The Last Word
updated 5/3/2013 3:20:12 PM ET 2013-05-03T19:20:12

"A gangster brother would sink you in politics anywhere else, but not in my Boston," said O'Donnell of his hometown. But a new era has arrived in Massachusetts with the help of one Haitian-American woman.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell explored the dark past of his hometown Boston in his latest Rewrite segment, and noted its bright future.

“The Boston I grew up in has been busy rewriting itself since I left in the mid-1980s,” said O’Donnell, who lived in the Dorchester neighborhood of the city. “In my Boston, it wasn’t even slightly weird that the president of the Senate had a brother who was a gangster and a murderer.” He was referring to Billy Bulger, the powerful former state senator who represented O’Donnell’s district in the Massachusetts legislature, and his fugitive brother, Whitey Bulger, who was wanted for multiple murders.

“Families in my neighborhood had outcomes like that. We didn’t have to answer for our brothers,” said O’Donnell. “A gangster brother would sink you in politics anywhere else, but not in my Boston.”

O’Donnell also referred to an iconic picture taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Stanley Forman that tells the “ugliest truth” about the city. “I’ll never forget the black man’s name, Ted Landsmark. He was walking near city hall when he was attacked for nothing other than the color of his skin,” he said. “The school buses carrying black children into Billy Bulger’s district were stoned. They threw eggs at Ted Kennedy in those days.”

But The Last Word host said the Boston he grew up with, a place once “seething with hatred and racism,” has changed. And the face of that change is Linda Dorceena Forry, who is now ushering in a new era for the neighborhood. The Haitian-American woman won a state Senate seat, as O’Donnell described, typically “occupied by white guys from South Boston.”

“The winner in the race for what was once Billy Bulger’s seat in the Massachusetts Senate is the Dorchester daughter of Haitian immigrants. She will be the only black member of the Massachusetts Senate,” said O’Donnell. “It’s not my Boston anymore…and that is a very, very good thing.”

Video: O'Donnell: ‘It's not my Boston anymore’

  1. Closed captioning of: O'Donnell: ‘It's not my Boston anymore’

    >>> it's not my boston anymore. the boston i grew up in has been busy rewriting its since i left in 1980 . whitey bulger wasn't a well known name in boston . then, no one imagined that whitey would be the inspiration for a jack nicholson character. i never met whitey , but i med the godfather of the boston mafia. he was a gangster's gangster. they all looked up to jerry. he was more than respected, held in awe by his soldiers. whitey bulger . no one cared about whitey bulger . no one liked him. he was a rat of a gangster. the only reason anyone ever thought about whitey was his brother. he was billy 's brother. that was his minor claim to fame in the boston underworld. billy bulger was the state senator who represented by district and whitey bull jers district in the massachusetts legislature . billy wasn't just the senator, he was the president of the massachusetts senate . billy was by far the most powerful person in massachusetts's government and his brother was a gangster and a mudderer. governor's came and went, democrat and republican, but they all had to deal with billy . most of the time, they had to do what billy wanted them to do. one thing all governors had to do is come to billy 's st. patrick's daybreak fast where billy would sing, tell jokes about his politically powerful guests and bask in the pure joy of his power. here is billy 20 years ago joking, but not really joking with the republican governor bill about who really runs the show.

    >> looking well. enjoy your corned beef and cabbage . silver is coming back without natal natalie.

    >> as long as he still has you. oh, i get it. you are going to be running against me? maybe i'll let them all in on the big secret between you and me.

    >> not that.

    >> you all think he's the governor?

    >> at that same breakfast, billy made a rare public reference to his brother, the murderer. he did it in song, with the governor. and it brought the house down. you're going to be a millionaire, there is no doubt for i had your brother pick these numbers out

    >> so, there's the republican governor, william weld , singing with billy about billy 's gangster brother rigging the massachusetts lottery so billy would win. bill weld 's job before becoming governor was local u.s. attorney . he was supposed to put gangsters like whitey bulger away for life and there he is singing about whitey with billy in public for all to see and all to laugh about. in my boss ton, it wasn't even slightly weird the president of the senate had a brother who was a gangster and murderer. we had outcomes like that. we didn't have to answer for our brothers. everyone understood that. billy never had to answer for whitey . a gangster brother would sink you in politics anywhere else, but not in my boston . billy loves the title president. when he left the senate, he gave himself the presidency of the university of massachusetts , which is, of course, owned by the state of massachusetts , which was then owned by billy bulger . billy paid himself a lot more as umass president than in the senate. he had no academic credentials or experience that made him qualified for a university presidency. by that time, whitey was a hunted fugitive, wanted for multiple murders and people outside of my very understanding neighborhood wanted to know what billy knew about whitey .

    >> mr. bulger, have you talked to your brother, james since 1995 and if so, where was he and where is he now?

    >> on advice of counsel, i am unable to answer any questions today. this position is based on privacy and due process rights. and the right against being compelled to provide evidence that may tend to incriminate myself, all of which are found in the bill of rights including the rights and privileges under the first, fifth and sixth amendments to the united states constitution .

    >> now, billy didn't sing for congress. it was a fast downhill for billy from there. he was forced to resign his final presidency months later. no single picture tells you more about the ugliest truth about my boston than this one. i'll never forget the black man's name, ted landsmark walking near city hall when he was attacked for nothing other than the color of his skin. the attacker was one of the endless stream of protesters against school bussing in boston in those days. this is the image that black america has about boston . my boston . to this day, 37 years later, when i meet people and say i'm from boston , i find ways to reassure them that i am not that guy. the guy with the flag. the school buses carrying black children into billy bulger 's district were stoned. they threw eggs at ted kennedy in those days. boston was full of racist and hate. billy bulger 's boston , my boston . his seat has been occupied by white guys from south boston and the political world thought it would always be even though there are more voters in dorchester . last night, the boston globe called the primary election for billy 's seat for the white guy, once again. but linda from my neighborhood in dorchester refused to concede. instead, she gave a victory speech in english and haitian creole . today, with all the votes counted, the winner in the race for what was once billy bulger 's seat in the massachusetts senate is the dorchester daughter of haitian immigrants. she will be the only black member of the massachusetts senate . and she'll be my next guest. it's not my boston anymore. that is a very very


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