‘Inner City’ Blues

The Republican nominee for president –whose name shall not be written in this space for reasons of good taste – has succeeded mightily in lathering a once-Grand Old Party with all manner of slime and shame over the last year and a half. The Republican brand may never fully recover from the complicity and slavish behavior of its party members that were essential to its unlikely takeover by a sociopathic confidence man, even if he is eventually rejected by its own ranks.

Once vanquished, though, the GOP – or whatever slinks up to replace it as a semi-viable counterpoint to progressive liberalism – will need to begin its next life by deconstructing the act that successfully dragged its predecessor into the swamp with the ease of a Bayou gator on the prowl.

It’s hard to know where to begin an autopsy on a political body that has been so thoroughly dismembered. Pathologists could choose to first concentrate on the malignancy that was its behavior toward the nation’s cities, those heavily-populated areas of the republic that its party-nominated leader portrayed as apocalyptic wastelands, teeming with the unwashed and unwanted who kill one another with savage wantonness. He called this vast American wilderness the “inner city”— most easily translated to “where poor black and brown folks live.”

Like all euphemisms, the term is a lazy one and it’s abused by people on all sides of the American political spectrum. It has its roots in the immoral bosoms of the liberals and the conservatives who over many generations have gerrymandered black and brown people into sections of cities they consider a darker quarter. These political maneuvers spring from a deliberate and malicious racism that residents of Boston neighborhoods know too well; they are the work of blue-blooded Republican bankers, thirsty Democratic ward bosses, and unenrolled grifters of all rank and privilege alike.

The autopsy surely will show how the recent Republican-in-chief amplified the effects of the malignancy as it spread through his party’s body politic. He went far beyond the politician’s wink and a nod to make the slur against America’s blacks as plain as day.

In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, the New York real estate mogul, who 40 years ago was found liable for discriminating against blacks in his housing units, described black citizens in our “inner cities” as living in “a disaster education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise, in every way possible,” adding, “we have a situation where we have our inner cities, African- Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot. … We have to protect our inner cities, because African-American communities are being decimated by crime, decimated.”

The Dickensian misery that the Republican standard bearer believed is every African-American’s experience in 2016 was in perfect synch with his other pronouncements, all deeply researched, no doubt, on Mexican “criminals and rapists,” Muslim “radical terrorists,” and what seemed to be his favorite target: women.

Given the GOP meltdown, maybe people will pause to consider the inherent racism of the term “inner city.” If you mean it to say, “where black and brown people live,” then stop saying it. It’s ignorant. Black and brown people live where all Americans live – in our cities, in our suburbs, and across the land.

In the context of stories about Boston, “inner-city” is used a great deal, but not at the Reporter. Our founder and longtime editor, Ed Forry, long ago discouraged its use by his reporters because it’s a descriptive that is misleading to the reader, is inaccurate, and is inherently racist. It is, too, a first cousin to terms like “North Dorchester” and “South Dorchester”— artificial constructs crafted over the years by city bureaucrats meant to steer lenders, realtors, buyers, insurers, you name it, all with an eye towards keeping people separated by race.

Where, exactly, is the “inner city” of Boston? Take Mattapan for example: It’s a leafy neighborhood of mainly single family homes that borders suburban towns on Boston’s southwestern edge where a majority of residents own their own homes and where Part One crime has fallen by more than 50 percent over the last two years, according to a recent Boston College study. Is that the “inner city?” Or does Mattapan earn that distinction because it is home to the highest percentage of African Americans of any Boston neighborhood— 74 percent?

Our guess is that Mattapan easily falls into the “inner city” category not just for blowhards like the moronic GOP nominee, but also for people with far more noble intentions who think themselves progressive.

Elections are about more than choosing a leader. They set aside time for us to reflect on ourselves and on what it means to be Bostonians, citizens of the United States of America, and members of the world community. We should use that time to consider how, beyond our vote, we can help the country recover from this debacle of an election for the highest office in the land.