Marilynn S. Johnson: “The New Bostonians” | Talks at Google

Marilynn S. Johnson: “The New Bostonians” | Talks at Google


STAVROS MACRAKIS: So today
I’m happy to introduce Marilynn Johnson, Lynn, who
is a professor at Boston College of history. Today she’s presenting
about “The New Bostonians,” which you saw the blurb about. But let me give you a
little bit of background. One of the interesting
things about Lynn is that she seems to manage
to be ahead of the curve writing academically,
doing research and writing about topics which then
turn out to be much more important than when she
started writing about them. So how many years ago was it you
did your police violence book? MARILYNN JOHNSON: It’s
a little– 12 years now, something like that. STAVROS MACRAKIS: So 12
years ago, she wrote a book on police violence, which
of course has become a very hot issue in the past
couple of years with Black Lives Matter and so on. And as you know, in the
current electoral campaign, immigration has
become a big topic. These evil immigrants are
ruining our neighborhoods and ruining our economy and
taking jobs away and all that sort of thing. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] [LAUGHTER] STAVROS MACRAKIS: So Lynn
started working on that topic years ago and has had her
book out for about a year now on this topic. So I’d like to have you
hear from Lynn Johnson. MARILYNN JOHNSON: Great. Thanks, Stavros. [APPLAUSE] And thanks for the opportunity
to come here and speak. I really appreciate it. And I think it’s
the first time I’ve gotten to speak at a
workplace other than my own. I want to do– as
I usually start when I talk about
this book, 1965 is a key moment, a
kind of turning point in immigration in the United
States and in the Boston area as well. And the timing–
my book actually came out this Fall in time
for the 50th anniversary of the 1965
Immigration Act, which was signed in October 1965. And now there was a bit of
a historical event about it, so I wanted to have the book
coming out timed with that. And this is a scene from
the signing of that bill, with Lyndon Johnson
there in the middle and some familiar Massachusetts
faces off to the right. It was part of this
whole wave of legislation that was passed as part
of the Great Society during Lyndon Johnson’s term,
civil rights legislation, and anti-poverty legislation,
and immigration legislation, which was part of the
civil rights ethos. The reason that this
legislation was so significant is because it reformed the
immigration system that had been set up back
in the 1920s, which was a very restrictive
immigration quota system. And it was one that
favored immigrants from Northern and Western
Europe and ended up disfavoring immigrants from
Southern and Eastern Europe and other parts of the
world, particularly Asia, which had been
partially excluded under older immigration
laws, and then was completely excluded
based on Asian ineligibility for citizenship under US law. So this 1965 act
changed that system and set up equal quotas for
each country around the world. They were pretty small
quotas in some cases, just like 100 or so. But it did allow immigration
from across the globe in a smaller– and actually
did increase the numbers up to about 160,000 or so, and then
would increase it in small ways after that. Now the other thing
about this legislation is that it gave preferences and
exemptions for certain kinds of immigrants. So if you had
particular skills that were needed in the economy–
and typically these were skills in the sciences
and engineering and medicine– you could move to the
front of the line. Also, if you became an American
citizen– you were foreign born and you became an
American citizen, you could bring immediate family
members over with exemption. So you could go
around the quotas. And what happened very quickly
is that family exemptions became very popular. People got citizenship, and they
brought family members over. So the numbers of immigrants
coming in actually went up, because those
family exemption visas were outside of the quotas. This is part of the reason
that the 1965 immigration law changed things so
dramatically in the country. Frankly, nobody had
any idea that this law was going to change
things as much as it did. Most of the people
in Congress who pushed for this
legislation, many of them were second and third
generation Italians, Jews, other people whose
families had come in the more recent wave
of southern and eastern immigration. They assumed that
the family exemptions would help their families, their
relatives to bring more family members over from Southern
and Eastern Europe. And a small amount
of immigration would come from other
parts of the world. This would help the US image
abroad during the Cold War, because the Soviet
Union was always trying to capitalize on the
fact that the US practiced various forms of racial
and ethnic discrimination. It would be a goodwill gesture,
but it wasn’t really going to change the population. And that, of course,
proved to be very untrue. Here in Boston, for instance,
the change was staggering. In the 1960s, Boston
was an overwhelmingly white, Catholic, predominantly
Irish Catholic, Irish American town. Today, of course,
people of color make up the majority of the
population, in large part because of immigration
from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and
Africa, more recently. Boston has always been
an immigrant portal. We had many, many
immigrants coming in in the 19th and
early 20th centuries. But the diversity of the
immigrant population, the foreign born
population, today is astounding even in
