Volume 46: The White Problem in Planning

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Volume 46 / 2021

VOLUME 46 / 2021




The Carolina Planning Journal is the annual, student-run journal of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. COPYRIGHT AND LICENSE

© Copyright 2021, Carolina Planning Journal. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


A Better Image Durham, North Carolina ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Funding for this publication was generously provided by the Nancy Grden Graduate Student Excellence Fund, which supports graduate students working directly with the department’s Carolina Planning Journal; the John A. Parker Endowment Fund; the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association; the Graduate and Professional Student Government of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and our subscribers. CAROLINA PLANNING JOURNAL

Department of City and Regional Planning University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill CB #3140, New East Building carolinaplanning.unc.edu Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3140 USA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Will Curran-Groome EDITORIAL BOARD


Veronica Brown Emma VinellaBrusher Ruby Brinkerhoff Atticus Jaramillo






Doug Bright Jacob Becker Evan King Amy Sechrist Jo Kwon Pierce Holloway Eliijah Gullett Will Anderson Rachael Wolff Eli Powell

Jo Kwon


Audrie Fitzsimons


The Carolina Planning Journal would also like to thank the many people who have helped us this year, including Ben Howell, Bonnie Estes, and Kara Louise from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association; our faculty advisor, Andrew Whittemore; DCRP Accountant Kathy Uber; former CPJ Editor-inChief Natalie Swanson; Katie Hillis, our representative on the Committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Government; Planners’ Forum Co-presidents Angela Viviana Martinez and Marielle Saunders; and, of course, all of our subscribers.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill De p art me n t of City + Regional Plannin g




The White Problem in Planning





A CRITIQUE OF SOCIAL VULNERABILITY INDICES Nora Louise Schwaller, Jordan Branham, Atticus Jaramillo, and Mai Thi Nguyen 0 3 4 “AMERICA’S GREATEST COMEBACK STORY” AND THE






L. Dara Baldwin, Tamika L. Butler, Anita Cozart and Veronica O. Davis, and Wesley Lowery



Veronica Brown


Nora Louise Schwaller


Joungwon Kwon


Kshitiz Khanal




The White Problem in Planning




Will is a second-year master’s candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Before coming to UNC, he worked in public health and social services research with a nonprofit in Philadelphia. Will’s academic interests center on land use policy and its influence on housing affordability.

This past year has been in large part defined by three interrelated phenomena: a resurgence in Black Lives Matter protests and activism catalyzed by the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by the police; the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the ouster of Donald Trump and the Republican Party from control of our federal executive and legislative branches of government. Each of these events has highlighted how the social, political, economic, legal, and physical institutions of our country have been designed and employed to benefit whites at the expense of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. In response, we asked authors to address issues raised by Goetz, Williams, and Damiano (2020) in their article titled Whiteness and Urban Planning, in particular how urban planning has worked to normalize and perpetuate whiteness--its invisibility, the exclusion by which it is defined, and the extractive nature of white affluence. The articles in this issue touch on many of the domains where planning intersects with whiteness, and they contribute valuable perspectives and analyses as we seek to build more racially just and reparative planning systems. The roles of federal housing policy in building white advantage have been documented in an extensive body of literature. This literature also captures how federal housing policy has simultaneously excluded BIPOC groups from wealth-building opportunities and destroyed vibrant BIPOC communities. Frank Muraca (MCRP ‘20) builds on this work by examining the prevalence and impacts of “Urban” Renewal projects on rural communities in North Carolina, demonstrating the influence of federal Renewal dollars in creating and segregating white affluence. Rachel Eberhard (MCRP ‘16) examines contemporary efforts to mitigate housing discrimination, arguing that the Biden Administration has the opportunity to improve the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, expand housing opportunities, and eliminate racial barriers to housing access.


