Response to Roxbury Prep opposition language
This letter was written by a group of concerned community members in response to the racially coded language in the opposition petition, at recent meetings, and in a Bulletin article about the relocation of Roxbury Prep High School. If you sign the letter, please consider including any appropriate affiliations (such as RISE, Friends of the Roslindale Library, NAACP, etc.) and your role within them.
Dear Neighbor,
In recent weeks, we have become aware of the controversy surrounding the construction of a new building for the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School at 355 – 361 Belgrade Ave on the Roslindale-West Roxbury Line (current location of Clay Auto Center and NTB National Tire and Battery).

We recognize that the construction and subsequent relocation of Roxbury Prep to Belgrade Avenue raises traffic and parking concerns, as well as questions about the size of the site, about charter versus traditional public schools, and specific concerns about the school’s practices. These are legitimate issues that should be raised. Residents deserve to bring forward their questions and concerns and to have them addressed by the developer, by the school, and by elected officials.

The signers of this letter represent both supporters and opponents of the school site, and recognize we all have the right and responsibility to voice our respective points of view. One thing we believe we can all agree upon is that all of us in Boston have a vested interest in the best possible education for our children, whether we are parents looking out for our own children's opportunities, or we are neighbors or employers who recognize that Boston's children are our future.

The current controversy has, unfortunately, managed to confuse residents’ legitimate concerns with language that implies something negative about the children who would be attending the school, language that risks perpetuating racist stereotypes that do not line up with our interests. We recognize that this impression may not reflect the intentions of the schools' opponents, and therefore feel compelled to bring them to light. The two concerns that have been raised, that are particularly troubling to us are:

- Belief that construction of the school will result in students “loitering …in our neighborhood,” and
- Belief that construction of the school will result in a “change (of) perception and desire to live in this community.”

These concerns have been raised at meetings, quoted in the Bulletin, and are included in the opposition petition being circulated, which is posted on the West Roxbury Parkway website (wrparkway.com).

We would like to respond:

- Construction of the school will result in students “loitering …in our neighborhood”

The concern about "loitering" students and decline in desirability of our community (with implicit risk of decreased property values) has not historically accompanied language surrounding other private high schools in our communities, and indeed, schools such as Catholic Memorial and Roxbury Latin are considered community jewels. If we truly want to build coalitions across neighborhoods and treat all children the same, we must stop using the term “loitering” when referring to concerns related to the students of Roxbury Prep (especially when these students are predominantly black and brown). The use of the word “loiter” conjures up images of students of color acting inappropriately in this area, and in fact the ACLU has found anti-loitering laws unconstitutional based on how they unfairly target black and latinx people.

- In the section of the petition that talks about the “change of perception and desire to live in this community,” additional language references this section of Boston being desired because “it’s more suburban than urban.”

The words “suburban” and “urban” are often coded to refer to race and class; “suburban” implies wealthier and white, “urban” implies poorer and black/latinx. If the intent of the above was simply to surface concerns about how increased traffic and congestion can change the feel of the neighborhood, the use of these terms shifts the tone away from what was intended (concerns about traffic and congestion), towards economics and race. While we feel that discussions about race and class are certainly needed, it seems they would be better had outside the discussion about whether or not to welcome a new school into our neighborhood.

Boston, no matter where you are in the City, is urban, and our collective resources are limited. It is our unfortunate history that Boston has served some neighborhoods more than others. It is our hope as we move forward that we do not bring that past with us. When resources are limited, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all neighbors, and that all of Boston’s children belong to all of us, no matter what neighborhood they live in.

We look forward to continued conversation over the suitability of a school being built in our neighborhood, and it is our goal to have a more positive and constructive dialogue without the use of racially charged language. We also look forward to finding ways to connect and learn from each other about how such racially charged language stems from our personal experiences and histories, and from our collective history as Americans.
In Community, *
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