comparison to the peak years of the old immigration. And this is a
chart from my book. You can see that in 1910,
which was the peak census year of the old immigration, you
have basically four groups that made up more than 3/4
of the foreign born. They were all from Europe
or Canada– Ireland, predictably, Italy, Russia,
mainly Jews in that time period, and Canadians, both from
maritime provinces and French Canadians, Canadians
more generally. If you compare this to 2010
though, it’s quite remarkable. You have more than
two dozen groups that make up that same
percentage of the foreign born. And they come from
all over the world. The three biggest groups
are not from– actually, the top 10 groups, at
least– are not from Europe. China, the Dominican
Republic, and Haiti have been the three largest
groups historically. But they switch
around a little bit. And also significant
numbers from Vietnam and El Salvador and Cape Verde. And then after
that, you just have all of these little slices
of different groups. And it’s made the city much,
much more cosmopolitan, and obviously much
more multiracial as people have come
from all over the world. And this particular makeup
continues to change. Every census is a
little bit different. We’ll be seeing more
Africans in the future, because some of the groups that
came later and are beginning to cash in on– as
they get citizenship and being able to use
the family exemptions, their numbers will
increase in the future. But similar great
diversity will continue, I think, into the future,
unless the legislation changes. As far as the metro area’s
concerned, similar mixture of people. Some slight differences here. You have Brazilians ranking
a little bit higher, because Brazilians tend to
live more in the suburbs than in the city. You also have same
thing with Indians disproportionately
in the suburbs rather than in the
city of Boston itself. Cape Verdeans rank
a little lower, because they tend
to be concentrated in the city of Boston. But more or less the
same kind of profile. Now, the new immigration
is now 50 years old. And we know a good bit about
it at the national level, been a lot of national
level studies of immigrants. But we know less about how
these immigrants have shaped American life in particular
places and cities and metropolitan areas. A lot has been
written about this by journalists and by social
scientists, kind of snapshots. And I used a lot of
“Globe” articles, actually, going back into their
archive over the last 50 years, which were an important
source for me. But typically, these
are sort of snapshots of particular immigrant
communities or groups at that particular moment. So you don’t get much of
a historical perspective. And as a historian,
I thought, you know, the new immigration
is not so new anymore. It’s 50 years old. It’s changed. When I was reading about
immigration in the 1970s, it looked very different from
what we see in the city today. So that’s why I decided
to write this book. I wanted to tell the story
of the new immigration in a particular city,
a particular region, to see how it evolved
over time and how immigrants helped to shape the
region and the city as a whole. And it turned out that Boston
was a great place to do that. It’s a city that was
powered by immigrants in the 19th and
early 20th centuries during the industrial era. It’s also a city that’s been
one of the top 10 immigrant receiving areas of the late
20th and early 21st centuries. So it’s always been an
important immigrant portal. And during this past
50 years, Boston has also experienced a dramatic
turnaround in its economy, in its infrastructure. There has been a
kind of rebirth, a renaissance of Boston and its
economy in this time period. So I wanted to know
what’s the relationship between this so-called
Boston Renaissance and the new immigration? So as I argue in
“The New Bostonians,” I think that the two are
very directly connected, that immigration is very much
a part of the bigger story of the Boston Renaissance. Now here, I don’t
want to oversimplify. There’s a lot of things that
went into Boston’s turnaround. And you can think
of globalization, the restructuring of capital,
urban renewal, technology, all kinds of important changes. But immigration, I think, is
one of the ingredients that has been the least
talked about in terms of the contributions
to the labor market and the transformation
of the city itself and its neighborhoods,
its life, that has really been a part of the
Boston Renaissance. So I really want to make
an argument in this book that we have to really remember
the role of immigration and how important it is if
we want to really understand the history of the new
Boston, which has sort of come into being since the 1960s and
especially since the 1980s. So let me give you a
few examples of how I think this is the case. Population replenishment is an
important part of the story. As you can see in
this chart, I just charted the population in
Boston from 1880 to the present. And you can see in the height
of the mature industrial era, from 1880 until the
1920s, Boston’s population was steadily growing. And the foreign born population
in the lighter color of the bar was clearly a big part of that. The native born population
was also growing. Lots of people were coming
in from rural areas, moving into the cities. And so both populations
were important. By 1930, we see a
kind of leveling off and a slight decline
in the population. A lot of that was due
to the Great Depression and how hard Boston was
hit in the Depression. A lot of its
