Facing the past

This was Horace Small’s response when he heard the results of a recent Northeastern University study that found Greater Boston to have some of the most racially segregated schools in the nation: “What … else is new?”

Small believes Boston never truly reconciled the emotional residue left over from the 1970s busing crises in which a court order to bus black students to white neighborhoods and vice versa caused racial upheaval.

Case in point: The South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission Small is currently working on has gotten major push-back from folks who don’t see any point in rehashing the past.

“Thirty-six years later, we don’t ever talk about the elephant in the room,” said Small, who runs the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “Busing continues to cloud people’s attention and feelings. In order to go forward, we need a new beginning. We need to come to terms with it so a real conversation can transpire about what needs to happen.”

Small, who won an $84,000 grant from New York-based nonprofit called the Andrus Family Fund, has already interviewed more than 100 people for a TV special expected to air on the Boston Neighborhood Network in November.

“Hopefully we’ll have a commission of volunteers willing to speak by the end of the year,” he said, “where all of this stuff can be looked at.”


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