Over the past few months I have been in search for an apartment close to where I will attend college next year. Being a college student, I’m on a budget, so of course I searched for the cheapest option available while still keeping quality in mind. I found this apartment in Roxbury, MA. It is very close to the train station and, while it is small, it is the perfect size for me. I visited the apartment, riding my bike through the neighborhood in the late afternoon. Everything seemed to be fine to me. After the visit I concluded that I wanted to live there. The rent was cheap and the apartment was clean. The only thing left to do was to consult my parents about the apartment.
When I told my mom about the apartment she immediately responded with a loud “No!”. The apartment was in a “dangerous area”, and she worried for my safety. Areas like Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan were all no-go zones according to my family. If I set foot on the streets of any of those cities I was conditioned to immediately worry about getting shot, stabbed, or robbed. But then I noticed something about these cities; all these cities were populated mostly by minorities. According to the 2010 Massachusetts state Census, minorities made up about 72% of the population in Roxbury. While crimes were, and still are, committed on the streets of Roxbury, it is not determined to be the most dangerous city in Massachusetts. A study focusing on the FBI Uniform Crime Report determined Holyoke to be the most dangerous city in Massachusetts with the highest rate of property and violent crimes.
So let’s look at the demographics of Holyoke. According to the 2010 Census, white people made up about 62% of the population in Holyoke, MA. That means that it is more likely for the white citizens to have committed the crimes than the minority citizens. These findings led me back to the question: why do my parents think Roxbury is dangerous?
Well, for starters, my parents grew up in a time where racism was still alive and kicking. Their parents influenced their way of thinking about race in society, while still managing to push them forward to accept the integration put in place so as not to make their lives more difficult. While I do believe my parents are wonderful people, it is the internalized racism that plagues their sense of judgement over what places are safe and what places are dangerous. Roxbury, while filled with minorities, is not the war zone that my parents and their parents have made it out to be. It is simply a part of the greater Boston area that has been confused as a dangerous place because of the years and years of institutionalized and internalized racism in America.