Callie Crossley speaks with author Tiffany Dufu

Credit: Photo by Andrea Asuaje

Reflections On Race With Tiffany Dufu

May 3, 2017

*This interview was taped on April 19, prior to the Adam Jones incident*

In 2005, author, leadership guru and former Boston resident Tiffany Dufu told the Boston Globe that Boston wouldn't be where she would like to raise her black children. Her comments in a Boston Globe series titled "The Discomfort Zone," written by Don Aucoin, caused a firestorm, which she said led to both threats and support from readers. The essence of her comments re-emerged again after comedian Michael Che called Boston "the most racist city" he's ever visited and, in response, Globe opinion writer Renee Graham penned two columns titled, "Yes, Boston, you are racist" and "In Boston, less racism is still racism."

Callie Crossley spoke with Tiffany Dufu about her thoughts on race in Boston and if she feels the city has changed at all since she lived here.

Interview highlights

"My first experiences with Boston were before I moved to Boston, when I was calling to look for an apartment for my husband and I. And I would explain that we were coming because he was going to be a student at MIT Sloan, and what I realized in the course of trying to find an apartment was that people thought I was white, and they would describe the neighborhoods to me in the context of race and advise me to live in some neighborhoods, not other neighborhoods and, of course, I knew nothing of any of these neighborhoods but thought it quite fascinating that they were describing them based on their assumptions about me." -- Tiffany Dufu on her initial impressions of Boston

"It's not as if there isn't racism in other cities. Racism is an institution and an experience that exists everywhere in America, let's face it. There are other aspects of the culture here that I think, in some ways, make it more prominent -- a sense of tribalism that, for example, you don't have in New York. When people ask me, "Where are you from?" and I'm in New York, I say, "I'm from Seattle." And if it's a New Yorker, they'll say, "Oh but I've seen you around. How long have you been here?" And I'll say, "Oh, I've lived here for 12 years," and they'll say, "OK, you can say you're from New York now, Tiffany!" That's not Boston, right? Unless you're born and bred ... there's a very strong sense of "us and them," of the people who are here who are true, who are real, and the people who are transient, who are the newcomers. And I think that those kinds of dynamics amplify the racism that actually exists anywhere and causes it to manifest in different ways, maybe." -- Tiffany Dufu on racism in Boston

Tiffany Dufu is the author of "Drop the Ball: Achieving More By Doing Less." She is the chief leadership officer of Levo. She lives in New York City.


WGBH News is supported by:
Back to top