industries closed down temporarily or permanently. And World War II kind of
revived things for a while. But then after the war
ended, things declined again. And from 1950, you can
see a pretty dramatic drop in the population. Between 1950 and 1970,
Boston lost more than 20% of its population, and
many industries and jobs along with that. And it wasn’t until
1980 that we start to see the population
go up again. And as is quite clear
from this chart, it is the foreign
born population, not the native born population,
that’s driving the increase. And it’s also
driving the increase in the labor force, which is key
to the turnaround in Boston’s economy. It isn’t until
2010 that we start to see a slight increase in
the native born population. Now, a good part
of that increase is actually the children
of the foreign born, who are disproportionately younger. Boston has an aging population,
like much of the Northeast and the Midwest. And this foreign born population
is much more concentrated in the 20 to 38 range, more
likely to have children, and thus more likely to produce
native born children there. So without immigrants,
I think it’s pretty clear that our population
would not be going up. It would be, at best, flat. Now this is the same idea
looking at the labor force. And here you can see, again,
that the native born labor force since 1980 has been
pretty flat in Boston and in Massachusetts generally. And it’s really the
foreign born population that has driven the
growth in the labor force. And if you hear anybody talk
about economic development in the state or in
the city, keeping the labor force growing
at a moderate rate is a central concern. There’s a lot of lamenting
about we have all these college students that come into Boston,
and they get well educated, and they have great skills. And then they leave. And how do we keep them here? How do we keep the
native born here, who can contribute
to the labor force? So there is a net outflow
of native born workers, particularly skilled workers. And it’s really only immigration
that makes up for that and provides a slight
increase in the labor force. So I think both of these
trends show how important it is that immigration is not
immigrants coming and taking away jobs and
depressing the economy. It’s actually contributing
to growth in the economy. The places where immigrants
are working, it really varies. The immigration
of the modern era, since 1965, consists of many
more educated and skilled people coming in than
was true in the earlier migration of the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. That was overwhelmingly
unskilled or semi-skilled workers, most of whom went into
day labor or the manufacturing industries. They were factory workers,
for the most part. Immigrants coming in today tend
to be clustered at the top end and at the bottom end
of the labor force. So you have, in some of
the most important– now that we have a service-based
economy rather than a manufacturing economy– you
have immigrants who are highly educated, highly skilled, who
are concentrated in fields like medicine, technology,
as you no doubt know, in education, engineering,
a variety of fields which are very important
to Boston’s economy. But they also make up
the largest proportion of people who clean
the buildings, who serve the food, who do
yard work, who take care of our children, who
take care of the elderly, the whole growing number
of care industries that are driven very largely
by immigrants, many of whom come from the Caribbean, Latin
America, and Asia, as well. Immigrants have also been
important as entrepreneurs. They’re not just employees. Many of them are starting
their own businesses. Again, I’m sure you’re
familiar with this. Technology and
biotech, in particular, there’s been a good
bit of research on this in Massachusetts. And a very large
number of immigrants are involved either solely
or in partnerships developing startups and other businesses. And it ranges all the
way down to local bodegas and restaurants right on
up to big technology firms and medical instruments
and any other businesses you can think of. One of the things that happened
that sort of– thinking about the care
industries and the way that immigrants have become so
important to that, in my own writing this book and
picking the photograph to go on the cover,
which I loved– it’s a naturalization
citizenship swearing in ceremony at Fenway Park. They had several thousand
people there back in 2007. I love the image,
because it just showed people from
all over the world who were going through this. And I gave a copy of
the book to my father, who lives in assisted living
in Brooklyn where I live. And he was taking it over
to show to a friend of his. And the nurse’s aide who
was pushing his wheelchair sees the book and
said, that’s my father! [LAUGHTER] And my sister! So I mean, it’s so true that
just picking this image, that I would have
stumbled into immigrants right in my own backyard. And I subsequently found
out the whole story. I met her, and I found out the
story of how she and her family came from Somalia via
Ethiopia and Pakistan, took something like 10 years
to get the whole family here. They live in Dorchester
in Jamaica Plain now. So it’s just a great
example and reminder of how important immigrants
are to all of our lives. I know I see immigrants on both
the professional and higher end and the lower ends of the
service economy all the time. Now, the other ways
in which immigrants have been a strong
force in our economy is in terms of community and
neighborhood revitalization. And we may not see
that so clearly today, because things are so built
