Is Boston racist? That’s the simplest version of the question discussed Monday at the Kennedy School by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy, and a group of Boston Globe spotlight team journalists whose December series examining race in Boston was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.
But as the Globe team quickly noted, the report sought to reveal the complex reality behind that question — and the challenges that lie ahead.
The series of seven articles, gathered under the heading “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality,” uncovered uncomfortable truths underlying nearly all aspects of life in the greater metropolitan area, and compared Boston both with other cities and with its own past.
Boston is the whitest of the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas, the Globe reported. And while many Bostonians would like to think the city’s reputation is strictly a product of the ’70s busing era and its episodes of virulent racism, reality is more damning. The Seaport District, the city’s newest area of major development, has been built with more than $18 billion in public funds, yet it remains one of the whitest areas of the city, from its construction workers and contractors up through its business owners and new residents.
The Globe team of editor Patricia Wen, columnist Adrian Walker, and reporter Todd Wallack were invited to HKS by an anti-racism student coalition not only to elaborate on these findings, but also to discuss the impetus behind the series and explore its repercussions. Spotlight members Akilah Johnson and Nicole Dungca joined the 90-minute conversation.