On the environmental justice front, Nora Schwaller (DCRP PhD candidate), Jordan Branham (DCRP PhD candidate), Atticus Jaramillo (DCRP PhD candidate), and Mai Nguyen (DCRP faculty) critique the use of race in natural hazards social vulnerability indices, arguing that such approaches neglect histories of racialized development, do not reliably predict disaster impacts nor support targeted recovery efforts, and may actually contribute to disinvestment in BIPOC communities. They propose reframing recovery with an antiracist framework to better address structural, racialized disadvantage. Katie Koffman (MCRP ‘21) explores environmental injustice through a case study of the Lower Ninth Ward (LNW) in New Orleans, documenting how pre-storm racial inequities were compounded by the City’s and State’s approaches to recovery, leading to massive displacement for the majority-Black LNW. Amanda Ullman (DCRP PhD student) and Noah Kittner (DCRP faculty) write about the environmental and health impacts of container ports on nearby Black and Latinx communities. They propose that transit-oriented development and Green New Deal policies may offer more equitable and sustainable approaches to supporting the development of port-adjacent neighborhoods. In an article centered on Los Angeles, Jackson Loop examines sites central to the 1992 Uprising following the acquittal of Los Angeles Police Department officers who were recorded beating Rodney King, an unarmed Black man. Loop notes that historic preservation systematically privileges monumental buildings and landmarks and “enshrines whiteness” while neglecting spaces that are central to marginalized peoples’ histories of oppression and resistance. Davi daSilva employs case studies and an analysis of landmarked places to explore how procedural and structural aspects of historic preservation have privileged white historical narratives while erasing those of Black Cambridge residents. Darien Williams (MCRP ‘18) situates recent efforts to reform the curricula, structures, and praxis of planning departments in the U.S. as part of a longer historical narrative dating back to the 1960s. Williams argues that Black students recognize the “magical” power of planning education, which offers the tools to translate ideas, beliefs, and biases into the built environment, and that these students seek to transform or provide alternatives to white imaginaries through Black magic. L. Dara Baldwin, Tamika L. Butler, Anita Cozart, and Veronica O. Davis, interviewed by Wesley Lowery, reflect on their experiences as Black women in the planning field to characterize how the “White Problem” manifests in planning: historical context, white-centered planning education, exclusionary language, and a lack of empathy around racism. They call for creating and cultivating Brave Spaces; confronting power and privilege that perpetuate inequities; ending institutionalized racism in the planning industry; and revising the planning curriculum to reflect the experience of BIPOC communities. This year’s cover photo by Joungwon Kwon (DCRP PhD student) highlights the physicality of what Williams (see above) terms “white magic”. The enduring legacy of the railroad tracks in Durham, as elsewhere, is not merely one of transportation, but of both literal and figurative separation and segregation. The familiar phrase “the other side of the tracks” both pathologizes and literally “others” Black communities, while simultaneously normalizing and idealizing whiteness. By shifting the focus to the other, this language also makes invisible the white affluence and exclusion that implicitly define the “right” side of the tracks--affluence and exclusion enabled by the tracks themselves. I hope you take away as much from reading this year’s articles as I have from watching them develop. Will Curran-Groome Editor-in-Chief


ED I TO R I A L BOARD The following people are integral to the success of the Journal and its online platform, CarolinaAngles.com: SIOBHAN NELSON / Managing Editor of Carolina Angles


Siobhan is a second-year master’s student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. She is specializing in transportation planning and is interested in public transportation as a way to promote equity and improve community vibrancy. She received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, with a major in the Growth and Structure of Cities and a minor in Environmental Studies. In her free time, she enjoys listening to 80s music and cooking.

Atticus is a PhD candidate in the Department of City and Regional planning and research associate at the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS). His research explores how housing assistance programs influence the lifelong outcomes of low-income families, with a primary focus on health and employment outcomes. Atticus grew up in Wisconsin and received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse and masters in planning from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

WILL ANDERSON / Online Contributor Will Anderson is a third-year undergraduate student with a major in Environmental Studies and minors in Urban Planning and Geographic Information Science. His academic interests include sustainability, land use planning, transportation planning, urban design, and architecture. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, mountain biking, and surfing.

JACOB BECKER / Online Contributor Jacob Becker is a third-year master’s candidate pursuing a dual masters in City and Regional Planning and Environmental Sciences and Engineering. His research interests include mapping air pollution, climate change adaptation and transitioning to clean energy sources. For fun, Jacob takes his mind off the slow heat death of the planet by hiking around it and indulging in improv and sketch comedy. Jacob received his undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Chicago.