up and gentrified now. But if you go back to
the 1960s or the 1970s, maybe there’s a
few people here who remember Boston in that era. I didn’t live here then, but
I visited a number of times. And it was a pretty
down-at-the-heels, declining manufacturing center. And it wouldn’t be
until the 1980s and ’90s that this whole high-tech new
world, new Boston economy, would take off. And immigrants settled
in a lot of neighborhoods that were pretty rundown, that
were losing population, losing jobs, losing
industries, and actually ended up really rebuilding
them and turning them around. And Washington
Street in Chinatown is a really good
example of this. This is a street
which in the 1960s was known as the Combat Zone. It was the adult entertainment
district, so-called. After Scollay Square was
torn down in an urban renewal program, the city relocated the
adult entertainment district, all the porn theaters
and adult bookstores, along the edge of
Chinatown, which made residents of
Chinatown very unhappy, because they had families. And it attracted a
less savory element. There was a lot of crime. There was a lot of prostitution. But there didn’t seem to be much
that people could do about it. The existing Chinatown
entrepreneurs didn’t really want to
try and expand in there. And it wasn’t until
the 1980s, early 1980s, when refugees came from Vietnam
in the so-called boat people crisis. These were mainly
ethnic Chinese who had been entrepreneurs in
Vietnam and who were leaving, in part because of persecution
they were facing there. And they came in. They weren’t always
comfortable settling in Vietnamese neighborhoods,
like Fields Corner. So they settled kind of on
the outskirts of Chinatown. And they began, when
they started businesses– and they had been small
business owners in Vietnam, for the most part– they
started buying up the cheapest property they could find
or renting out the cheapest property they could find, which
was along Washington Street, starting up small
stores and restaurants. And they were the
single biggest force for turning around the economy
on that street and kind of pushing the Combat Zone out. And today, there’s
hardly anything left of that old Washington Street. And what you see now is much
more like the picture in 2010 here. This is the same building. You can see the arch there. It’s mostly restaurants. It’s very much a part
of Chinatown now. And it really sort of turned
things around to the point where now, there are luxury
condos and high rises going up, and people are priced
out of there now. But you can see this same
transformation in neighborhoods around the city,
as immigrants have come into places like East
Boston and Dorchester, Allston, Brighton, Jamaica
Plain, Roslindale. A lot of different
places you could identify the same phenomenon. And it’s also happened in
some of the nearby suburbs. Somerville, of course, is
a great example of this. Not everybody wanted to live in
Somerville not that long ago. It was mostly immigrants
who were moving in as the population was declining. And now, of course,
it’s really taken off. And gentrification has become
the bigger threat, rather than decline. And as immigrants
started businesses, as they bought homes,
triple deckers, just the way earlier
immigrant groups had done, they’re paying tax
dollars to contribute to those local economies. We see a revitalization that
just changes the local culture in a lot of ways. Obviously, it makes
it more diverse. But it also revitalizes things. It puts more people
on the street. There were a lot of these
older industrial suburbs where the downtowns were like
ghost towns in the 1970s after a lot of the bigger
manufacturing industries closed up. I’m thinking of places like
Everett and Framingham, Malden. The downtowns of these
suburbs were pretty rundown. They were becoming unsafe. There’s a sociologist
at Harvard who’s done a very elaborate
study in several cities showing that the presence
of immigrants in most cases actually reduces crime. So it’s just the opposite of
what people like Donald Trump are arguing. And that was clearly
the case in many parts of Boston and its suburbs. Now In the book, I want to
move beyond the city of Boston and look at greater
Boston as a whole, because in the past
20 years or so– maybe even a little bit more, since
the late ’80s– immigrants have been moving disproportionately
to the suburbs rather than the city. And they do this for
a number of reasons. One of the big things is
that the city of Boston has become less
affordable, obviously. The initial wave of
immigrants that I look at in the late
’60s and 1970s, they’re going to some of the old
parts of the city, Chinatown, the South End, East
Cambridge would be looking in the Cambridge case. But very quickly, because
of development pressures and gentrification in
the 1980s, newcomers start moving out to more
affordable neighborhoods, places like Allston, Brighton,
East Boston, Dorchester, and also out to the
closer in suburbs. And they’re investing
in these areas and helping to change them. So I wanted to follow this
process into the suburbs. I wasn’t able to study
all of the suburbs. What I did is I
picked– well, here’s just to show you the diffusion
that happens between 1970. You can see immigrants
are concentrated, and it’s a pretty small number. This is 1970, was
the lowest level of foreign born
population in the history of the 20th century. And it’s concentrated around
Boston and a few suburbs to the north. 40 years later, it’s
quite a different story. We have immigrants dispersed
around the metro area, and in some cases, places
