Towns with Thriving Black Middle Class? (Boston, Worcester: middle-class, real estate, apartment complexes)
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
That sort of community isn't easy to find in eastern Mass. But Randolph would most likely be the best bet. It's had a good reputation for diversity since the '60s and is almost entirely blue-collar to middle-class in income level. Cautionary notes to sound about it are that the schools are "average" at best, and that its "integrated" character is starting to fray at the seams. The north side of town is transitioning toward being the AA/West Indian side as one of the core elements of the population (Jewish households relocated from Brockton and Boston) is dying off or moving away without successors. While still a quiet and "boring" community typical of suburbia by and large, there's been an increase in crime due to some more recent arrivals from the city not leaving their beefs and antisocial tendencies behind.
Not far away from there, and closer in to Boston, lie Milton and Quincy. Both of these places were long perceived as "off limits" to anyone not White (and preferably Catholic) but this is no longer so. The portion of Milton along Route 138 in particular has become a "mixed" area without socioeconomic decline or wholesale "flight." And no less than Governor Patrick makes his home there, in the "mansion district" that surrounds Milton Academy. Quincy has become a more accepting city in the wake of a significant influx of Southeast Asian families - those who couldn't deal, left, and those who could, stayed. A building boom that's brought high-rise developments such as Marina Bay and "The Falls" has drawn a different quality of people, more likely to be progessive-minded and cosmopolitan. There's now also a noticeable Black population making its home there, though not yet in large numbers or in any one particular section.
West Medford and northern Waltham are two more locales where small "pockets" of middle-class to affluent AA families have dwelled quietly for many years without problems. Then there's also Malden, "Greater Boston's UN City," strategically situated on the Orange Line and with a long-standing reputation similar to that of Randolph; the Metro West suburbs including Newton, Framingham, and Natick, which have Black enclaves and some multicultural communities of their own; and Arlington and Lexington, historically "lily-white" but somewhat less so today.
Out of all these places mentioned, I'd rank the public schools of Lexington as the best of the bunch, with Newton not far behind and Milton in third place.
You did specify "towns," but Cambridge might be worthy of consideration regardless - if I, a happy transplant, do say so myself.
Cambridge has a longtime and well-deserved reputation for progressive politics and social tolerance: a pioneering cross-district school busing program, the first legal same-sex civil marriages in the country, etc etc. But in my day-to-day experience over two decades of living here it strikes me as more of an "up South" type of place. The ethnic-turf boundaries have significantly weakened if not dissolved, OTOH the "urban" trend of "repping" your community has brought on troubles in the form of the occasional fight or shooting caused by someone from - say - North Cambridge getting caught on the street in Riverside (my neighborhood, aka "The Coast.") Quite a few streets' residents form a cultural and to some extent class mosaic. "Everybody gets along" is the zeitgeist, but true familiarity across societal boundaries is pretty rare. Much like in the South, White and AA families can be acquainted with one another for generations and go to school and each other's wakes and so forth together with no genuine bond forming. Cultural "exposure" is there for the taking in abundance, though.
From having been brought up in a place with a cross-section of humanity, not to mention having spent three years in Japan, I have an aversion to homogeneous communities. My "family of friends" spans several economic levels and has no color line. But neighborly relationships are another story. The AA and West Indian households on my block, all of them there from way back, purposely keep to themselves. While sidewalk encounters are cordial, invitations from me to join in block parties were turned down enough times that the message was clear after a few years. The community council's membership skews heavily toward the pale end of the pigmentation spectrum in a part of town that's 50% White if that. Another issue facing much of the city overall is that a good-sized chunk of the population is transient. Folks arrive here to complete their education and then leave again, rarely involving themselves with the persons or community around them in any way. You and they learn one another's names, and from then on nod in passing as they stay tuned in to their iPods and/or "text" or yack on their cell phones. That kind of social-challengedness is hardly unique to Cambridge in these times, though.
