Interview with D. David Bloom, a former Mattapan resident.
Boston Public Schools
Garrity, W. Arthur (Wendell Arthur), 1920-1999
Segregation in education--Law and legislation--United States--History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
David Bloom is a corrections officer at MCI-Shirley. He was a Mattapan resident during the 1970s, when he was in grade school. This interview covers Bloom’s experience as a student, as well as other race-related issues in the United States. While “things were a little better in high school,” his experiences in grade school left him wanting to “kind of… forget about it.” The interview also includes commentary on race and his life experiences such as his family life.
David: You could ask me questions if you'd like.
Vini: Sure, I mean I could just listen and maybe I could just listen and think of questions
David: I was in the third grade, and I believe that's when busing started. So when I was in school, we already had blacks and whites. And you know?
Vini: What school?
David: It was in Tileston. It was in Mattapan. Busing didn't start then, but when I went from the third grade to the fourth grade, that's when busing started. Me and my sister was bused out to Roslindale, which was at that time predominantly white. We went out there, I didn't even understanding what busing was because I was in the fourth grade. We got out there, and we was surrounded by the people that lived out there in that area. They had signs holding up saying "Niggers go home," you know? "We don't want you in our neighborhoods." I didn't even know what "nigger" meant. I went home and I talked to my father. My father explained to me that was back in the slavery days and that's how it came out to be the word "nigger." So me and my sister was bused out to Roslindale from Mattapan and we went to Philbrook school. And I was going to the fourth grade at that time. When we got off the bus, there was these two white guys with bottles. They threw it at the people who got out of the bus. When you're in the fourth grade, you know how when you go in, you're allowed to play in the yard? We were in the yard and stuff, we had just got off the bus. We took off running because these kids, they were older kids, they were throwing bottles at us. I seen the shadow of the bottle coming off the side of the building. So I grabbed my sister and pulled her to the side, and that was that. And also, it was sort of like a riot, but that was in fifth grade, and that was school was at Charles Sumner back then. Like the whole yard went off. And I was prejudiced at that time, it was like I didn't understand why these people coming after us, and basically coming after us because of our skin color. You know? I didn't really get that. My whole view on white people was negative because I felt that they didn't like us for whatever reason. But as time went along, I educated myself. As I got to high school and as soon as I got to college, I educated myself. So to me, people are people, it doesn't matter what skin color you are. I don't judge people on their skin color because I think that's stupid. I judge a person. You're my friend, you're my friend. It doesn't matter whether you're white, black, blue, purple, or whatever. Even as stuff that's happened now, the racism happening now, I have a feeling that it could be fixed. I don't know about you, but when I was in high school, all of my history classes even from grade school up to high school was basically the same. I didn't learn in my history class, as far as black history month. The only thing I learned was basically the same people: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver. You learn the same thing every year, and there was so many other black people that do with history.
David: Yeah. I was telling Carrie about George Washington Carver. How he made, you know, from a peanut.
Vini: Peanut oil!
David: She didn't understand because where she grew up, they didn't teach that stuff. They don't teach Philippine culture, they don't teach black history. I think it should all be history. It shouldn't be...we define ourselves who we are from our culture, but I still feel like everybody should know about everybody. History is history.
Vini: Yeah, when I was in Junior High, we actually learned about Jim Crow, and the murder of Emmitt Till. It opened my eyes to the oppression that black Americans feel.
David: If you're not directly dealing with it, a lot of people don't worry about it. Even out here in Acton, during that time, they didn't have to deal with that. It's not affecting them. They see it in the news, "Okay, see it in the news, it's bad, whatever." They're going on with their life. The people that were living with it, that's how it affected them. What the government is doing wrong, they should educate on everybody's history. As time goes on, everybody should learn about history. Philippine, black, Spanish, give us an insight on all the history. Not just white history, you know what I mean? George Washington. I heard this guy's name, I don't know how many times, and I understand that he's important. But again, there's a lot of important other people you know in other cultures that also added to that, you know what I mean? I don't know. But I have got a lot better over my time, even going to college made it better. I've educated myself through the military, through college. I've come to find out that people are people. If you're a jerk, you're a jerk. It doesn't matter what color you are.