like Malden and Chelsea and Randolph that have
pretty high foreign born populations a good
distance out from the city. Same with Framingham
and a few others, Acton. So I wanted to get
a handle on why immigrants were going to some
suburbs and not to others. So I just started
out making a chart. This is a list of
suburbs that have a higher percentage
of immigrants than the city of Boston itself. And as you can see,
it’s a pretty good list. And the immigrants are
coming from different places. There are different
stories behind each city. But in general, what I found
is that there were two patterns that seemed to be dominant. One was skilled, educated,
professional, managerial class immigrants, who were
moving to the same suburbs that skilled, educated,
professional, native born residents go to, going
there for schools, going there for amenities
and nice housing. So you have places like
Lexington and Burlington and some of the suburbs
to the west of the city. But you also have a lot of
poorer, working class suburbs, places like Chelsea, old
industrial cities which have been taking in
immigrants for years. Chelsea used to have the
largest Jewish population relative to its size of
any city in the country. And later on, as Jews moved
out, Puerto Ricans and then Latino immigrants,
particularly Central Americans and later Brazilians and
others, would move in. And so Chelsea now has the
highest foreign born population in the country. I think it’s 43%. Not very far away,
Malden has also experienced a huge increase
in its immigrant population. It, too, was an
old industrial town and saw a major
transformation in the 1980s. And same thing with Quincy. And both Malden and Quincy
are connected to Boston by the T, either the red
line or the orange line. They were very popular with
Asian immigrants, Chinese and Vietnamese, who first
moved there in the 1980s and began that
revitalization process and then proceeded to diversify. And both cities take in
large numbers of immigrants from all over the world. Quincy has people from– have
Latinos, they have Albanians, they have people from
Afghanistan, Iraqis. It’s a remarkably diverse place. Same with Malden, as well. So you tend to have these
higher end suburbs and more working class suburbs,
old industrial suburbs, that account for the largest
number of immigrants. In between, you do have
some middle class areas, but not nearly as many. Framingham is another
interesting case. And actually in
the book, what I do is I look at three different
suburbs and their history, and try and understand why they
became popular with immigrants. I look at Malden to the north. Malden was the home of
Converse, the Converse factory. It’s where the Converse All-Star
was made for many, many years. Converse shut down in the 1980s. The city went into
a bit of a slide. But because it had the
T and the orange line, it was attractive
for new immigrants to move in when the housing
prices were relatively low, and took off. And Quincy also was
an industrial town. There was a shipbuilding
center and a granite quarry located there. Both of those industries went
down in the late 20th century. And again, Chinese and
Vietnamese immigrants started the revitalization
there in the 1980s. And then out in Framingham,
which I always thought of as– I just think of those
big malls out there in Natick and Framingham,
the classic post-war suburb. Well, it turns out
south Framingham was an old industrial center. It’s on the railroad. There was a GM
assembly plant there. It was built, I believe,
in the late 1930s and shut down in the ’70s. Dennison Paper was there,
Bancroft Cap and Gown, a lot of big manufacturing
industries there, nearly all of which closed down. And so the downtown
area really hit bottom. But in the 1980s, we
start seeing Brazilians moving to Framingham
and, again, bringing about a revitalization of
that old industrial part of the community. So there’s a correlation
between the older immigrants and the older industries
and the places where new immigrants
are going, but not because they’re going
for those industries, but because the housing market
and the local commercial infrastructure had
openings for them. And they became
attractive places to go. I got to watch my time here. The other thing I talk
about in the book, I talk about the history
of racism and nativism, which is a long, involved topic. I can talk about it a little
bit in question and answer. I look at religion and
churches and religious centers that immigrants founded. And I also look at
politics and the rise of what I call the new ethnic
politics in the city of Boston. I’ll just use my
last few minutes here to tell you a little
bit about what I found with religion,
because this I’ve found to be one of the most
fascinating parts of the story. The revitalisation
that I’ve discussed was not only economic
and physical, it was also cultural
and religious. And I found that
immigrants, when they settled in these city
neighborhoods or in suburbs, they start a new
community organizations. They start new churches,
new religious institutions. So in my chapter called
“The Quiet Revival,” I look at how
newcomers have helped to revitalize
Christianity in the Boston area, both Catholicism
and Protestantism. And both Protestant
and Catholic churches since the 1960s, their
native born congregations have been dwindling. At the same time, the
foreign born congregations that are Christian have been
growing quite strikingly as more immigrants came in. So immigrants were
refilling the pews, but they were also bringing
rather different practices with them, cultural practices