DOUG BRIGHT / Online Contributor Veronica Brown is a first-year student in the Master’s of City and Regional Planning program. She received her undergraduate degree from Smith College, where she studied the psychology of contemporary visual culture. Before coming to UNC, Veronica worked in communications at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

VERONICA BROWN / Editor Veronica Brown is a second-year student in the Master’s of City and Regional Planning program. She received her undergraduate degree from Smith College, where she studied the psychology of contemporary visual culture. Before coming to UNC, Veronica worked in communications at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

ELIJAH GULLETT / Online Contributor Elijah Gullett is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Public Policy with minors in Urban Studies and Environmental Justice. His academic interests include fair and affordable housing, sustainable development, and LGBTQ+ urban life.

PIERCE HOLLOWAY / Online Contributor and Incoming Editor-


Pierce Holloway is a first-year master’s student at the Department of City and Regional Planning with a focus on Climate Change Adaptation. Before coming to Chapel Hill he worked as a geospatial analyst for Urban3, working on visualizing economic productivity of communities and states. Through his coursework he hopes to explore the nexus between adaptation for climate change and community equitability. In his free time, he enjoys long bike rides, trail running, and any excuse to play outside.


EVAN KING / Online Contributor Evan King is a second-year master’s student in city and regional planning. His interests include transportation policy in the developing world, light rail, and freight movement on inland waterways. He can be found in his free time trying to kayak long distances and making hand-drawn maps. Evan hails from central Connecticut and completed an undergraduate degree in Maryland. Opinions are his own.

JO KWON / Online Contributor Jo (Joungwon) Kwon is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. She hopes to interweave various data sets and narratives of housing and communities together with new digital technologies. With a background in Statistics and English Literature, she received her M.A. in Computational Media at Duke University. In her free time, she enjoys watching indie movies, going to live performances, and drinking good coffee.

ELI POWELL / Online Contributor Eli is a second-year master’s student specializing in transportation at the Department of City and Regional Planning. Prior to arriving at Carolina Planning, he earned a B.A. in Geography with minors in Urban Studies and GIS from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. His professional interests include non-automotive transportation, traffic modeling, and planning for environmental protection. When he’s not planning, he can be found running, listening to indie music, or watching anything that could possibly be considered a sport.

AMY SECHRIST / Online Contributor Amy Sechrist is a second-year master’s candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Housing and Community Development. Her research interests include affordable housing, planning for equity, and the intersection of gender and planning. Prior to UNC she worked as a Housing Advocate and Shelter Manager at a gender-based violence crisis center and as a federal project management consultant. Amy holds a certificate in Creative Placemaking from the New Hampshire Institute of Art and a bachelor’s degree in Political Communication from George Washington University. In what little free time she has Amy enjoys hiking, throwing pottery, and musicals!

EMMA VINELLA-BRUSHER / Editor, Online Contributor,

and Incoming Managing Editor of Angles

Emma Vinella-Brusher is a first-year dual degree Master’s student in City and Regional Planning and Public Health interested in equity, mobility, and food security. Born and raised in Oakland, CA, she received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from Carleton College before spending four years at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Cambridge, MA. In her free time, Emma enjoys running, bike rides, live music, and laughing at her own jokes.

RUBY BRINKERHOFF / Editor and Online Contributor Ruby is a first year master’s student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Ruby specializes in land use and environmental planning, with a sustained interest in food systems, climate change, and equitable access to resources. Ruby received a dual bachelor’s degree from Guilford College in Biology and Religious Studies. She loves playing music, exploring North Carolina, and owning a lot of books that she never reads.















Feature Article: Urban Renewal in Rural America

U RBAN RE N E WAL IN RURA L A MERICA : N o r t h C a r o l i n a ’ s R o l e F a c i l i t a t i n g L o n g Te r m D e c l i n e i n Neighborhoods of Color through the Housing Act of 1954

FRANK MURACA Frank Muraca is an analyst at the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative

(DFI). He helps communities address affordable housing and community development

challenges using data-driven strategies. Frank graduated from UNC’s Department of City &

Regional Planning in 2020 with a focus on affordable housing development and disaster recovery. He is originally from Charlottesville, VA. All opinions expressed in this article are his alone.

