That day after Christmas

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That day after Christmas

Garbage pick-up on my block is every Thursday. But with Christmas falling on that day of the week, this year garbage pick-up rolled over to Friday.

The running joke among us residents on the block is that we all sometimes, unfortunately, get unpleasant sights and smells of each others’ garbage because of the way our gaggle of sanitation workers barrel from house-to-house, leaving unsightly reminders of our trash.

One neighbor a couple of houses from mine in our cul-de-sac calls the sanitation workers’ garbage pick-up performance “anti-trash day” as she cleans up behind them. When the sanitation truck rolls away, the area is strewn not only with our trash but with our trashcans and recycle bins now littering the block, too. And each neighbor must retrieve his or her receptacles from a mountain of trash cans.

On that Friday, the day after Christmas, when the sanitation truck drove away, another neighbor of mine went to retrieve her receptacles expecting nothing out of the ordinary. As my neighbor was rolling her bins back into her yard, she couldn’t believe what she saw scrawled on one of its sides. The n-word!

Shocked by the sight of the epithet she took a picture of the racial slur and hurried to remove it. But the stubbornness of the wax oil crayon left an indelible imprint reminding her how hatred can so suddenly and unexpectedly visit upon you.

Cambridge, proudly dubbed as “The People’s Republic of Cambridge,” is ranked as one of the most liberal cities in America. And with two of the country's premier institutions of higher learning — Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology — that draw students and scholars from around the world, Cambridge’s showcase of diversity and multiculturalism rivals that of the U.N.

Cambridge is also proudly known for a lot of firsts in this country. For example, it was the first city in Massachusetts to issue a legal application for same-sex marriage. It’s the first major city in the country to elect an African American openly gay mayor — Ken Reeves. And Cambridge elected its first African American openly lesbian mayor in the country in 2008 with E. Denise Simmons.

Cambridge is no doubt a progressive city. With racial and police tensions nothing like that of Ferguson or New York City, people of color in Cambridge can feel somewhat removed from nagging reminders of