from their homeland. And this brings about what
sociologists of religion refer to as the
de-Europeanization of Christianity
and often a shift to a more evangelical
and charismatic style of religious practice. So I look first at
the Catholic church, then at the Protestant
churches, and this process of church sharing which goes
on among both denominations. And within the
Catholic church, you had the development of
ethnic apostolates, which are somewhat like the old
national parishes that were formed for
immigrants in Boston in the 19th and
early 20th centuries. But they’re somewhat different. They’re not new churches
that are being built, which was the pattern
in the 19th century. They’re repurposing
older churches, and often having
ethnic congregations sharing those facilities
with native born groups. And in some cases in,
say, a city like Chelsea, where you have a very large
foreign born population, you have a whole bunch
of ethnic apostolates, speaking different languages,
and different services, masses, that are sharing
the same building. And so it’s a very
multicultural mix of groups. Protestants, they’re
less top down. It’s a more improvisational
kind of pattern. But they, too, engage
in church sharing. This is a church
that I end up talking about a good bit at the
beginning of my religion chapter. I became interested
in it because it’s three blocks from my house
in Brookline Village. And when I moved
there 20 years ago, it was the First Presbyterian
Church of Brookline, and it looked like any other
Protestant church in the area. And over time, I
noticed that there were a lot of different
uses going on at the church, different groups going there. There was a daycare
center in the basement. And then there
seemed to be other groups and congregations
who were there, most notably a
Korean congregation. And then a few years
later, pretty soon, the old First Presbyterian
Church of Brookline comes down. And the Korean Church
of Boston sign, written in English
and Korean, goes up. And I thought, well
there’s a story here. I’ve got to find
out what it’s about. And I went and met some
people at the church. And actually, it was their 50th
anniversary in 2003, I guess. And so they had done
some writing about this. And they were one of the oldest
Asian Christian congregations in New England, and,
I think, certainly the oldest Korean congregation. And I found out that they
had started as a prayer group at Marsh Chapel at
BU back in the ’50s. And they had grown. They had students who were
coming from Harvard and MIT and all local universities. They would all go to BU. And soon, they got a pastor. They were able to get
space in a nearby church. And they were in
Boston for a while. They were in
Cambridge for a while. But eventually,
in the late 1960s, they landed in
Brookline Village. And they’ve been
there ever since. But as their congregation
grew very rapidly, with a lot of Korean
students and professionals moving into the area and
turning to the church not only for religion, but for
all kinds of community support purposes and cultural
amenities, they came to have a much
bigger congregation than the native born one. And back sometime
in the late 1990s, they renegotiated to take over
stewardship of the building. So the First Presbyterians
are still there. But now they’re in the
basement, and they rent space from the Korean
Church of Boston. And I found that this
is a really common story in many churches,
this church sharing, and in some cases
actually a change in the stewardship
of the building over to the ethnic
congregations. And of course, this is
just one side of the story, because there’s also all
kinds of new world religions that are brought in– Buddhism,
Islam, Hinduism– that are building new religious
centers, both in the city and especially in the suburbs. They have a whole story
behind them, as well, that’s really fascinating. And also, some resistance
to those new religious institutions, particularly
among Muslims. And the best known
of this, of course, is the Roxbury Mosque, which
had major protests around it some years back when
they were first breaking ground and building the mosque. So I talk about that
story, and the rise of an interfaith movement
among churches here, in churches and synagogues
here in New England, that defended the
rights of immigrants to build their
religious centers. And I think that’s been one of
the positive things that’s come out of some of those conflicts. So I think I might–
no, you know what? Let me say one more thing. And then I’ll open
it up to questions. I’ve been emphasizing a
lot of the positive things about immigration,
and I think there are a lot of positive things. But there are challenges,
and the book talks about that as well. And let me just
mention a few of them. Nativism and racism,
of course, have been a big problem
for immigrants, as we’re seeing in
the present moment and has been true all along. In the 1980s in the
Boston area, there were some really
vicious incidents of violence and racism against
southeast Asian refugees who were moving into the
area after the Vietnam War. And you had cases of murder,
of arson, of vandalism. It was one of the worst
cities in the country for it. In many ways, it
was a continuation of the animosity of
the busing crisis, but now turned toward
immigrants and refugees. But something good did
grow out of that episode. And that was a kind of
organized political response and community
response, which I call the rise of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is
one of those things that just sort of happened. I knew it came about sometime