Vini: You're just a jerk.
David: Yup. Still today, people don't understand that. I didn't marry Carrie because of what color is she. I married her because she is my best friend, and I love her. I wasn't worried about any of the stuff a lot of guys go through, they worry about having, oh, "she's got a nice this." She's been my best friend forever. That to me was important. I've went out with different [women], blacks, Spanish, and all that stuff. Again, it all boils down to who's my best friend and who I can get along with. That's what I did. For fourteen years, we've been doing good. We've been going strong.
Vini: I'm really happy. It's good.
David: But the busing thing, but it was also bad too because my father did security during the busing time, and there was at a high school, and it was the white students was coming from one direction and the black students was coming from another direction, and they had weapons. So, you had the security staff, and you had teachers. The teachers are now in the middle, and you see all these students coming in towards you. My father told me that they guided the blacks toward the auditorium and got them out of the door. They got them on the bus and sent them back home. For school systems to get that point, that's really bad. And even when those four students, that I think it was in Georgia, or one of those states down South.
Vini: Louisiana? The Jena six?
David: Those students that were, the National Guard and everybody had to go with the go to the school.
Vini: I think that was in Arkansas or Mississippi.
David: Yeah, it was something like that. I think it was six of them, and they had to be escorted to the school. Again, you know, the United States says how good they are. But if you look at some of the history, they're no better than some of the other countries that have done that. The Chinese, they had those what do you call those camps out in California?
Vini: Internment camps. The Japanese. I think this country hasn't come to grips with its racist past. I still think that we're a very racist country. I think what's more painful about it now, versus fifty years ago, I think we have this, I want to say delusion. This idea that we're past that. But we really aren't. People think of Boston as this liberal, tolerant bastion, but it's not that. It's still very racist.
David: Oh yeah. They tend to hide it more. I think you really got a point there, and that is true. But I think that's prevalent in a lot of states, a lot of big cities though.
Vini: Definitely. I've talked to people, and I've noticed that it's exceptionally bad compared to other Northern cities. It's home, but, it's got a lot of problems.
David: But I still feel it's the government that allows all this stuff to happen. Just like the Ferguson case, to me, it could all be squashed that day. If they had a guy on the news say that this kid came after the officer, and the officer did this, and that's why this happened. But they waited two weeks to tell us. So all the black people are like in their minds saying, "Are they trying to hide something? Why is this guy not telling us what really happened?" And all that time, you got all the black students, what are they doing? This is bad. If it had brought up that night, everybody would've been okay with it. If the kid went after the officer, then he did. The officer took care of business, and he did what he had to do. I think that by waiting so long to get it out there, everybody's thinking, what are you hiding? If you didn't do nothing wrong, why is it taking so long?
Vini: Why does it have to take forever to prove a guy innocent? I feel like it takes forever to prove a guy guilty, not innocent.
David: That's another thing too. I know I'm jumping around, but...
Vini: It's okay.
David: Going to that Tsarnaev case going on right now, the bomber. To me, why do people keep continuing things? I see a lot of court cases, they continue it. You go to court, you continue it. You go to court, it's continued. To me, if you have the proof and everything, you settle it that day. But it's money, I think that's what it.
Vini: Yeah, and all this bureaucratic, red tape. The courts can be a pain in the ass in the process.
David: Why don't you become a lawyer?
Vini: (laughs) I don't know. I don't think I could do that. I feel like I'm too emotional, I'm too...
David: But you're passionate about a case or something like that. I think you could do.
Vini: (laughs) That's what I thought, but I don't know.
David: I think you do good as a lawyer.think you would get into it and there would be no stones unturned because that's how passionate you would be at it.
Vini: I think I would be good at the problem solving, but trying to be assertive about it, it can be a little, or trying to, I don't know, I feel like you kinda have to finagle a lot. Manipulate, and kinda lose your ethics. Sometimes, I can be too principled.