ABSTR ACT Problem Approach & Findings Over the past decades, activists and researchers have successfully shown how historical planning policies - such as urban renewal - were used in major metropolitan areas to all but guarantee longterm economic decline and displacement in neighborhoods of color. However, over two thirds of urban renewal projects were executed in communities with fewer than 100,000 people, suggesting that the program was far more active in small towns than previously understood. This paper provides additional evidence to a growing body of literature demonstrating urban renewal’s extensive role in rural communities. It seeks to accomplish three tasks: 1) measure the federal program’s reach across North Carolina’s urban and rural communities; 2) survey technical reports written by state planning agencies to help small towns compete for urban renewal funds; and 3) compare how white and non-white neighborhoods were analyzed by these state planners. By consulting historical HUD and North Carolina planning documents, this paper shows the pervasiveness of the urban renewal program in rural communities. It also establishes the planning profession’s early role in devaluing neighborhoods of color outside of major metro areas, even in cases where renewal plans were never funded by the federal government.



Implications This piece hopes to produce a more holistic picture of the federal urban renewal program and illustrate how the program elevated property values in white neighborhoods while destroying values in neighborhoods of color. Unpacking this chapter of planning history provides important context for inter-neighborhood inequality in rural towns. By demonstrating the reach of this federal program in reshaping the trajectories of rural neighborhoods of color, this history may help guide discussion on where community-driven public investment is needed to remedy the impacts of federal urban renewal.

INTRODUCTION Urban renewal often refers to a broad collection of local programs subsidized by the federal government that

frequently led to the demolition of black neighborhoods. Research around urban renewal continues to reveal the racist origins of city planning as a profession. Local government studies and reports demonstrating the need for federal funding frequently premiered tools and analyses recognizable to today’s planners, such as maps, charts, tables, zoning, housing, and traffic studies. In speeches and reports from local leaders and planners, the overwhelming inspiration around the program is a largescale assault on “blight” – a term used to describe the distressed state of housing or commercial buildings, but also heavily associated with minority households and tenants. By locating and quantifying “blight”, one of planners’ first major acts as a profession led to the largescale demolition of Black neighborhoods and

FIGURE 1 - North Carolina Urban Renewal Programs excluding Cumberland County. Source: HUD Urban Renewal Directory (1974)


Feature Article: Urban Renewal in Rural America

displacement of its residents. In her book, Root Shock (2016), Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove estimated that 1,600 Black neighborhoods were demolished in urban renewal, upending decades of social ties and destroying Black wealth. Scholars have produced in-depth studies of urban renewal’s disparate impact on minority neighborhoods, including Black, Latino, and Asian communities (Renewing Inequality 2021). In addition to exploring how these neighborhoods changed in metropolitan areas, some researchers have added additional context by looking at how urban universities used urban renewal funds to expand into adjacent minority neighborhoods (Goldstein 2011). And while these stories should continue to be elevated, less attention has been given to urban renewal’s role in shaping planning in more rural communities (Hochfelder and Appler 2020).


Rural Planning in the Urban Renewal Process In the early years of urban renewal policy following the Housing Act of 1949, the federal government emphasized and funded the construction of new, affordable units in communities that would be impacted by slum clearance policies (Flanagan 1997). The 1949 Act pushed for 800,000 new units of public housing to replace aging units in lowincome neighborhoods over an eight-year period. By the mid-1950s, only a quarter of those units were constructed and conservatives in the Eisenhower Administration reassessed federal policies around the promotion of public housing. Under the new Housing Act of 1954, public housing construction was scaled back to only 30,000 units and allowed cities to carry out demolition without also investing in the communities to mitigate displacement. This shift away from housing, coupled with funding and policy restrictions on the federal public housing program, helped facilitate long term decline in neighborhoods across the nation – particularly in low-income communities of color.

Little research exists on the scope of urban renewal outside of major metropolitan areas. Only in the past few years have researchers identified historical documentation that reveals In addition to its shift away from housing as a primary the full scope of the program (Appler 2016). In June 1974, the goal of the program, the 1954 update to federally funded U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urban renewal would have implications for local planning published its final Urban Renewal Directory, documenting capacity. For the first time, a national agency would every local program approved for funding under the Housing require official planning documents from localities of Act of 1949. The directory provides project-level data for 41 less than 25,000 residents that sought to use federal North Carolina communities, including project approval and funding (Flanagan 1997, Renewing Inequality). Section execution dates, and approved and disbursed funds. It also 701 stipulated: details 11 types of urban renewal, which cover policies such as code enforcement, demolition, or neighborhood development. “To facilitate urban planning for smaller communities lacking adequate planning resources, the Administrator Between 1958 and 1974, the federal government spent $161 is authorized to make planning grants to State planning million on urban renewal projects in 41 localities across agencies for the provision of planning assistance North Carolina (HUD 1974). Winston-Salem and Charlotte (including surveys, land use studies, urban renewal alone received over $50 million for large-scale demolitions plans, technical services, and other planning work, but of Black neighborhoods in or adjacent to their downtowns. excluding plans for specific public works) to cities and Brooklyn in Charlotte or Hayti in Durham are commonly other municipalities having a population of less than cited examples of how the federal program impacted 25,000 according to the latest decennial census.” thousands of Black households in North Carolina (Kelley 2016). Of the localities that received federal funds, 34% - or According to Carl Feiss, who helped spearhead the Section $55 million – were spent outside of metropolitan areas. And of 701 requirements under the 1954 act, small towns’ inability the 120 projects approved for funding, 67 were located outside to use federal resources from the 1949 act stemmed from metro areas. 12

