Boston's first Black, female mayor confronts striking inequalities

Boston's first Black, female mayor confronts striking inequalities

Kim Janey became the first woman and the first Black American to serve as the mayor of Boston Monday night after former Mayor Marty WalshMarty WalshBoston mayor fires city's police commissioner months after domestic abuse allegations emerge Senate Latino Democrats warn about low Hispanic vaccination rates Labor secretary faces questions from Democrats in police chief controversy MORE (D) was confirmed by the Senate to head the Department of Labor.

The historic occurrence highlights the potent history of racial inequality within the city that is today more than 25 percent Black.

Janey, a native of Roxbury — referred to on the city’s website as “the heart of Black culture in Boston” — spoke to this in an op-ed published Tuesday morning in The Boston Globe, recounting her memories of being part of the city’s busing program in an effort to integrate its school system in the 1970s.


In 1974, Boston Public Schools were forced by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to integrate through busing, even though the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional 20 years prior in 1954.

“When I was just 11, school busing rolled into my life. I was forced onto the front lines of the 1970s school desegregation battle,” wrote Janey, who was president of the Boston City Council before being named acting mayor. “I faced rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus, for simply attending school while Black.”

The racist legacy lingers in substantial ways today, observable through the culture surrounding Boston professional sports and the stark economic disparities that plague the city’s communities of color.

NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, arguably the Boston Celtic’s all-time best player, said in a op-ed published by SLAM Magazine last year that he considered the franchise to be “good people,” but couldn’t “say the same about the fans or the city.”

“During games people yelled hateful, indecent things: ‘Go back to Africa,’ ‘Baboon,’ ‘C---,’ ‘N-----,’ ” Russell wrote.

Because of the obtuse racism he faced while playing for Boston, Russell refused to have his No. 6 retired in front of fans.


Multiple Black former Major League Baseball players, including All-Stars Torii Hunter and C.C. Sabathia, have said that they were also called the N-word by Boston Red Sox fans.

The Red Sox didn’t integrate until 1959, the last MLB team to do so.

Over the summer, the team responded to Hunter’s comments, calling his experience of racism “real.”

“If you doubt him because you’ve never heard it yourself, take it from us, it happens,” the Red Sox wrote in a statement that was posted to Twitter, noting that there were seven incidents of fans using racial slurs reported at Fenway Park in 2019 alone.

“Those are just the ones we know about,” the team added.

Janey pledged in her op-ed that her administration would address “economic disparities with new urgency.”

“While Boston has come so far, we also must acknowledge that we have so much more work to do.

"That work starts now,” Janey continued. “I am ready to lead our city toward equity, justice, and joy.”

From an economic standpoint, a 2015 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Duke University and The New School revealed a staggering wealth gap between white households and Black households.

Per the report, white families in Boston had a median net worth of $247,500 while Black households had a net worth of $8.

Black families in Boston were also two times less likely to own a house than white families, but more likely to have mortgage debt as well as student loans and medical debt.

A recent study commissioned by the city found that of the $2.1 billion that Boston awarded in contracts from 2014-2019, Black and Latino-owned businesses only received 1.2 percent of that money.

Janey will serve the remainder of Walsh’s term, which ends in January. Boston will elect a new mayor this November; Janey has yet to state whether she will seek to run for a full term.