It's been an exceptionally racist week for Worcester
Where to even start but I suppose the BLM burnouts is a good enough place
Well this week has been a week, huh? I'm sitting here on the Ralph's patio—great spot to write, by the way—thinking back on every rotten racist thing that happened and I'm pretty floored. Worcester's really been showing its true colors of late, and hopefully this disabuses any reasonable thinking person of the notion that Worcester or Massachusetts in general is different than anywhere else. It’s just as bad.
In Worcester, as in any Massachusetts town, there exists a unique and peculiar form of racism we might generally call townie bullshit. Townies love the cops and they don't understand why you're so mad. I mean it's only, like, a few hundred people who have been extrajudicially executed in the street by police officers in the past couple years. Why are you so mad, kid? My uncle's a cop and he's a great guy, dude. If you knew him you wouldn't be talking like that. And what, you think you're better than me? Every police department is surrounded by and, for the most part, staffed by the townie culture from which it came. The townies are holed up in a castle, and the police department is in the middle of it, and there's a big moat around it that prevents any understanding of the way that police departments carry out the dirty work of enforcing the hierarchies of systemic racism. It's a Thought Moat and it is very deep.
The clearest example of this and, coincidentally, the most obvious and overtly racist thing that happened this week is the burnout over the BLM mural on Major Taylor Boulevard and the subsequent mind-numbing discourse on Facebook. Let's take a quick look at my favorite place on the internet, the Worcester Police Union's Facebook page, where it was the worst. It's always the worst there it seems. Like I said, Thought Moat.
This picture has been making the rounds. It's all over Facebook and Instagram and the source of it is, to my knowledge, unclear. But it looks like traffic camera footage, which had to have come from the police department, if that's what it is. These things are spurious, though, and there's no real way to know if this is even the car that did it, and it's really not responsible to try and track this guy down. I know it's in good faith that people are tracking down the truck and trying to figure out who it is, and there's some posts out there about where this guy might work. But please, let’s not get into the business of hanging people out to dry on one picture posted online. That's not smart.
Still, none of that stopped the townies from letting us know how they feel about it, and how they feel about it oscillates from no big deal to hell yeah, brother. Lest we forget that last week they basically made plans to do burnouts on the mural on the very same Facebook page.
So on this post where we have the police union guy apparently in good faith trying to figure out whodunit, we have discourse like this.
Kindly eat shit, please.
Elsewhere, it is just as bad. In this MassLive story about a police investigation into the burnout—don't hold your breath!!—Tom Matthews dug up some more good ones.
So we're probably never going to figure out who did it, but it is a literal hate crime, and in other more reasonable cities it has been treated as such. In Martinez, California, a couple was arrested on hate crime charges earlier this month. What they did was worse: they actually painted over it. But people in Worcester are threatening to do the same thing as seen in the above screenshot. Just logging on and posting about hate crimes! Another day in the life on the other side of the Thought Moat!
It didn't start this week, but we should not forget that there's a guy out there raising money to put up a Blue Lives Matter mural in retaliation to the Black Lives Matter mural. Super normal and not racist thing to do. He's raised $4,550 on an absolutely absurd goal of $20,000. By the way, the BLM mural folks raised a lot more than that so that’s good. On Thursday he said he, the cops, and the city are "working out the details of this project" and said he'd have updates next week. Sure as shit stinks, this will be statewide if not national news should it actually happen. Really excited that Worcester is going to get press for something so cool and good. Sort of hoping this is just a grift in the classic right-wing tradition and this guy just makes off with a couple grand and that's the end of it.
Accompanying this push to get a Punisher logo mural outside the police station is the emergence of a very large and very stupid "Defend Your Police" billboard in Washington Square, across from Union Station. This is another racist thing that happened this week, by the way. If you don't think it's racist you're on the other side of the Thought Moat and I'm not going to waste any time explaining why.
If you can't make out the small text, here it is. "They are our friends, family and neighbors. Like us, they work to provide for their families... Like us, the vast majority are good. As a result of this horrendous tragedy, we are in the midst of the greatest police reform in the history of the free world."
Yeah, can I get a fact check on that, please?
Here in Worcester, city officials have balked at every proposed police reform in the past couple weeks, and now they're half-heartedly moving on body cameras, a reform from five years ago that has proven in the half decade since to not fix any of the problems that technocratic neoliberals across the land promised it would fix. I visited defendyourpolice.com and it's exactly the kind of copaganda garbage you would expect. Boring and stupid. Not going to link.
This billboard is, to my knowledge, still up. Telling that the city very, very quickly removed the paint on the Chris Columby statue across the street but leaves this up. Which brings us to another racist thing that happened this week—and this time, the perpetrators are the people we elected to lead us, which rocks.
The City Council on Tuesday voted keep the Christopher Columbus statue, a testament to nothing but early settler colonialism and all the horrors that came with it, proudly erect outside one of the city's most defining landmarks. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago if you missed it, which you wouldn’t if you subscribe!
City Councilor Sarai Rivera put the order on, and she and Councilor Khrystian King were the only two to vote against "filing" the order, which means it goes into the dustbin of municipal politics. That statue isn't going anywhere, and it is yet another example of the Worcester Townies and their Thought Moat. The debate was as dumb as you can expect, and it pains me too much to rehash it. The important takeaway is that Rivera and King are the only two councilors who are even remotely good on race issues, and they are greatly outnumbered.
Let's move now to our state legislature, where the townie racism is less pronounced but nonetheless still apparent. The state House of Representatives voted on a police reform bill that pretty much no one who knows anything likes. It does things like bans chokeholds, puts some wonky restrictions on no-knock warrants and creates a certification system (???) for police officers. Yeah, I'm sure that'll stop the killing. Importantly, the House's version leaves out something that would actually go a long way in stopping the killing. That thing is called qualified immunity, a doctrine that "shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations" like murder, for one, which is especially important of late and for the entire history of American policing, now that you mention it. Basically, it lets the cops kill without being personally responsible, which is normal for sure.
An amendment to place restrictions on qualified immunity failed pretty miserably—24 yes and 135 no—and Worcester's delegation had a thing or two to do with it. Mary Keefe was the only local representative to vote for it. Those who didn't vote for it: Dan Donahue, David LeBouef, Jim O'Day, John Mahoney. Disappointing, to say the least. But if you want to keep your seat, you gotta keep the people on the other side of the Thought Moat happy, and that is a particular problem in Massachusetts that's getting in the way of so much potential progress—and as shown above, that is the theme of today's post. Townie racism isn't going anywhere, it just needs to be outnumbered and squashed, and the road to actually accomplishing that is long and hard, so buckle up and be prepared for continual disappointment, because that's politics, baby.
I talked with Shaun Connolly, a funny guy from Worcester, if you don't already know, on his new podcast called An Actual Alt Weekly. It's going to be an audio zine of sorts, capturing the spirit of an actual alt weekly as the name suggests. I love this idea, and I hope he keeps doing it, and you should sign up wherever you do that if you're a podcast person as I am.
I do a lot of Telegram bashing, but the Telegram is staffed by great, hardworking, and talented people. George Barnes is among those, and he had a column this week that I really appreciated despite it having a headline that suggested it may have gone in another direction. "Lives matter, but tragedies on the increase" has an all lives matter vibe for sure, but the column is a really touching attempt to humanize the victim of a recent shooting and an acknowledgement, however tacit, that the news media does a lot of heavy lifting in making sure the people of color who fall victim to violent crime are not properly humanized. I back it.
Another piece I back is one by Em Quiles, of Pa'Lante, in the Worcester Beacon. It's her writing debut and she really lets the city have it. I hope she keeps writing.
Ok, that's all folks. As ever, thank you for reading, and if you like what you read please consider subscribing, and if you subscribe for free consider throwing me a couple bucks a month, because I'm sort of getting close to be able to do this full time and not have another job, which is really exciting, and trust me, if that happens I am going to be a full terrorist to City Hall. Not an actual terrorist, ok, please don't send an unmarked federal officer to throw me in a van, taking me to an undisclosed location where something will happen to me but I'm not sure what. Ok, here’s a discount on a yearly subscription because you’ve been good boys and girls.
P.S. this is a great song and germane to the conversation at hand
P.P.S. In my last post I misgendered Rush Frazier, an artist who worked on the BLM mural. They are awesome, and it was a stupid mistake, and I’m sorry, Rush! Fixed it but not before it went out to people’s inboxes, and there’s no changing that version.