Having said all that, I think this city is a great place to raise children if the aim is to mold them into informed and open-minded adults. The diverse community I was brought up in was full of divisions and distinctions, but as is so in Cambridge all the kids got "exposure" through academic and recreational experiences. Some took more advantage of that than others.
None of us know what range of affordability the TO is working within. Brookline's a very appealing town with a progressive reputation matching that of Cambridge. And the schools are top-notch. But from what I've seen, the real estate is overpriced for what you get. The voting out of rent control (an inexcusable ballot-box exercise if ever there was one) has practically destroyed economic diversity there. For housing, there's a choice between a mansion in Chestnut Hill or Cottage Farm, a '50s brick ranch on a big lot in South Brookline, or an apartment/condo in much of the rest of the community whether it be in a three-decka or rowhouse or duplex or low-to-mid-rise brick building. Public-transportation access is excellent, and this is a good thing because I wouldn't want to be a car owner in a town where there's an ordinance against overnight on-street parking.
Unless you call a population that's all but entirely Jewish and/or White and Asian yuppie a multicultural mosaic, Brookline falls short of the mixed-demographic criteria not only in terms of household income. The small AA community is largely assimilated and on the affluent end of the money scale (former TV news anchor Liz Walker, prominent attorney Fletcher "Flash" Wiley.) Down South and where I come from, the attitude of this sliver of humanity is termed "high saditty." There are plenty of folks out there who would say, "They don't want to be Black." You get the picture. This opens those whole other cans of worms: role models for a child who look like the child, and achievement being equated with selling out. Let's not go there in this thread.
I've seen Randolph getting beat up on a lot, not only in this thread but elsewhere in C-D. It's not entirely cheesy Capes and ranch houses and "Dutch Colonials" and split-levels and dated apartment complexes. Nor is it contending with massive "White flight," although the complexion of the north side in particular is darkening more with time. The public education system is no better or worse than it ever has been. I didn't steer clear of the issue of juvenile urban "beefs" bringing occasional troubles to the town in my earlier post. We're not talking about a place where everyone's petrified to walk the streets at night and has their homes rigged with alarm systems, by any stretch of the imagination. My suspicion is that what Public Enemy termed "Fear of a Black Planet" is behind all the naysaying.
Can we all at least agree that Waltham, Milton, West Medford, Quincy, and Malden are viable choices along with Cambridge? How about Avon, Framingham, Lynn, Holbrook, Stoughton, Newton, Salem, Everett, and Natick? And let's not overlook some of the multiculti pockets of Boston like Roslindale, Dorchester's Lower Mills and Melville-Park and Savin Hill, Jamaica Plain...
My negative opinion of Randolph comes from my aunt and uncle (who are African-American) and lived in Randolph, hated it, moved back to Boston and never stopped talking about how racist Randolph was, for them.
My positive assessment of Brookline comes from my nephew (African-American) who graduated from the Brookline schools and got a good education, did well socially there. A current neighbor of mine, who is bi-racial (Jewish father/black mother) did very well in Brookline, educated her children there, regrets leaving. I think the high taxes became an issue for her and the kids graduated, went off to college.
West Medford is less pricey and a safe bet. Can't recommend Lynn to anyone. Everyone's mileage will vary.
I don't see what is so wrong with Boston itself. I know of many middle class African American families that live comfortably in this wonderful and diverse city. True, real estate and rent is still very pricey but then the same with most other places around this area. You pay lower property taxes too. With careful choosing, one can find a suitable school as well. We have a wide selection of public, private, and charter schools. The part of Dorchester where I live in (the Ashmont- Adams Village area), the Lower Mills part of Dorchester, parts of Hyde Park, and parts of Roslindale are all safe and have relatively large Black middle class populations mixed in with White and Latino populations.
Still, if the OP sincerely insists on suburbs, then Milton, Quincy, Malden, and Everett come to mind. All of these suburbs are diverse and have fairly good public schools and Milton is the safest but priciest of them all.
Definitely Cambridge, and you can look at Roslindate and West Roxbury too.
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $53,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.
Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.