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Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021   |   Follow @The_Emancipator on Twitter
This is Unbound, the newsletter of The Emancipator. In each issue, I examine some of the most urgent conversations on racial justice infused with context, news, and perspective. My goal is to bring fresh voices, new research, and bold ideas from The Emancipator’s editors, columnists, and contributors — straight to your inbox. 

Some striking trends stood out to me from demographic data released from the U.S. Census Bureau this month: As Boston’s population boomed over the last decade, the city became dramatically more multiracial — but a lot less Black.

First, let’s take a look at that latter point.
Number of the week: 8,809, the drop in the number of Black Bostonians living in the city since 2010, according to census data.
Shrinking Black Boston

While the numbers of White, Latino, Asian, and multiracial Bostonians grew, Boston lost nearly 9,000 Black residents, dropping the overall percentage of Black people in Boston by 3.3 points.
Boys ride bicycles in Dudley Square in Roxbury. Courtesy of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Inc. at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.
This represents an ongoing reversal of the centuries-long trends of Black people growing and building communities in Boston – from those who fled or were freed from slavery, to abolitionists of the 19th century, to craftsmen, mariners and industrial workers who came from the South in droves during the Great Migration of the 20th century, to entrepreneurs and professionals in the tech and healthcare industries today. 

They — along with immigrants from Haiti and other Caribbean countries, as well as African nations, including Cape Verde, Nigeria, and Ethiopia — grew the city’s Black community, which was largely segregated in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.

Now, they’re leaving. Some aren’t going far. The last decade saw more Black Americans moving to suburbs, including former Bostonians who now make their homes in places like Randolph, Brockton, and Stoughton – three of several Massachusetts communities that gained Black residents as Boston lost them.

Those who left the state altogether may well be part of a national trend of Black Americans moving South. Like Boston, cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Chicago also lost Black residents over the last decade, while the share of Black residents in places like Atlanta, Houston, and Charlotte grew.

Those may be seeking what they see as more welcoming climates – both weather-related and social. But those in Boston and elsewhere are also being driven out, experts say, by gentrification.

“This is what people at a community level have been saying for years — that the neighborhood is changing, that Black people are being moved out of their community,’' James Jennings, professor emeritus at Tufts University, told my colleagues Meghan E. Irons and Sahar Fatima.
The scene along Dade and Washington Streets in Roxbury on May 13, 1979. 
Rachel Ritchie/Globe Staff
Multiracial Boston grows, but are they seen?

The loss of Black residents stands out from the overall trend of the city not only becoming more diverse, but also bigger overall. The Hub’s rapid overall population growth over the last decade has bucked the national trend of people leaving the “old and cold” North for warmer climates in the South and West.

The number of Bostonians identifying as multiracial ballooned from just less than  15,000 in 2010 to more than 32,000 in 2020. That reflects a national upward trend in Americans identifying as more than one race, driven not only by an increase in the number of multiracial Americans but also by other factors, including changes to census reporting to better capture diversity, as well as the increase in awareness of genealogical background through the use of home DNA ancestry tests.

“[The year] 2000 was the first year that people were allowed to self-identify as more than one race,” Dr. Monica Wang, associate director of narrative at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and a co-founders of The Emancipator, told me.

Wang, who is also an associate professor at the BU School of Public Health and an adjunct associate professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, stressed the need to broaden standardized collection of racial data, including data on multiracial individuals. That is crucial in areas like healthcare, where race and other background data is crucial in understanding how everything from the pandemic, to the environment, to chronic illnesses like heart disease disparately affect different racial groups.

“So it’s really important that as the racial diversity in the U.S. is increasing, that healthcare systems are standardizing the collection of data on these categories,” Wang said. But not all systems do – particularly information on people of multiple racial backgrounds.

Researchers have found that outdated and incomplete systems of racial data collection not only undercounts the number of multiracial patients but can obscure disparities in healthcare access and outcomes.
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What I’m reading

The Last Best Shot, an effort launched by the Globe and more than 50 newsrooms across the country as an urgent call to action to address the spread of COVID-19: "This pandemic has at this point become a preventable disaster," said Bina Venkataraman, the Globe’s editorial page editor and The Emancipator co-founder. "All the powers of the state and the private sector that we keep behind glass in case of emergency need to be used now to get people vaccinated."
The Racial Violence of Climate Change, an excerpt of author Jeremy Williams’ forthcoming book Climate Change Is Racist: Race, Privilege, and the Struggle for Climate Justice.
Finally, I encourage you to make a virtual visit to the Museum of Black Joy, a collection of photography, other art, and digital installations curated by poet Andrea Walls. It’s been my favorite source of inspiration this week.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr is a senior opinion writer for the Boston Globe.
How can you help? Support The Emancipator by making a donation here. Your contribution will help to reframe the national conversation on racial justice and build a bold new platform for opinion commentary and ideas journalism. 
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