David: Also with that busing stuff, I understand what they were trying to do. They were trying to integrate the schools. But they failed at doing it. It failed kinda bad. By the time I got to high school, things was a little better. Things weren't as bad as they were when it started out. It goes to show you how bad things were. To me, if you're going to tell me that just because of my skin color, and I'm coming to your town, that's bad. I never understood that. Until today, I still don't understand. I feel that sometimes black people blame white people for not getting ahead. I grew up in Mattapan, I see my friends on the side of Blue Hill Ave, hanging out and stuff. I never did that. I always played sports, I went to school, and I worked. So to me, if you didn't make it... it's not that I made it out of Boston. When I got out to Fitchburg State, it was cheaper to live out in Fitchburg than it was in Boston so I stayed out in Fitchburg. You shouldn't use people as a crutch in not doing well. A lot of people in Mattapan, and they say "Murder-pan" and all this other crap, to me, if you want to do well, you can. At 17 years old, I went to the service myself. My father never told me to go to the service. I did that to pay for school. I had a plan, you know?
Vini: Look at you now!
David: I think it's so cool. Meeting your mother, seeing you guys (my brother and I) grow up. I'm proud of myself. I think I've done okay.
Vini: More than okay. You're fine, you're great, you're here.
David: Some people that I grew up with, I see up in prison, and I'm looking at them. They chase that fast dollar, but it got them nowhere. Whatever have, I always work for. I never try to take the shortcut, and make this fast money because sooner or later, you're going to get caught.
Vini: Yeah, you need to make an honest living in life.
David: Do you have any questions about busing?
Vini: Sure, let me think. Do you have any other experiences about it? Any memories? Anything?
David: Not really. Just pretty much what I told you. My father experienced a lot when he was doing security. He worked in the school system for eight years.
Vini: Was it mostly a white or black school?
David: They put him in different schools. At the time, when they put him in Madison Park, the busing thing was still going on. So the school was still black and white. Whenever they put him, he was at the Washington Irving, that was in Roslindale. The town at that time was predominately white. And they moved into Madison, which was in Roxbury. That was more black. That's where they bused the white students. I also feel that the white students also had issues too, with the fact that they were going into the black neighborhoods. The white students were dealing with that, coming into the black neighborhoods, vice versa. I still think that they dealt with the same issues. You're in the third, fourth grade. You're going into a school bus, and you're traveling into a neighborhood. You don't know what to think.
Vini: It sounds like the students, maybe not "victims" but "pawns."
David: Pretty much. Let's see how this works. We're gonna throw it out there and see it work. Trying to backpedal out of that was funny for them too. Now the balls' already rolling. Thank God things are different now. I think about my mother and my father. They grew up in Georgia, and they dealt with, as far as racism go, they dealt with it more so than I did. Growing up down South in Georgia, my father grew up in Macon. My mother grew up in Jackson. They had outhouses back then. Have you ever seen the movies, when they had colored and white? My mother dealt with all that because she was born in 1937. So she dealt with that all that stuff down South.
Vini: They dealt with Jim Crow, my God.
David: I tip my hat out to my parents. Coming from down South, coming up here, being able to afford a house. We had a camper. We always had two cars. I think these two people coming from where they came from, accomplishing what they did was really big.
Vini: That is, wow!
David: We had a twelve room house in Boston. Two full sized kitchens, two full sized bathrooms. It was a big house. I just think that sometimes I get really sad, and emotional when I see some of those movies. I know parents, during that time, they were down there dealing with that. You being hung for no reason at all.
Vini: That's horrifying. That's scary to me.
David: All of this because of skin color. Not because they know you, it's because you're black. We don't like you. So we got to hang you. I think of that, and I'm glad my parents were able to make out of Georgia, and come up here, and do what they did. Sometimes I think about it.
Vini: It's amazing. I was talking to my friend Ruben. He's half-black, half-Puerto Rican. He told me that it's not like black Americans came here on their own will. They were forced. I think it really can affect the psyche.
David: When we were in New York with your mother, when we went to Ellis Island. Kinda funny because I called my mother up. Carrie said that her grandmother came through that way. I was like, “Wow, this is cool!" I called up my mom, and said that we were at Ellis Island. She said, "Oh, that's nice." I told her that Carrie's grandmother came that way. She said, "Well honey, I don't think that we came that way." I was like "I understand what you're saying." I was trying to do research on all that stuff too, and seeing what are my ancestors came from. They came through another way.