The bureaucratic process behind urban renewal affected neighborhoods in ways other than simply selecting which blocks to be demolished. As described below, the planning documents required to access federal funding in themselves helped solidify the economic trajectory of rural neighborhoods.

In North Carolina, funding from Section 701 helped establish the Division of Community Planning, a statewide agency that would go on to produce dozens of technical reports for small, rural communities between 1955 and 1972. The Division’s work in each locality was typically broken up into a handful of studies on local land use, neighborhoods, central business districts, and economy and demographics.

Although cities received a disproportionate share of urban renewal funds, rural communities often received greater per capita funding for their renewal programs. Between 1964 and 1969, the City of Washington received over $5 million for urban renewal projects in downtown and adjacent neighborhoods that would displace 53 White and 111 non-White families (Renewing Inequality 2021). In 1970, fewer than 9,000 people lived in the city limits, 41% of whom were Black (U.S. Census 1970). Per capita, urban renewal funding for Washington was over twice that of Winston-Salem, which received the most funding of any North Carolina locality (Figure 2).

In addition to housing conditions, neighborhood analyses frequently measured variables such as traffic-related deaths, public assistance cases, and health characteristics. These reports were often most overt in characterizing the prevalence of “blight” in low-income Black neighborhoods and often made recommendations for demolition that mirrored outcomes in larger metro areas. In some cases, reports produced by the Division of Community Planning were the first official planning documents produced for small areas. In addition to building the cases for where local government should invest resources, the reports also served as an important signal for the private sector. In their introduction to a 1968 land development study for Wilkesboro, state staff wrote about how the data produced in their report would help guide private investment: “The information contained in a land use analysis can be valuable to the citizen of [Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro] because it shows them where poor conditions and facilities exist; to investors, because it can guide their purchase of land and buildings by showing where the best industrial and commercial sites exist; it furnishes the civic leaders and government officials evidence of what has been done and what needs to be done and assists the planner because a knowledge of the existing use of land is basic to all community planning.”

In addition to Washington, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, and Mount Airy all received greater per capita funding than Winston-Salem. Fayetteville and Raleigh were among the lowest in per capita funding for urban renewal. Controlling for population, it is clear the program had an outsized impact in rural communities despite the fact that these communities received only a third of the state’s overall urban renewal funding. Planning Beyond Urban Renewal: Henderson, North Carolina The Division’s reports were important beyond simply meeting the planning criteria set by federal law. Because many of these plans were the first official documentation of neighborhood conditions, they used planning to either elevate or devalue neighborhoods based on race. In 1973, HUD approved $261,000 for a “neighborhood development project” in the City of Henderson (HUD 1974). Although there is no record in the directory of HUD disbursing funds to Henderson to carry out its proposed urban renewal program, the Division’s recommendations illustrate how some of the city’s first planning efforts



their inexperience developing plans or quantifying housing needs. By the early 1950s, Feiss wrote “It soon became apparent that small cities did not know what it was all about.” An estimated $1 billion in federal funds went towards local planning efforts between the act’s passage and 1981 (Feiss 1985).

Feature Article: Urban Renewal in Rural America

FIGURE 2 - In 1974 dollars. Communities that received $0 were approved for funding that was never disbursed. Sources: 1974 Urban Renewal

Directory; 1970 U.S. Census.



