6.06.2005

Another hostile Globe story on "newcomers"

For years, the Boston Globe has been running stories and columns about old neighborhoods changing as prices rise and "newcomers" move in. The tone of the stories are resentful toward the newcomers in a subtle or outright hostile way. I remember a Brian McGrory column from a few years ago which ripped into "Volvo-driving" young parents taking over working-class Arlington. In the Sunday globe, there was an article about communities along the Mystic River being targeted for gentrification.

Today's story by Lisa Wangsness on West Roxbury's changing face is not full of vitriol, but the resentment is still there. Snobby restaurants and shops are sprouting up, which would not "be remarkable in a wealthy Boston suburb, or any of the McMansion-dotted exurbs around the country." In other words, these types of places are better suited for the McMansion crowd, not people "from" West Roxbury who can't possibly like or afford pan-seared haddock in garlic butter, much less sit at the same table as some snooty newcomer!

And the people who are coming in, replacing the Irish-American families! Young families and couples from the suburbs, or people who came to Boston to go to school and now want to settle down here. The article makes a point of describing one of the newcomers by their sexual orientation, "a lesbian couple from the suburbs."

These newcomers don't have the time for the old community activities, claims the Globe: "While community meetings still attract scores, even hundreds, to discuss issues like downtown parking, many of the newcomers don't have time for such things." And they don't vote for the local Irish-American political establishment, either ... one young couple says they are voting for the son of Korean immigrants. The tone of the article is, can you believe these newcomers? The nerve, voting for someone who isn't "from" the area!

Here's a question for the Globe: When you set out to do another formulaic gentrification story that makes home-buying newcomers out to be uncaring, self-centered carpetbaggers, did you make the effort to back up your assertions with factual data? Did you poll the patrons of the glitzy bistros, see if they grew up in a McMansion, or grew up in a local triple decker? Did you poll the people attending the community meetings, and see how many are newcomers, vs. how many are not, or whether they congregate on opposite sides of the meeting room? Do you have any other demographic data to back up the assertion that they do not care about local community issues, or don't vote for the local politicians? Or are just a few anecdotes from local pols and a few harried newcomers enough to get your story?

What about PTA meetings? These newcomers are likely to have young kids attending local schools -- are they too busy to join the PTA? Or you didn't even bother checking, did you?

And here's another question -- what about immigrants? Boston has had a large immigrant population since the early 1800s, and now is no different -- look at all of the Vietnamese, Hatian, and central American-owned stores and restaurants in other parts of Boston. But there is no mention of immigrants moving to West Roxbury, displacing old Irish families, and not getting involved in local community activities. Are they just not there, or they don't patronize restaurants that serve pan-seared sea bass? Or is it taboo for the Globe to criticize neighborhood newcomers who happen to be from immigrant families? Apparently the only newcomers that are worthy of resentment are rich, young, Volvo-driving couples who graduated from local colleges, or came from the suburbs.

Here's a lesson for Globe editors and writers who love to rip young couples and other outsiders for "taking over" established neighborhoods in Boston and the suburbs: Read "A Common Ground," particularly the chapter where newcomers revitalize an old school in the South End. Then read The Boston Irish, which details the suspicion, resentment, and negative stereotypes heaped upon Irish immigrants when they arrived in Boston in large numbers, starting in the early 1800s.

Then take field trip to Ronan Park in Dorchester, which until recently was tended by John Beresford, a native of Virginia. Even though he was a newcomer, an important part of his life was centered around the park and his community -- old-timers and newcomers alike. He played Santa Claus during the holidays for Boston's kids from all backgrounds, and frequently liased with local officials to improve the quality of life in his neighborhood. He lost his life after attempting to stop two young men, probably from the neighborhood, who prefered to prey on others in the community by robbing them. They killed Beresford.

But I never saw a Globe report about him or what he was doing for the community until he died. In a way it's not surprising -- such a story would go against the negative stereotypes of newcomers that the Globe fosters.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i, for the first time, agree with the globe. i do not like the "newcomers" or whatever self-important yuppies (we made this place so much nicer) choose to call themselves. yuppies go away, especially from west roxbury.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't everyone who works at the Globe a new comer themselves? I am confused. I thought growing up in New York or some other location was a prerequisite for a job at the Globe.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Borderline said...

There is an element of truth to the second comment -- a lot of Globe writers are newcomers. I have the feeling many young writers live in Boston or Cambridge at first but parachute out to Newton, Wellesley and Belmont when their kids get old enough to go to school.

There are a few "real" Bostonians who've been on staff. Mike Barnicle springs to mind, before he was fired for making stuff up. But by that time he had moved to Lincoln. "The Street Kid From Lincoln" is what some Herald columnist called him.

8:06 PM  

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