Vini: You can actually do a swab of your mouth. You can determine where your origins are.
David: That's cool too, I didn't know that.
Vini: It might be West Africa.
David: But like you said, even back then, people were trying to make money. From some of the movies I've seen, I know the white people went over there to get slaves. You have some of the black people selling their people to the white man to come over. So to me, you can't also put all the blame and say "It's the white man’s fault." You have your own people exploiting you, and sending you over. Some of the women and stuff, I don't know.
Vini: I think it shows economic motivations. Like they’re motivated by greed.
David: To me, I never think of some of the stuff that transpired over the years. If you think about it. All of it still boils down to race, and it shouldn't. All that stuff that happened, people look at people because of their skin color. How can judge you, if I don't know you? Are you judging me because I'm black and I'm from Mattapan? Even deeper than that, I'm not black. I'm brown. I don't think I'm black. That jacket right there is black. Along the way, we've been called "nigger," "colored," "black," "African American." Which one are we? Right along, like I said, that's weird because you have the Italians, you have Greek, so you have different nationalities. I've never really heard different names for certain nationalities. I've heard "spic" for Spanish.
Vini: I've heard "dago" for Italians.
David: Like I said, along the way, it's funny because you've been called so many different things. To me, when I talk to people, and they, "Oh yeah, that colored guy." What color is that guy? What is that?
Vini: How long ago was this?
David: Some people say it. "Hey, you know that colored guy?" Anybody who says that, I put them on the spot. I say, "What's colored?"
Vini: It's a good way to call them out for that.
David: I always do. I go along with African American. I think that's cool. To me, I still don't feel that white, black thing. I don't think it should be a case, we should be people. To me, you should respect me as a person, not because I'm a black guy.
Vini: You're just David.
David: Yeah, thank you! The guy on 60 Minutes interviewed Morgan Freeman, "What do you think about Black history month?" He said, "I don't like it. I don't like black history month." Morgan Freeman asked, "What are you?" The guy said "Jewish." He then asked "Would you like a Jewish month?" He said "No, no, no." He said, "What would you like to be called?" He said "Morgan Freeman."
Vini: He's just Morgan Freeman.
David: He said that there shouldn't be a black history month because black history is part of American history, and that's how I see it.
Vini: It's a different experience, and that's what I found fascinating about America. We all have different experiences. We're all from different countries. Every one of us, even Native Americans.
David: It's interesting to sit down and talk to somebody and see what their life was. You had a different experiences than what I did. I found it to be interesting. How did you grow up? I walked to school, we walked to school. Even when we were little, in third grade, we walked to school.
Vini: How long was the walk?
David: About a mile, a mile and a half. It wasn't bad, we didn't care. You know how kids are, when they say, they're going to their friends house. I didn't think about it. Soon as my father said yes, I was gone. I didn't wait around for nothing.
Vini: I think it also helped to be in the city.
David: True, it did. When you're in the city, you had the MBTA and all that stuff.
Vini: Take the T.
David: Yeah, that's all true too.
Vini: Yeah, but those are your experiences. I'll think of something else [to ask], I want to get a lot out of this. When you got older, were you able to read up on busing, and try to look at the context with what was going on?
David: I kind of wanted to forget about it. It bothered me because I didn't understand it. I guess maybe, I should've read up on it and stuff, but it bothered me. I didn't understand it. I couldn't understand why the white people didn't like me. When I was from the first grade on, my teachers were white. They loved me. I had no problem with it. I didn't understand when they sent me out to Roslindale or something like that. I didn't get it. What did I do? I kind of wanted to forget about it because I think it bothered me. Psychologically it kind of bothered me because it made me not like white people. I was to the point that soon if someone did something, I was ready to fight. I didn't want to be like that, but I felt like I had to be because I had to protect my sister and me. Me and my sister went to school together. My brother was a couple of grades ahead of me. He was different. But from sixth grade to the eighth grade, I went right around the corner to school. The school was right around the corner from my house. I didn't get bused at that time. Then, when I got to high school, that was out in the suburbs. West Roxbury and Roxbury are two different places.
Vini: My dad's cousin lives in West Roxbury.
David: Across VFW Parkway, there's West Roxbury High School. I had to catch a bus from Mattapan to West Roxbury. My four years of high school was fine. I got through the whole busing thing, and my high school was fine. My last fight was in eighth grade, but it wasn't with white people. It was with Haitians. Other than that, once I got to high school, I didn't do no fights. I started to fix myself when I got to the ninth grade. When I was in fifth grade, I smacked a girl, she was a white girl. Again I was still in that little realm. Years later, I ran into her in high school. First, I ran into her sister. She said, "I know you." I was like, "How do you know me?" She said "You know my sister Janet." I was like "Okay.” Then I see Janet because she was going to my school. But you know, we ran into each other, we said "Hi," it was no big deal. It was just something during that time that, I guess I was going through, I don't know. We met years later, everything was good.
Vini: Sounds like she must've understood the context.
David: Maybe she did. I just, at that time, I was a kid. She came in, and she said something to me. She said "Shut up," and I was like, "What?" (David makes a sound meant to resemble a slap).
Vini: You're just pissed at her.
David: It was no retaliation. When I got to high school, I was a totally different person in high school. I always wore nice clothes. I wore a tie, I had my little briefcase. I didn't try to dress like everybody else. I had my own dress code.
Vini: You want to look sharp and proper.
David: I think education is very important because, to me, you run into so many different people. You understand that that color race thing isn't put up to be. It really isn't. I think a lot of white people that's out in the suburbs don't understand the concept of what goes on in neighborhoods, the black neighborhoods. Which I think also, the government has stepped into so many families lives, that they have destructed it. When I say, I mean, like the football player that got into trouble for spanking his kid, I don't think that should've happen.
Vini: Oh yeah, [Adrian] Peterson.
David: If the father beat the kid up, gave him a black eye, and all that, that's what they [should focus on]. If the parent whoop the kids ass excuse me, I think that's okay. I turned out okay, and I got my ass whooped a whole bunch of different occasions. Again, I think this is what I think. I think kids should have fear. It should be a little bit of fear so if I screw up, I knew when I get home, I knew what's going to happen. Kids don't fear no more, kids don't care about the cops. Kids don't care about their parents. That's because the government has stepped in, micromanaging how they raise their family, which I think is wrong. If you have kids, or something like that, who is the government to step in and say, and if their kids say "Shut up Dad," and smacked him. Who is the government to say that you shouldn't smack your kid and talk to him. To me, this is my household, I should run it.
Vini: It's a matter of private, property rights maybe, I could say?
David: If you went to school with your eye black, I can understand that. But you know what, I got an extension cord, I got whooped by an extension cord. I got bigger, I started playing football, so I got a little bigger. I don't know what I did, but (laughs) my father got the belt, and I went into the room that he beat us in. I went into the room, and he hit me with the belt, because it just didn't hurt. He said "Oh, you think you're a man now?" He came back with an extension cord. A belt just hits your there, but an extension cord wraps around. (David makes a sound that resembles his reaction to being hit with an extension cord). Like I said, I think the government's too far in family's lives. Getting back to the race thing, I'm sorry I keep jumping around.
Vini: That's fine, that's perfectly fine. It's okay.
David: That whole busing thing, I just think that it was, I don't know if it was necessary. I think that they should've allow... You know what's funny? This was funny. When we moved to Mattapan from Dorchester, we bought our house, there was, one, two, three, maybe four black families on the street. You know when they say, "There goes the neighborhood?" When we moved there in '71,Every year, every few months after that, the Jewish people, the white people moved out.
Vini: White flight.
David: Yeah, so that whole street when that was a few black families. The whole street was starting to become black families. To me that was like, so why [did the white families leave]? The only one left was Mr. Sawyer. He was the paperman. Me and my brother worked for him. Every Sunday morning around four o'clock, we used to go down to his house and put the paper in his car, and go around the neighborhood and pass out the Sunday paper. To me, I thought that was funny because I was like, "Why was everybody moving?"
Vini: It's crazy because these were the things I read about in history. It's like, those were your experiences.
David: I thought that was funny that after so long, only one left was Mr. Sawyer.
Vini: I think that should be good enough, we don’t have to record anymore.