FIGURE 3 - “Recommended Treatment” for Henderson neighborhoods. Source: NC Division of Community Planning

would protect wealth in white neighborhoods and recommend demolition in its neighborhoods of color. The Henderson neighborhood study summarized the challenges facing community development in each area by identifying the prevalence of distressed housing units as well as documenting the racial makeup of residents. Like other communities, the Division of Community Planning emphasized that effective neighborhood planning not only addressed existing “blight” among housing units but should also work against blight spreading to other areas of the community. Keeping in line with understandings of blight as a kind of medical condition, the Division provided four types of “recommended

treatment”: preservation, conservation, rehabilitation, and redevelopment. Preservation and conservation were reserved for higher income single-family homes occupied by White homeowners. Rehabilitation and redevelopment (demolition) were typically prescribed for low-income neighborhoods with higher rates of Black renters. For example, over 90% of dilapidated housing in Neighborhoods 9 and 4, located north and south of the central business district, were occupied by Black households. Demolition – indicated by the red area in Figure 3 – was recommended for the most distressed blocks of each neighborhood, which were predominantly occupied by Black renters. By comparison, Neighborhood 5, 15

Feature Article: Urban Renewal in Rural America

located west of Downtown, was “a middle-income white neighborhood with a few older homes.” Unlike Neighborhoods 9 and 4, the Division recommended city staff “conserve” the area by strictly enforcing its single-family zoning and investing in recreational facilities. Today, median home values in Neighborhood 5 are over 40% greater than in the Black neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. Another key difference in planning staffs’ treatment of White and Black neighborhoods was how they addressed lowincome White neighborhoods. Neighborhood 11 – towards northeast of Downtown – was nearly identical to Neighborhood 9. Both neighborhoods had roughly 570 housing units, approximately 25% of which were considered “substandard.” Unlike Neighborhood 9, 97% of substandard housing units in Neighborhood 11 were occupied by White households. Despite the data representing identical challenges, the report recommended that “conservation and rehabilitation in existing residential areas will clear up the more serious signs of neighborhood decline” (NC Division of Community Planning 1971). Examples like Henderson reveal two aspects of the urban renewal program. First, although federal funds were never allocated to the city to carry out any kind of program, the planning behind the effort still contributed to public devaluation of Black neighborhoods. And second, by treating “blight” as a disease that could move from one block to the next, urban renewal planning also made recommendations for labeling and protecting wealth in White neighborhoods.

CONCLUSION While additional archival research is needed to better understand how projects in rural communities were initially conceived and executed, this article provides initial evidence for urban renewal’s pervasiveness in North Carolina’s rural communities. Reflecting on his time reviewing small town urban renewal proposals between 1949 and 1954, Carl Feiss wrote “city after city lacked planning ordinances, official planning systems, trained planning staff, (sic) planning budgets.” Without these structures, there was “no way a locality could protect, or guarantee protection of, a federal investment in redevelopment plans or projects.” By dedicating funds for technical assistance, the Housing Act of 1954 built capacity among rural communities to take advantage of the urban renewal program. In North Carolina, these inaugural planning efforts were coordinated through the NC Division of Community Planning, which analyzed land use, public facilities, and neighborhood conditions across rural North Carolina. These reports reflect how these first planning efforts drew formal boundaries around White and Black neighborhoods, preserving or elevating the value of assets in the former while devaluing assets in the latter.



REFERENCES Appler, Douglas R. 2017. “Changing the Scale of Analysis for Urban Renewal Research: Small Cities, the State of Kentucky, and the 1974 Urban Renewal Directory.” Journal of Planning History 16 (3): 200–221. https://doi. org/10.1177/1538513216657006. Feiss, Carl. 1985. “The Foundations of Federal Planning Assistance A Personal Account of the 701 Program.” Journal of the American Planning Association 51 (2): 175–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944368508976208. Flanagan, Richard M. 1997. “The Housing Act of 1954: The Sea Change in National Urban Policy.” Urban Affairs Review 33 (2): 265–86. https://doi. org/10.1177/107808749703300207. Fullilove, Mindy. 2016. “Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, And What We Can Do About It.” New Village Press. Goldstein, B., 2011. Planning’s end? Urban renewal in New Haven, the Yale School of Art and Architecture, and the fall of the New Deal spatial order. Journal of Urban History, 37(3), pp.400-422. Hochfelder, David, and Douglas Appler. 2020. “Introduction to Special Issue on Urban Renewal in Smaller Cities.” Journal of Planning History 19 (3): 139–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/1538513219898001. Housing Act of 1954. 1954. 12 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. Kelley, Pam. 2016. “How Urban Renewal Destroyed Charlotte’s Brooklyn Neighborhood.” The Charlotte Observer, March 18, 2016. https://www. charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article66934337.html. NC Division of Community Planning. 1965. “Central Business District Revitalization Plan, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.” https://digital. ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p16062coll9/id/163415/rec/4. ———. 1971. “Neighborhood Analysis and Housing Submarket Analysis, Henderson, North Carolina.” https://archive.org/details/ neighborhoodanal1971hend/page/n117/mode/2up. “Renewing Inequality.” 2020. American Panorama. Digital Scholarship Lab. https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/renewal. “Urban Renewal Directory.” 1974. U.S. Department of Housing And Urban Development.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 17

