Interview with Jean McGuire
QUESTION 5
JACKIE SHEARER:

I want you to tell me about the quality of the leadership that White elected officials provided as the desegregation process was underway.

JEAN McGUIRE:

It was almost totally lacking. Basically, those who were pushing for access to the city's resources for their children were going it alone, so to speak. And that created in people a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not city officials and city line departments like police and fire would perpetuate what had happened in the South. And I think in everybody's minds there was the picture of the water hoses being used against civil rights activists and the police setting dogs against people in civil rights demonstrations in many states in the South and the deaths of many college students in Florida State and Jackson State long before Kent State. And so here we were in Boston with a man attacked in South Boston, a young Haitian worker who in a mindless way was attacked by people who had not been provided the kind of assurance that this was a city for all the people of Boston and that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed access to everyone in America, not just certain people of a certain color or a certain class or a certain neighborhood. But this city should have been open to everyone and it wasn't. And it was that fear that if you stepped out of your place you could be attacked. There was no leadership that said, "That's off limits**. You can't have an open season on people because of their color." And I think that carried over very clearly to young people and to teachers and I think there's a certain legacy which is still here where people feel embittered by issues which were not explained, which were not discussed, for which there was no public discourse or dialogue around affirmative action, around curriculum change, around multicultural curriculum--

JACKIE SHEARER:

I'm going to interrupt you because we're not going to travel back to the present.

JEAN McGUIRE:

OK.