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Have you seen this photo?
This photo of an assault on a black man by a racist mob was taken in Boston in 1976 and won a Pulitzer prize for the Boston Herald, but is rarely seen today.
White Bostonians, enraged over efforts to desegregate Boston schools using a system of busing, were staging a protest in Government Center.
Some 200 white students from South Boston and Charlestown assembled for the march to City Hall Plaza. “We all wanted to belong to something big,” recalls one teenage protester, “and the feeling of being part of the anti-busing movement along with the rest of Southie had been the best feeling in the world.” Southie meant more than just the geographic place South Boston. It meant neighborhood and community and ethnic pride. Thinking of the long day ahead, some packed a snack. Some made signs that said “RESIST.” One student, before leaving his third-floor South Boston apartment, grabbed the family’s American flag.
From the start, the anti-busing movement identified itself with patriotism. The activists saw themselves as defending their liberty against the tyranny of a judge run amok. Boston’s celebration of Bicentennial events in 1975 and 1976 only reinforced the idea that they were carrying on in a tradition of American resistance: one anti-busing group had as its motto “Don’t tread on me.” At rallies and boycotts, protesters carried American flags and frequently sang “God Bless America.”
Ted Landsmark happened to be passing by that day. A lawyer for the Contractor’s Association, he was heading to City Hall for a meeting. The crowd, students and adults from Southie and Charlestown, spotted a black man in a three-piece suit and attacked him.
A scuffle began. The protesters spotted Landsmark and turned on him. One went to trip him up. Landsmark recalls a couple of them yelling, “Get the nigger.” A few of the anti-busing protesters at the front jumped him. He was being kicked and punched. “As an American flag carried by one of the students swirled above the fracas, a black man was set upon by several white youths,”The Boston Globereported.
The flag bearer circled around and began to swing the flag at Landsmark. Some officers of the police mobile operations patrol and some adults intervened, but too late. The incident lasted maybe 15 or 20 seconds. Landsmark’s glasses were shattered and his nose broken from the punches that he had received. He was left drifting, bloodied and dazed.
You might think of Boston as a liberal, progressive city. But talk to Black Bostonians, and they’ll tell you about people throwing rocks at them on their way to school, and having to duck their heads away from the school bus windows as they entered white neighborhoods.
Today Boston is debating a revamp of the busing system that attempted to desegregate Boston public schools. Thanks to White Flight, Boston schools are still as segregated as ever.
Nobody talks about the busing crisis much anymore - not publicly, anyway.
But take a good look at that photo. This is Boston. This is America.
This is why, when I chose to attend a college in Boston, my mom, who grew up there, was upset that I chose to move there. It certainly was a VERY segregated place.
Even my white friends from Boston hate Boston. They say it’s racist as fuck. I’ve been and it is. Ugh.
Which is hilarious because in “history” they basically laud this place as the birth of America and freedom and eagles and fireworks.
And of course you’ll get those folks who swear racism wasn’t a thing above the Mason-Dixon Line.