in the late 20th century. It wasn’t a word that was
around much before then. So I learned in writing
this book that it actually was very much a
product of the violence and anti-immigrant sentiments
of the 1980s, which were so, so strong, particularly
against Asians in this part of the country
and also Latinos in California, that really gave rise to
these well thought out efforts to educate people, to provide
services for newcomers, and to create these sort
of multicultural movements and a whole ethos of
multiculturalism, which is still hopefully with us today. There are, of course, problems
with repression and deportation that have been
growing since 9/11. I talk a little bit about that. But finally, I just want to get
back to the Boston issue, which is we have this new economy. Immigrants have been a big part
of building that new economy. But yet the fruits
of these changes have not been equally shared. There are many newcomers
that are doing well, who have well-paying
jobs, have nice homes, live in the suburbs,
and are well integrated into Massachusetts society. But there are many others
who continue to struggle. And some of the bigger issues
in our economy about growing income inequality, patterns
of contingent labor, contract labor, entrenched
forms of racial segregation, and most importantly for Boston,
the lack of affordable housing and the growing costs
of higher education are really, really critical
for everyone, but especially for immigrants. When we look at new
immigrants, and we say, oh, why aren’t they doing
as well as the old immigrants? It’s the classic thing. The old immigrants were better. They pulled themselves
up by their bootstraps. What’s wrong with
the new immigrants? Well, in fact, it’s more
difficult to advance your children up
the– if you come in as an uneducated,
unskilled worker, it’s quite difficult, as the
rungs of the middle class are eroding, to launch
your children up into the upper
ranks of the economy if you’re dealing
with housing problems and you’re being forced to
live in communities that have very poor education systems
and poor services generally, and if you can’t afford
to go to college. I work with mentoring Boston
public school students, many of them from abroad or
their parents from abroad, and many of them are
very good students. And they get offered admission
to a lot of local universities, including my own. But the financial aid packages
they often get would leave them $120,000, $150,000 in debt. That’s not a good
alternative for most people. And I think unless
we are really going to expand our opportunities
for public education at a reasonable
cost, we’re not going to be able to take full
advantage of the newcomers and their children
coming up now. So I will stop there. And I’d love to
hear your questions. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: So you
mentioned busing. MARILYNN JOHNSON: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I get
the impression that back in the ’70s, that was a
pretty big driver of population dynamics, obviously a reaction
to earlier immigration, but then white flight. And in some respects,
Boston is still kind of recovering from that. What’s your take on
how that relates? MARILYNN JOHNSON:
To immigration? AUDIENCE: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] MARILYNN JOHNSON: I think
white flight is something that had been occurring
since World War II and since the early 1950s. It had a lot to do with the
changes in the local property markets that were
really favoring the suburbs as
highways were built. The structure of
mortgages really benefited whites who would be moving
to new suburban housing. So it’s a longer term process. And I think the busing
crisis aggravated it and made a sort of dramatic
example of a moment when particularly
Dorchester and Roxbury saw a lot of native born
whites moving out to places like Quincy and other
South Shore suburbs. But in terms of
immigrants, this was something that was really hard
for me to get a handle on, because there is some research
going on about this right now where they’re interviewing
people who were my age, who were kids during
the busing crisis, including those who
were foreign born or from Asian American
or Latino families. And their experience
in that was kind of unusual in that it
didn’t really make sense on either– it was an issue that
was painted in black and white. And immigrants were not really
factored into the equation, because for one thing, we
had bilingual education programs that had been
established in the 1970s. And we’re one of
the first states to have bilingual education. And so you needed
a critical mass of students who spoke a
particular language in order to be able to have
a bilingual program. So these communities,
immigrant communities that worked really hard to
create bilingual programs, are suddenly being dismantled
to send students who are considered perhaps black. But if they’re Latino,
they might be white, they might be black. There were cases of students
from the same family, one child would be
sent to one school because they were
considered white, and another child would
be sent to another school because they were darker
and considered black. And so there were
a lot of things that had to be worked
out around that to preserve bilingual programs. But I think it was a confusing
thing for a lot of immigrants. There were Haitians who
were walking down the street and suddenly attacked by
white crowds in South Boston, were fresh off the boat, had
no idea what was going on. So I think it was a
disorienting time. And we didn’t really understand
