Dorchester native and author Dennis Lehane gave the commencement speech at Emerson College over the weekend and evidently dropped the n-word. Yikes. Granted, Lehane was recalling a moment from his childhood involving one of the most infamous times from this neighborhood.
“In 1975, I was driving with my parents in a car, and we turned a corner into a riot in South Boston on Broadway, at night.
I will never forget this for the rest of my life. We were trapped in the back of a car. We couldn’t move. We could just be buffeted down the street. And they had hung effigies of Arthur Garrity, who was a judge at the time, of Teddy Kennedy, and they were lighting them on fire with torches. And they were screaming, ‘N—s out.’
And that, I can still see the flames going down the back of my father’s car, the reflection of the flames and being trapped in the back of that. So those were the ‘good old days,’ just so you know.”
This part of Lehane’s speech was meant to be a cautionary tale not to glorify the past.
For lifelong residents of South Boston, the nightmare of busing* and the impact on the neighborhood still haunts – especially when brought back to light more than 40 years later.
According to the Boston Globe, Lehane issued a prompt apology after numerous complaints.
“The word is the most offensive word in the English language. To use it in the context of the times in which I was describing was to show exactly how ugly those times were and that particular night was,” Lehane said in a statement.
“If, in an attempt to convey that with absolute authenticity, I managed to offend, then I apologize to those who were offended. Hurting people with the use of that word, of all words, was about as far from my intention as one could get, but I take ownership of the result. I should have known better.”
So here were are, 43 years later and old wounds of busing open once again. A wound that most likely will never fully heal.