Feature Article: Make Suburbia White Again

M AKE SU BURBI A W HIT E AGA IN: T h e Tr u m p A d m i n i s t r a t i o n ’ s A t t e m p t t o U n d o F a i r H o u s i n g a n d t h e B i d e n A d m i n i s t rat i o n ’s O p p o rt u n i t y t o Re c t i f y A F F H

RACHEL EBERHARD Rachel Eberhard is the founder and managing principal of Apiary Community Consulting, a

consultancy that offers a special focus on creating plans and strategies that address local needs

and priorities, particularly around housing. Prior to forming Apiary, Ms. Eberhard worked in acquisitions with a national low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) syndication firm and consulted

with mission-driven organizations, local communities, and federal agencies in Washington, D.C.

ABSTR ACT Problem Approach & Findings Until recently, many conversations around the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule have been limited to those involved with fair housing efforts and affordable housing policy. Under the AFFH rule, communities receiving federal assistance are required to take meaningful action to undo decades of federal, state and local discriminatory policies and practices that resulted in segregated communities. In July 2020, the Trump Administration announced it was revoking AFFH and replacing it with the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule. The new rule effectively gutted the only meaningful guidance since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 for how states and localities should examine residential segregation or impacts of local actions on protected classes. Implications Shortly after inauguration in 2021, the Biden Administration ordered HUD to immediately assess the impacts of recent Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) changes to the AFFH and disparate impact rule and to then take actions to combat racially discriminatory impacts. Looking ahead, improvements to any reinstated mandate, such as incentivizing collaboration, supporting state jurisdictions and their rural communities, leveraging effective community engagement, and strengthening enforcement, could help further fair housing. 18


BACKGROUND Until Summer 2020, many conversations around the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule have been limited to those involved with fair housing efforts and affordable housing policy. Under the AFFH rule, communities receiving federal assistance are required to take meaningful action to undo decades of federal, state, and local discriminatory policies and practices that resulted in segregated communities. In July 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it was revoking the 2015 AFFH rule and replaced it with the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule. The new rule effectively gutted the only meaningful guidance since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 for how states and localities should examine residential segregation or impacts of local actions on protected classes. What opportunities and challenges did AFFH provide related to HUD and Fair Housing before it was eliminated? With President Biden’s promise to reinstate AFFH, what can a new administration do differently to further fair housing?

ORIGINS OF AFFH Events throughout 2020 showed America that housing justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, and affordable, accessible housing as well as housing choice serve as a foundation for just and equitable communities. There is considerable evidence that all residents benefit from diverse, inclusive communities. Research by Chetty et al. (2016) shows that access to stable, affordable homes in communities of opportunity has a broad and positive impact that leads to better health and educational outcomes as well as higher lifetime earnings, particularly for children raised in high-opportunity areas. Their work also indicates that moves by lower-income residents to higher-income neighborhoods not only reduce the intergenerational

persistence of poverty, but also ultimately generate positive returns for taxpayers (Chetty et al. 2016). Despite this evidence, President Trump falsely claimed that AFFH would lead to decreased property values and increased crime in suburban communities (Trump 2020). It’s important to recognize the significance of the timing of the mandate, which was issued just a few months before the 2020 presidential election, during a time of racial injustice reckoning, and was aimed at stoking fear among suburban white voters. Historically, racial and ethnic segregation have been systematically perpetuated by real estate professionals and landlords, racial covenants, and redlining practices. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) prohibited racial discrimination in housing and established the legal duty to affirmatively further fair housing, which requires HUD and localities receiving federal assistance (or grantees) to actively address housing discrimination and segregation and to foster inclusive communities. When it was signed into law, however, the FHA did not include any regulations as to how HUD and its grantees should implement this legal requirement. Segregated housing patterns continued to go unchecked for half a century until July 2015, when the Obama Administration adopted the AFFH rule, which provided requirements to evaluate barriers to fair housing and identify goals on how to foster more inclusive communities. Under the AFFH mandate, grantees must take meaningful actions to undo decades of discriminatory federal, state, and local policies and practices that created racially segregated, underresourced communities. Grantees were also required to address local policies that illegally discriminate against residents.


