The first time I set foot n Southie was at the St. Patrick's day parade in high school. I was treated quite nicely but to be honest I heard a lot of racial slurs directed and black people IN the parade, by people who were FROM Ireland.
The only other times I stepped foot in Southie were to visit my Sifu and Si Hing where they lived. But they never hung out in Southie despite living there.
Later on I joined a boxing club in Southie, Peter Welch Boxing Club, and Peter himself asked me which Kung Fu school I belonged to. When I said Woo Ching White Crane, he mentioned he knew of a lot of Southie boys that had belonged to that school At that point in the schools history membership was down, let alone white people's membership and I said, "Not anymore." Because interestingly, when he said Southie boys, I automatically thought "white." Of course when I first joined there were a number of men from Southie (with the green dot and everything) that were part of the school. But people come in and out of Kung Fu schools. Very few stay for so long. Life, kids, jobs, get in the way.
It wasn't until years later that I thought, "Dude! Why did I say that? My Sifu LIVES in Southie."
The truth is a lot of Chinese live in Southie and other non Irish as well. But nobody will hang out there.
I learned from a Chinese resident in Southie that despite gentrification it is STILL quite racist, with children making Ching Chong sounds at her as she walks down the street.
But there is a two way street to that as well.
While at Peter Welch Boxing club, some of the fellow members were actually quite old. They bought some leather jackets that said Peter Welch and had the giant Shamrock on them.
"Hey Peter!" they said, "We're going to where these in Chinatown!" they joked.
Someone else yelled out, "Dude their gonna machine gun ya."
But I thought, "No probably not. As long as you are going into Chinatown to spend money they will lay down the red carpet for you frankly.
This one time a worker at the CCBA came out. He was there bettering the Chinatown community. He was wearing a shirt with a Shamrock that said Southie on it....
And to be honest...
Me and my friend gave him "the look" I don't even know why I did it. I have never been in a street fight about neighborhoods ever.
"Hi guys." He said. And we nodded to him and said hi. But he felt the tension as well. He just wanted to let us know.. "Look I'm here, I'm friendly." and frankly, why would we assume otherwise?
When people act a certain way and there doesn't seem to be a rational reason in a company in an organization that means it isn't the individual ... it is part of the culture.
And really, this IS part of the Boston tribal culture. And being of mixed race.. I find myself gravitating towards different sides depending on who I am hanging out with that day...
But this isn't something I am proud of. This is a confession really, that I am guilty of having these tribal and irrational feelings.
I went to a preppy high school where they played Goodwill Hunting over and over and all these kids from Newton would put on the Southie accent and pretend they were tough. The interesting thing was when I said was from the South End, they didn't understand that that was a different neighborhood.
I would also always qualify my neighborhood by saying, "I am from the South End near Chinatown."
Because the South End at that time was actually a Gay neighborhood, and at that time I was more sensitive about being misidentified with that group. I guess I was a bit homophobic even. Not to the degree as those around me, but more so than I am now, having watched all of GLEE and living in JP where my fellow parents, and therefore peers are openly Gay and married to their partners.
But anyway, I would say South End, and they would actually think Southie, which is hilarious to a local Bostonian. Though I think pretty soon, there will be no difference....
But is that all bad?
I really like my gentrified JP life. Lots of Gay people mixed in with Straight and mixed races. Not a whole lot of straight up black people but a lot of mixed race families. Between that half Asians and the Latinos my kids look like everyone else. It's nice to live in a neighborhood where you are accepted.
And I think part of that is gentrification.
I have heard others say that they despise the fact that when they walk around their OWN neighborhood they now feel as if the newcomers look at them as if they are criminals.
But I'm not sure that is the case in JP.
At the same time, my kids love going into Chinatown....
and the "South End Near Chinatown" aka Castle Square, Ming's Market, Peter's Park territory which is so gentrified now it isn't even funny....but then again... that makes it safer I think.
Southie on the other hand
I have yet to have an excuse to bring my kids there. Even though I love Irish music and culture, the Clancy Brothers, Luke Kelly, the sweaters.... I really would rather not go anywhere near the St. Patrick's Day parade with my kids. In fact St. Patrick's day is almost like the Pre-lion dance Chinese new year where you have to cower and shelter in place in fear of the drunks.
St. Patrick's day...and ever single Red Sox Game.
But Southie and Charlestown get all the attention in the TOWN and all these other movies....which tend not to have Asian characters. (In truth a good deal of the projects in Charlestown are also Chinese.)
The South End may be considered part of the Greater Chinatown area... but because of that strong tribal remnant from the past... Southie and Chinatown won't be for a long time.