By Rosalie Tirella
A very late breakfast with Cece …
… who still refuses to sleep/play in her new kitty bed!
… Thinking about my city, Worcester, and how she, unlike many mid-sized American cities, has no African American middle class!!
Look around your Woo lives, Woo peeps!
Do you see – like I saw when I lived in Hartford and Springfield – hundreds of African Americans making their way across the urban landscape in crisp suits, polished shoes, brief cases swinging by their sides, ready to lead a city? Are they, with their college degrees, their professional credentials, entering City Hall meeting rooms to join City Manager Ed Augustus to add their voices to our civic conversations? So we navigate the 21st century TOGETHER?
Where are Worcester’s solidly middle class Black neighborhoods, like you see in so many American cities?
Where are Worcester’s black school principals, black teachers, black librarians?!
No where. Or: their numbers are so puny they can’t have a huge effect on Worcester civic life – or life in general. Every day life. Where we forge our identities, our beliefs.
When I lived and worked in Hartford and Springfield as a young woman years ago I was the minority. Most of the teachers, social workers and city leaders that I interacted with were Black or Hispanic. Black teachers, librarians, school principals, social service agency directors, site managers and social workers. Politicians. Eye-opening for a gal who grew up in white, Irish Catholic Worcester!
And guess what?
There was nothing radical about my co-workers/friends! They did not hate white people. They were proud to be Americans. They believed in a meritocracy. They were open to me, nice, polite, real. Wanting to collaborate because we were working TOGETHER to help all people in our city! These Black professionals were well spoken, thoughtful and family-oriented. They looked at learning, the school experience, child care, city safety the way I looked at the issues – or the way you’d see them!
But because Worcester doesn’t open its doors to Black/Latino professionals, racism blossoms here. The worst kind of racial stereotypes rule! People here don’t see a Black professional class, so they don’t know one exists. Our city grows more diverse by the day, and yet we still have Worcester Public Schools (at the elementary level) stuffed with all-white-teaching staffs! Our public library and its branches still have so few African American and Hispanic staffers. The Greendale Branch Library looks like it waltzed out of 1950! Pathetic!!
The situation, if you compare us to similar cities, IS NOT NORMAL!!
It just feels that way to most folks in Worcester because our racism, our separate state of being, is all they know – and feel comfortable with. It is their milieu. Their “norm.” Poor BLACKS – they too live in this weird racist home zone that reflects a skewed picture of Blackness. They can feel hopeless, depressed, less whole, less self confident living in this world, in Worcester.
Worcester – a city that excludes so many folks of color – politely and not so politely. Repeatedly. Since day #1. No matter how many community meetings the city hosts. No matter how many “official” pronouncements come from City Hall, the City Council and School Committee – all proclaiming we are an OPEN TO ALL city!
No matter if the U.S. Department of Justice!! calls us out and comes to Worcester to help right our wrongs. We hold more polite, controlled community meetings … the City Manager makes more promises … even hires a City Diversity officer, Malika Carter, to help make us whole, to bring Blacks and other minorities into the picture. But she gets our game soon enough and quits her high paying City of Worcester job. Most likely Carter left us only after only a year and half because she realized the City Manager gave her no real power to effect real change in our city. She was just the city’s fake badge of honor it awarded itself to make itself feel better about itself … the titular head of … nothingsville!
Factor in the racism of these perennial Worcester slugs:
The Turtle Boy (Aidan Kearney) blogger who destroyed the lives of so many black and minority professionals in Worcester … lead the charge to harass them out
and his rogue lawyer/Turtle Boy blog poet laureate Margaret Melican (cousin, so he says, to local hater Brendan Melican) who supports the Turtle Boy poison
and race-baiting/nightmare of a human being Worcester City Councilor (and mayor wannabe) Michael Gaffney who some people have called: “pure evil”
and Change Worcester and Worcester’s Dirty Secret FB pages author – “anonymous” blogger-crank conservative Paul Collyer, a political gadfly who has attacked Worcester City dems, a progressive City agenda and Worcester City Councilor Sarai Rivera – incessantly and mercilessly … for months and months and months …
and, well, you’ve basically got yourself a Woo shit sandwich! A racist shit sandwich! And it is not going away any time soon because these creeps actually have forums, platforms, bully pulpits, reach so many Worcesterites so they can stoke their class fears and racial prejudices. They incite hatred for poor people, homeless people, addicted people – our community’s weakest members!
Worcester is, at this point in its history, stuck – it’s a city that can not move forward, cannot honestly embrace people of color. Poor Blacks and Latinos. Middle class Blacks and Latinos with college degrees and more, folks who’ve relocated from the South or the Mid West, altered their LIVES, to take a high paying job in city government … only to face an intense backlash. From Turtle Boy. From Gaffney. From half of Worcester.
Worcester Public Schools Superintent Melinda Boone was harassed out of her job. Turtle Boy and Gaffney lead such a horrific Melinda Boone witch hunt/hate fest that she moved out and on. The Latino assistant WPS Superintendent who applied for Boone’s job got kicked in the nuts – so he got himself another job and moved on, too. The Harvard-educated, so smart, so savvy, so cool Latino man who applied so whole heartedly for our City Mananger job … realized city leaders were really holding the slot for Ed Augustus and he was just a … diversion. So what if he and the other CM candidates took weeks out of their LIVES to apply for the CM job, fly out to Worcester, interview for the job, meet and greet city poobahs, visit Worcester for extended periods of time to get to know us? It was just a fancy dance meant to distract from what was going on behind the scenes.
Malika Carter, the woman Augustus hired in February 2016 to spearhead the city’s diversity outreach and inclusion efforts, can now join that Black/minority professional graveyard that Turtle Boy has on his blog!
And Woo stays intolerant, narrow-minded, unfair, unjust, inequitable … choose your adjective.
For how much longer?!