how important immigrants were becoming in taking into account
how the busing system was set up. AUDIENCE: Could you compare
the political opportunities for the 1910 group
of immigrants, the Irish and the
Italians, et cetera, compared to the immigrants that
are coming into Boston now? If you look at Boston
city government, it still looks a little bit
more like the 1910 group than it does like
the 2000 immigration. MARILYNN JOHNSON:
Well, it actually has changed considerably
in the last 15 years. It’s been very slow to change. And with the exception
of the Irish who, because they spoke
English and they were in very large numbers here
and a few other cities, were able to move into politics
very quickly, if you look at other groups like
Italians and Jews, it took them a couple of
generations to really move into the political system. The Irish tended
to control things. Well, the Yankees
and the Irish tended to control things pretty closely
in the early 20th century. So politics takes longer. You can change the
political culture. You can change the
religious culture. And you can change the
workplace and neighborhoods. But changing politics and
getting political power takes a while. Not everyone gets
citizenship right away. The first generation continue
to have their loyalties to the homeland. They might have dual
citizenship now. But they might be more
engaged with the homeland than they are with
local politics. It’s usually with
the second generation that that change comes. And that’s what we’re
starting to see now. We now have an Asian
American president of the Boston City Council. And so we’ve had both
Latinos and Asian Americans in city government and state
government in high positions, as well as Haitians. So it’s starting to change. And of course, Boston is
a majority non-white city. And I think that’s driving
some of it as well. But political coalitions
have to be built. No single group has
the electoral support, like the Irish did, to sort
of just quickly elect people. And that takes time to
build those coalitions. AUDIENCE: Thank you
for coming today. MARILYNN JOHNSON: Sure. AUDIENCE: To what
extent are the changes in Boston since 1965
representative of changes that are happening in other
cities in the country, because the legislation is
affecting those cities as well? Or what aspects of this
are unique to Boston, whether it’s the mix
of foreign to native born or the high versus low
end of the service spectrum? What things are
unique to Boston? MARILYNN JOHNSON:
That’s a great question. And I think Boston is typical
of a lot of other cities, and particularly older
cities in the Northeast and to a lesser
extent, the Midwest. But a lot of parallels
between New York and Boston. They have similar ethnic
mix, some similar patterns in terms of many of
the things I discussed. Philadelphia has
similarities as well. I think this idea of
new wine in old bottles, if you will, as immigrants
came in and sort of took over, inherited a sort of
older, rundown city and rebuilt it has been
happening across the country, and particularly in
the older cities. It’s happened in Midwestern
cities, some of which are quite depressed. And their leaders there are
anxious to get immigrants to come to their city,
hoping that there will be this renaissance. But of course, you have
to have an economy that has the jobs to attract people
there in the first place. Immigrants can open all the
small businesses they want. But if people are
going to have money to buy things in
those businesses, there has to be some real
economic development there. Now in terms of
differences, I think Boston obviously is on one
end of the knowledge economy spectrum. Along with San Francisco
and New York and Seattle, we probably have the most
high-tech, meds, engineering, science-oriented. And a lot of that has to do with
the educational institutions here. And so we do have
a higher percentage of people, foreign born, in
these skilled, highly educated professional positions. I think nationally,
it’s something like a quarter of immigrants. Here in Boston,
it’s more than 30%. So it’s significantly higher. What other differences? I’ll see if I can
think of some more. AUDIENCE: Just a quick question. MARILYNN JOHNSON: Sure. AUDIENCE: Certainly a lot of
the current political rhetoric centers on so-called
illegal– I guess undocumented is the more proper word. In your data analysis
of the Boston area, what’s your analysis? Is there a statistically
significant number of undocumented? MARILYNN JOHNSON: It’s
actually relatively low here. I think the most
recent estimates that have been done for Massachusetts
are 1% of the foreign born population is undocumented. There are places
closer to the border where it’s more like 6% or 7%. So relatively speaking,
it’s pretty small here. Now in some groups, Central
Americans, for instance, those numbers are much
higher, Brazilians as well. And you’re much
more likely to find undocumented in certain
groups compared to others. And why that is, it may
be proximity to the border is part of it. But we don’t have a
particularly large population. And I don’t deal with
it much in the book. I deal with the problems
of the undocumented. But I don’t really have
data, because frankly, it’s all an estimate anyway. They go around and they
talk to different agencies and make estimates based
on– they have formulas for doing this, but it’s
not like you can count the undocumented population. STAVROS MACRAKIS: All right. Thanks again, Lynn. MARILYNN JOHNSON: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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