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Minority groups file civil-rights complaint over Boston's overwhelmingly white procurement contracts

The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Latino Network and Amplify Latinx today asked the Justice Department to look into why the city of Boston awarded only 1.2% of $2.1 billion in procurement contracts in recent years went to Black and Latino businesses.

Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the complaint for the groups with the federal departments of Justice and Transportation this morning.

In a statement, BECMA President and CEO Segun Idowu said:

The study reveals what BECMA members and community leaders have been saying for decades: The City of Boston does not value Black businesses or the Black community. Mayor Martin J. Walsh and his administration have failed to deliver fair and equitable procurement for Black owned businesses, as well as for other minority-owned businesses. Bold leadership is required to immediately correct this systemic problem.

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Does this mean that the city didn't buy cars from a minority owned company? Like is there a minority owned company out there that makes Explorers and Priuses? Minority owned fire truck manufacturing companies? Minority owned power companies? Minority owned chicken nugget suppliers?

Sometimes finding a minority owned company is hard. A certain Huntington Avenue based school used buy all their heating oil from Grimes Oil, which was a minority owned company, until Grimes sold for big money to a non-minority owned company. That school then looked bad because there wasn't any minority owned oil delivery companies that could handle their needs. Trust me, I tried to find one.

I am sure there are plenty of companies willing to grab at the bit for city contracts but this suit sounds like a lot of dog and pony for attorney's fees.

Remember, all city contracts are advertised and low bid is taken.


Less than an hour after Adam makes a post mentioning racial inequity, and John Costello is already here with the strawmen and white fragility.


You think his example was fabricated?


OK, let's give him the benefit of the doubt that his example is rock solid, and there were in fact no minority-owned oil businesses operating.

In that case, it's not a strawman, but it's a whatboutism. It's still white fragility, and he should really reflect upon why he has the urge every single time racism is discussed to immediately jump in with reasons why maybe it's not racism and maybe people of color are too sensitive, rather than listening, learning, and asking what he can do to be anti-racist.


I appreciate the lecture.

Never said anything about fragility. I only pointed out examples of where the data set for car manufacturing may not include any minority owned Fortune 500 companies.

You went full on I must be in the Klan.

You stick to your narrative if it makes you feel better.


You went full on I must be in the Klan.

as much as you think people are incorrectly needling your views, going to this level of absurdity is doing the same exact thing.

Never said anything about fragility. I only pointed out examples of where the data set for car manufacturing may not include any minority owned Fortune 500 companies.

and why do you think this is?


Let's look at this like a problem in a machine or process. The end result is that something is not working the way it should. The question is where is the breakdown. If as the other person stated there are no minority owned businesses to fill the vast majority of these contracts, then the problem is not with how the city grants the contracts, the problem is that something is happening to prevent the growth and creation of minority owned businesses. Is it that banks are being racist in how they give out loans? Is there some other issue?

If you instead decide to hyper focus on how the city awards contracts and yell racism, you are not going to fix the actual problem. You will ultimately condemn yourself to winding up in this same spot the next time a report like this comes out.

It is not wrong or racist to look at the data and the stats, and then try and dig deeper to find the real issue.


It is not wrong or racist to look at the data and the stats, and then try and dig deeper to find the real issue.

this is exactly what the study in question did. you just don’t think racism is the the Real Issue. and that’s fine, but don’t pontificate about it as though racism isn’t a real thing.


I’ll admit I’m not up on my bidding or procurement contract law, but let’s use another example. Let’s say the state told the city of Boston they must have 30% minority teachers by some date, and the city wasn’t able to make it 30% by that date. So the state (or some organization) sues the city. The city says “hey, we had 1,000 job openings during that time, but only 5% of the applicants were minority, and only 2% of those who have teaching certificates in general are minority”, making it impossible to achieve a 30% goal within that time frame.

John’s point I assume is why should The city be responsible for something that on the surface seems mathematically impossible to achieve? Racial equity just happens to be the factor in this case, it doesn’t mean he is ignoring racism, only that race isnt the issue here.


if 5% of teacher applicants were minorities in a city whose population is ~55% minority, what are the possible explanations?


