Editorial: Postcard gaffe should not define work of the Historical Society

The Dorchester Historical Society — one of the neighborhood’s oldest and most respected organizations— this week found itself in the very awkward position of apologizing for a holiday postcard that was widely ridiculed online and in news reports.

The card’s winter-themed message—“I’m dreaming of a white… Dorchester”— was poorly-conceived, easily misinterpreted, and never should have been created or sent out.

When it began making the rounds on social media with the obvious critiques of racial insensitivity, the Society quickly removed the image of the postcard from its social media platforms, then issued a statement that explained, in part: “Unfortunately, though this postcard was designed with the Bing Crosby song in mind, it should never have gone out. We are very truly sorry … and we want to apologize for its unintended consequence; to say we are horrified is an understatement.”

Those who aren’t familiar with the DHS may be forgiven for thinking the worst. But we have been covering this neighborhood and the DHS since our inception in 1983. For what it’s worth, we take the officers at their word and accept their apology.

The Historical Society has been a force for good in Dorchester and Mattapan. Its work keeps us connected to our past in all of its complexities. It has been the key agent in protecting endangered properties and in restoring important historic treasures, including the James Blake house, the oldest in the city.

In its earliest days, the DHS launched Dorchester Day, which remains a great celebration. In its modern incarnation, the Society runs monthly programs that illuminate Dorchester’s history in diverse and meaningful ways. It has opened up its impressive collection of artifacts and images to the world through an indispensable website, the Dorchester Atheneum.

We were saddened to see that many online comments made a presumption that there must be a sinister motive behind the postcard. And certainly, in light of the public embarrassment, we’re certain the Society will pause to reflect on how it can do better.

Readers of this space know that we don’t tolerate racists or their enablers. In our decades of writing about the DHS and its key people, we’ve never had any reason to believe they harbor anything but the best intentions for all of Dorchester’s people. That won’t change due to one ill-conceived postcard.

Bill Forry is the editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter.