A Cape Verdean friend of mine was out having a good time in Boston down by the Causeway. He went to a bar near Government Center with a cousin who happens to be a professional gamer.
It was 90% white people.
“I was a little uncomfortable but I wasn’t going to let it bother me.” My friend is tall thin, and looks like he could pass for North African, Egyptian, middle Eastern…. But like I said, he is Cape Verdean.
Then later on he heard a voice behind him. “Oh you guys are real tough guys in there huh?”
“I tried to just ignore him but soon it became obvious that this was not a situation that could be diffused.”
Another white voice in the crowd called out, “That’s the guy with the 21 questions.”
At this point my friend turned around and said calmly, “I don’t know what your talking about.”
” I hate ISIS.” Called out someone else.
“It looked like there were 15 of them but it was hard to tell who was part of the crowd that was trying to get me and who was just standing there.”
My friend tried to walk away, first thinking he would go to his car but then realizing that his car was parked in a dark alley. He wanted to stay out in the open where there would be witnesses or bystanders who might help. There were some people who were part of the group that were trying to hold the aggressors back. But …
“At that point I ran and they chased me. I jumped in between cars and ran to a place where there was a tow of double parked cars. One part of the group came from one side and another cut me off.”
My friend now had to fight for his life. He had done some Tai Chi and used to train running and sparring with a friend, learning from instructional videos.
“I put my guard up and ducked under his punch and bam! I hit him and then ran. I heard him shouting, ‘Why you running?’, as I sprinted over to the Tip O’Neill building taking the stairs two at a time while they were on my heels. My other friend happened to do security in the area and was running up as well. I stood out because I was wearing a bright neon blue shirt.”
It’s interesting to me listening to the story that a lynch mob, which is what this was, here in Boston in 2017, would ask why its victim was running.
“I jumped up and turned on the metal railing at the top of the stairs and heard a metal ring. What I was supposed to do was pivot on my hand and drop kick the guy in the face. But what I did do was turn hard and try to run right by him. I hit my leg on the rail and ended up falling on concrete scraping my elbow. Luckily my boy, he’s a big black dude who does security in the area with his whole team, grabbed me before anyone got to me and the other white guys backed up…they were afraid of him.”
“My cousin was OK, but his friend wasn’t so lucky. He was beaten up but he survived. The police came way later.”
But when a group of people are beating one person and there is hate and alcohol involved, it is easy for the victim to end up in a coma or even die. Moreover, this was a hate crime. A hate crime that might not even go to trial. It might even be dismissed.
So how many of these incidents happen right here in Boston? Unlike a viral video of police brutality. Such an incident is more difficult to film even with phone being everywhere. Even a witness may not understand what is going on.
I have another friend, a Brazilian, who was beaten unconscious in Stoneham, which is a nice neighborhood. He doesn’t know what the incident was about. But based on how he looks, he could also pass for middle Eastern, I would assume that he was targeted for his looks.
The Chinese community often rallies around the Vincent Chin incident, where a Chinese man was beaten to death on the night of his bachelor party by a group of white working class men, who were convicted, but let off on probation. They beat him because they thought he was Japanese and Japan’s economy was booming at the time, out competing the US auto industry.
In recent years, it is people who look middle Eastern who are targeted. This means that Cape Verdeans and other mixed race people are especially at risk along with people if actual middle eastern descent.
Such hate crimes and lynch mobs, feeding off alcohol can’t be tolerated. What is scariest is perhaps how “normal” these people are.
When I was a victim witness advocate, there was a case where a man who was middle Eastern was beaten nearly to death, was in a coma, but recovered. Years later he recognized one if his attackers. They were working in the same company as him. And thus man had an incredible look of guilt on his face. Despite his efforts, it was incredibly difficult for him to get his case brought to trial in our court system. The time that had elapsed and lack if evidence was a factor.
These types of cases might not get as much attention as a police shooting or even regular footage of a fight that goes viral.
My friends response to the incident was, “I see it as that was just THOSE punks. I can’t hate their whole race just because a few people wanted to be like that. I can’t really understand being like them and how they got that way.”
For me, hearing this, it opened my eyes. Mainly because I always have considered the neighborhoods in the touristy sections of Boston to be safe. But that is because even though I am mixed, I am white passing. And even if I don’t look fully white, I don’t think that people would say I “look Muslim” ( though when I had hair I would say that the Tsarnaev brothers and I could have passed for relatives. Interesting how nobody who looks like them are getting jumped right?)
In fact Muslims come in all colors really. It was one of the observations of Malcom X on his Haij that he was amazed that people of all colors seemed to be getting on as equals, and that was instrumental in him changing his opinions about race. In fact the CV Network has interviewed the first Cape Verdean rapper, who later converted to Islam, and is now named Abdul Adil, and who also recently went on his Haij.
Of course even if my friend was Muslim it does not give these savage blood lusting drunken folk the right to target him for a hate crime in the form of some sort of scape goating ritual that hearkens back to human sacrifice and medieval times. It just makes it that much more ironic that my friend is not a Muslim. What is the point of all of our laws and court systems and police if these actions can be commonplace and happen in full view of a crowd of onlookers in a supposedly civilized city, right near a center for tourism… right near the center for government and a building named after a man, Tip O’Neal who stood for local democracy and once taught Chinatown’s Amy Guen, that all that really matters is local government.
Can’t we fix such a seemingly obvious problem as lynch mobs? What if my friend hadn’t had a friend who happened to be doing security that night? The truth is my friend is lucky to be alive, and the incident was all because his face looks similar to that of a North African.
What are the “safe” neighborhoods in Boston and the “unsafe” ones? Safe for whom? And in what context?
This type of thing was something I experienced in childhood and read often enough about. But it was South Boston or Charlestown that was the unsafe neighborhood. Not the center of the City Proper. I sort of thought that those days were over. I guess I was wrong.