But the school department (or possibly the city in the real case) shouldn’t be the one getting sued. It’s not their fault the numbers are the way they are.

Maybe the banks should be sued for not giving out fair loans? Maybe the state DOEshould be sued if they aren’t giving out teaching licenses fairly.

I mean this lawsuit might not be about money, it could be about making sure the city is doing something to minimize these wealth gaps in the future.


It's not SOLELY their fault, but there are factors that the school department can control that can have an impact on the applicant pool.

Even in the job postings, you can unintentionally include wording that is not inclusive of all potential applicants, not just by race but also gender and people with disabilities.

We have also seen that HR verbiage on employment recruitment literature here for 10-20 years now.

and honestly, i’m talking around your points a little, so i apologize for that.

these conversations are frustrating because white americans have unilaterally decided that racist or racism are terms that describe only the most egregious behavior, rendering any criticism null and void. to wit, a study meant to examine racial disparities found that 1.2% of city contracts went to minorities but you can’t use the word racism without presenting explicit evidence. of course, evidence of racism is in the eye of the beholder.


i agree, the mayor didnt use the n-word; so, the citys contract procurement process is not racist.

See where I wrote;

“ Is it that banks are being racist in how they give out loans? Is there some other issue?”

I am certainly willing to believe that racism has a role in this. The question is where. You seem to blame how the city hands out contracts. I blame the hurdles preventing minorities from owning their own businesses that will be eligible for these contracts.

Let’s say we listen to you and change how contracts are handed out. But then two years from now we see that the numbers have not changed because there are still no eligible minority owned businesses. Then will you admit that the issues are not how the city hands out contracts, but rather it is elsewhere?

Nobody is denying racism. We are simply questioning where in the process is it actually occurring.


It is racial inequality that contracts are not being awarded a certain way, but the way the news of the procurement numbers are presented is skewed to make things look really bad. That is not fragility. That is dollars and cents.

Calm yourself down Eeka. You can be incredibly insightful and incredibly insufferable at times. You are the latter currently.


so 1.2% is NOT really bad? That fact sounds really bad, it should be resolved ASAP by equitable means


I agree, but I still think the numbers are skewed with all the subtlety of a Providence based accident attorney billboard to make some other attorneys a lot of money in a settlement which will arise out of this. This thing is never going to trail. This is kabuki writ large.


Maybe it’s a question of the methodology of the study- if you are paying IT giants a huge chunks of your contract dollars, the money is going to Seattle and the Bay Area anyway- or maybe it is an actual issue of equity, which has been raised since the White administration and was most likely also an issue during the reign of St. Thomas of Readville.

At the end of the day, figuring out the why of the issue will benefit the city.


This is it.

Of course those who raise the issue of super low inventory of available minority-owned businesses have a point, but the result that many seem to advocate for, i.e. the city shrugging and essentially saying “not our fault, not our problem to fix”, is irresponsible and it fails to serve the city and does not alivieate the racial inequality in contracts.

If the city finds that there is not enough minority representation in the pool of bidders, investigate why and design solutions to fit the problem. I’m no expert, but Black-owned small businesses don’t get credit at the same rate as white-owned small businesses; perhaps the city partners with local banks to create a small business loan program directed at Black-owned businesses who want to expand and take on city contracts? I don’t know how viable this idea is, but the point I want to make is that it doesn’t take a genius or a lot of imagination to see that there are solutions to fixing this gap in contract equality besides a.) dismissing it because there aren’t enough Black-owned businesses capable and/or b.) awarding contracts based solely on race with no regards to the company’s capacity to perform the work.


my haitian cousin used to own a limo and sedan service.

my other cousin did do roofing contracting work for a city building.

sounds about white.

it is deeply messed up that it takes a lawsuit (or an investigation by the DOJ, which amounts to the same thing) to get the city to publicize how they award contracts. This should be a question that can be settled by analyzing public record.


As John Costello stated:

all city contracts are advertised and low bid is taken.

Surely the city could do more to make sure that minority-owned businesses are AWARE of the process and to make sure that there aren't barriers to their participation in the bidding process.


this is an example of how most racism is not intentional (but still equally as harmful).