Boston prides itself on being a haven of high-minded thinking—something that’s also made us insufferable.
This summer Mayor Tom Menino joined in the fray, announcing that he would forbid Chick-fil-A from opening a store in Boston, because its president didn’t believe in gay rights. It was an act of liberal censorship that even the Globe’s politically correct editorial page called a very bad idea. “History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives,” the paper declared. “City Hall doesn’t have to.” The mainly white activists who mounted the recent campaign against Whole Foods added to the madness, too. Just like the Watch and Ward Society of years past, the J.P. activists insisted that they knew what was best for their community. And what was best, they argued, was to ensure that J.P. kept other white people out, which meant keeping that Latin grocery and blocking the advent of Whole Foods. “There are about 50 different ways to interpret Whole Foods,” says state Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, a lifetime J.P. resident who now represents the neighborhood. “The big issue was gentrification, but the neighborhood was gentrified a long time ago.”
That had to be irritating—the interminable meetings, the demands that the neighborhood remain “authentic,” the civic disruptions and the arrests. This was at best hypocritical and at worst demeaning to the disenfranchised people the activists were claiming to help.
In the end, the activists lost their battle. Whole Foods is now well established in Jamaica Plain, and by all accounts it’s doing a brisk business. What’s funny, though, and not a bit ironic, according to Jeffrey Sánchez, is that a lot of the activists who so adamantly opposed the store are now apparently quite happily doing their shopping there.
And why not? The store, after all, really does sell a lot of organic produce.