Boston, we have a problem…
Our city has been pegged as a notoriously racist metropolitan, full of bigots who use racial epithets and negative stereotypes far too casually.
I’m here to acknowledge that reputation as being painfully true, to a degree. And I want to do something about it.
In the aftermath of the Bruins’ game 7 loss to the Washington Capitals, a number of Bruins fans took to Twitter to vent. Unfortunately, they did so in the worst way possible – by targeting Joel Ward with racist Tweets. Take a look:
Now, the immediate urge from many Bostonians is to say, “They’re not real Bruins fans” and “They don’t represent Boston.”
Really? This guy’s not a Bruins’ fan?
I desperately want to believe these people are just a small, vocal minority that’s cut off from the rest of the region, but I stopped believing that fairy tale many years ago – right around the time I moved back to Massachusetts after living in Virginia for seven years. You know, Virginia – rebels flags, Confederate monuments, and state song that would make most folks blush. But in all my time in that Red State, I didn’t hear the “N word” once. Yet I hear it far too often in Boston.
Grantland’s Bill Simmons doesn’t think a larger connection should be made between these fans and the city overall. “Those morons don’t reflect on the city of Boston, but rather the Internet itself — an occasionally unseemly place with little accountability that willingly courts hateful morons from every corner of the world,” he wrote.
I appreciate Simmons condemning the Tweets, but I take exception with the reasoning. Yes, the Internet can be a dark place that’s full of racism. But that’s not really what this is about. Not completely.
Understand that these people tweeted these hateful messages out Wednesday night because they felt comfortable enough to do so. They felt safe in the confines of Twitter and their own relatively small cliques of followers to post these words. They did not fear consequences from their friends and followers.
Now, you can say that just makes the dumb and ignorant of the social media world we live in. And that’s part of it. But the other, inescapable part of the equation is that they felt certain the racist comments wouldn’t be condemned by their followers and the people around them. You know, friends and family members.
Check the timelines of the some of these racists — you tell me how many of their followers challenged them for using the “N” word or objected to the racism.
So it’s not just these Tweeting bigots that are the problem – it’s everyone else who sees the Tweets and don’t stand up to them. Public racism like this doesn’t just happen in a vacuum; a protective atmosphere has to be constructed to make these bigots feel it’s okay to post these things.
That’s the awful part – the part that even the biggest Boston homers don’t want to acknowledge. There’s a culture of looking the other way when it comes to racism here. Maybe it’s because Bostonians are so sick of hearing about racism and Metco and school busing in the 1970s, but too many people here are willing to shrug off these racist insults and jokes with a let-it-slide attitude.
Well, I’m not.
I’ve seen too much of this over the last decade, and I’ve fucking had it. I’m waging a war on racism in Boston, and I’m on a vendetta ride again these bigots. I’m going to scour Twitter and Facebook and whatever else I can find to root you out. I see a racist Tweet against Joel Ward, I call out the man (or woman) who Tweeted it.
I will call you out, I will shame you, and I will badger you until you apologize – or delete your Twitter account. And there will be consequences. I’m urging the Boston Bruins — and any other sports team in the city — to ban you from the arena for life. If I can get you suspended or expelled from school, I will. If I can even get you fired from your job, I will. You’ve been warned.
The vendetta ride is on. BTBNL will be calling out the racists, both here and on Twitter. Expect us.