Are we ready to admit that racism is alive and well in Boston?
Last Thursday, May 16, a group of seventh graders on a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts were the subject of unacceptable acts of discrimination by museum staff and patrons. Although the MFA has denounced the event as “a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made [the students] feel unwelcome,” a handful of journalists, public officials, and community leaders have singled out the incident for what it is—an act of racism against black and brown students.
Institutions in Boston continue to struggle when recognizing their part in perpetuating racism within the city. Whether it be at work, within retail stores or at the baseball stadium, people of color continue to report experiencing microaggressions and racism in Boston. In those instances when their experiences receive high-profile media attention, organizations go through a round of public apologies and a promise to engage in open conversations. After the attention dies down, it seems like many institutions go back to business as usual. It’s important to recognize racism as the root cause behind these incidents in order to develop informed and long-lasting solutions.It’s important to recognize racism as the root cause behind these incidents in order to develop informed and long-lasting solutions. Click To Tweet
YW Boston is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Our mission has put us at the forefront of advancing racial and gender equity for over 150 years. Today, we help individuals and organizations create more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. As part of this work, we emphasize the importance of intentional inclusivity—because diversity without inclusion is not enough. In the words of Jeneé Osterheldt, Culture Writer at The Boston Globe, “Inclusion cannot just be for the night. It has to be part of the culture of everyday life at the museum, of everyday living in America.”
As a result of the MFA’s investigations, the museum banned the two patrons who allegedly made racist remarks to the group of students. Additionally, MFA Director Matthew Teitelbaum announced their plan to provide guards with training and that the museum is working on “continued mandatory unconscious bias training” for staff. From our experience partnering with organizations looking to create more inclusive and equitable environments through our Dialogues program, we know that these one-off individual responses are not enough to advance organizational change. So rather than asking whether or not racism is still present in Boston, we should go beyond focusing solely on individual bias and attempt to correct institutionalized inequities within organizations. Institutional responses should move beyond reactionary adaptations and require deliberate long-term commitments, because only then can we begin to build truly inclusive spaces for everyone.Institutional responses should move beyond reactionary adaptations and require deliberate long-term commitments, because only then can we begin to build truly inclusive spaces for everyone. Click To Tweet
About Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing social equity for over 150 years. Our Dialogues program has provided over 100 organizations with a structured way to openly talk about race in order to identify and address barriers to equity and inclusion. Using our advanced assessment tool and the latest research on behavioral and organizational change, Dialogues partners with organizations to create an action plan and provide them with the resources needed to drive organizational change. Learn more about YW Boston’s Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity program.