BOSTON -- The racial climate in Boston has improved from five years ago, when tensions would have made it 'impossible, if not absurd' to hold an NAACP convention in the city, Mayor Kevin H. White says.
Welcoming some 3,000 delegates Monday to the week-long 73rd annual convention, White admitted there were currently racial problems in the city but said recent incidents have been 'magnified.'
'Five years ago this (the convention) would have been impossible, if not absurd,' White told the delegates, apparently referring to racial strife in the mid-70s triggered by a court-order school busing program. 'The lines of division, the hate, the bitterness and the imagery would not permit it.'
But he said there has been improvement in the city's racial climate, noting that 20 percent of the City Council and School Committee members in the city are now black.
Later at an informal news conference White said racism was a nationwide problem -- not just confined to Boston -- and he wanted the delegates to be 'pleased and proud they are here.'
'I want them to be comfortable in the city,' White said. 'I want to give Boston an image that is not a city that hates, but a city that has conflicts like all cities.'
Extra police have been assigned to the convention area.
White said Boston's reputation for racial strife has been aggravated by magnification of bad incidents.
'The incidents that occur here have been magnified and reflect poorly on the city,' White said. 'For every bad incident I can show you 100 good incidents.'