Are the Ones, Daunasia Yancey, Organizer of the Boston Chapter of Black Lives Matter, and John Barros, Chief of Economic Development for the City of Boston, addressed tensions between police and some African Americans in Boston. They debated ways police and residents could better relate. They examined other factors that contribute to racial tensions, including the increasing but still-too-low college graduation rate among African Americans, a lack of affordable housing and accessible jobs with career potential.

But these are topics on which the top layer is rarely peeled back if participants aren't willing to be uncomfortable.

It wasn't a perfect discussion. But what hard talk about flaws can be perfect? As the saying goes, everyone's a critic. But not everyone or every institution is willing to try to tackle old conversations in new ways. So kudos again to WCVB-TV for joining with us to make this happen.The good news is it was just a start. There will be more town halls where other communities of color, as well as Boston's LGBTQ communities and their relationships with the police and government power structures, and housing and economic opportunities, are examined. Our best hope is that these won't remain talks but will evolve into solutions.



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