Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey, the first woman and Black mayor in the city’s history, said the New York City policy of showing proof of vaccination to dine indoors, workout, or do other indoor activities reminds her of former slaves having to show their “freedom papers.”
"There's a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers," Janey told CNN Wednesday following New York City’s announcement that residents had to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before being allowed to go certain places and do certain things.
According to the University of Pittsburgh, “Freedom Papers” were documents that freed slaves had to show to move around and settle down in a town.
The papers originated mostly in states south of the Mason-Dixon Line, especially in Virginia, Kentucky, and Maryland.
According to the school, the freed slaves were constantly in fear of being kidnapped and sold back into slavery, and the papers provided proof of their status and afforded some legal protections.
"Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities," Janey said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that restaurants, gymnasiums, and indoor entertainment venues would now require patrons to show proof of vaccination to enter.
"If you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things," de Blasio said. "If you want to participate in our society fully, you've got to get vaccinated."
According to the CNN story, about 55% of city residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, which is 5% higher than the national average of 50%.
Janey said that she does want all Boston residents to get vaccinated, but also said that restrictions like the ones in New York would negatively impact minorities in the city.
“Requiring vaccines in public venues will have a disproportionate impact on low-income families, and in communities of color," she said.
Janey became the city’s first female, and first Black mayor in March when she replaced Mayor Marty Walsh, who resigned the office to take a position in the administration of President Joe Biden.
She was first elected to the City Council in 2017 after winning a 13-candidate race to represent District 7, which includes most of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Fenway, and Dorchester.
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