Feature Article: Make Suburbia White Again

The 2015 AFFH rule did not mandate specific outcomes; rather, it established basic parameters to help guide public sector housing and community development planning and investment decisions. The rule encouraged a more engaged and data-driven approach to assessing fair housing and planning actions. It also established a standardized fair housing assessment and planning process to give jurisdictions and public housing authorities (PHAs) a more effective means to affirmatively further the purposes of the FHA.

Many in the Obama Administration also believed in the importance of community engagement within the fair housing process. AFFH required a robust community engagement process to inform the development of a successful AFH. However, the capacity of local communities to use and disseminate information related to the fair housing planning process varied greatly, particularly among low-income communities of color (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019).

The 2015 AFFH rule also established a new protocol for an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) process, which was a much-needed improvement from the previous Analysis of Impediments (AI) process that standardized the methods and data that jurisdictions use to analyze their community’s housing (GAO 2010). The formation of the new protocol stemmed from a 2010 study that found that AIs were ineffective, noting that “HUD’s limited regulatory requirements and oversight may help explain why many AIs are outdated or have other weaknesses” (GAO 2010).

Efforts to implement the AFFH provisions met a host of political, programmatic, and other roadblocks that prevented significant advances and led to what some commentators have termed a “fundamental imbalance in [the act’s] statutory missions” (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). As HUD moved into a more collaborative role, challenges persisted in supporting jurisdictions with the data and technical assistance needed to comply with the mandate. Despite language encouraging collaboration and joint submission, the rule did not explicitly create assessment tools or incentives for actors to work together.

BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES OF AFFH One benefit of the AFFH rule was the shifting of specific actions away from HUD and towards state and local actors. Many challenges related to housing disparities, including issues like climate change and measures of well-being, also required coordinated planning efforts at the state and local level. Prior to AFFH, these approaches were driven by HUD’s fair housing office. The rule made clear that the effort needed to be broadened to include full participation by state and local actors (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). One-sizefits-all approaches were replaced with more locally driven and tailored plans that now involved private entities and nonprofit groups. HUD also focused on providing data to all jurisdictions and their surrounding regions, including data on segregation, the location of subsidized housing, and disparities in measures of opportunity, to facilitate AFFH analysis. This process improved the partnership between HUD and its grantee jurisdictions, especially among those without robust data capabilities. AFFH also encouraged collaboration among jurisdictions through jointly submitted AFHs (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). 20

One example of how AFFH fell short involved small towns and rural areas within geographies called non-entitlement jurisdictions. In states where non-entitlement jurisdictions encompass a majority of the state’s geographic area or population, such as Mississippi, HUD did not require small towns and rural areas to conduct their own fair housing analysis or to formulate a fair housing plan (Hensley, 2019). As a result, HUD failed to ensure that these state-funded jurisdictions were affirmatively furthering fair housing. Communities also raised concerns about the lack of enforcement with the AFFH rule, and wondered if HUD could provide the necessary support while also holding jurisdictions accountable for failing to adhere to the new process (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). Additionally, the process for handling fair housing complaints was slow, in part because enforcement officials at the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) regional centers struggled to establish best practices because of a failure to identify and formalize processes (GAO 2010).

AFFH UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTR ATION Any progress toward more effective processes and policies to further fair housing was first interrupted in 2018, when the Trump Administration suspended the implementation of the AFFH rule and directed grantees to return to the AI process. Then, in July 2020, the Trump Administration announced it was entirely terminating the 2015 AFFH rule without public comment (HUD 2020). Initially, HUD Secretary Ben Carson stated, “After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the [AFFH] regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most” (O’Donnell & Lippman 2020). In its place, HUD instituted a new rule, Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, that lowered the bar for communities and grantees to show that they were pursuing fair housing. Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice defined fair housing broadly, and defined “affirmatively further fair housing” to mean any action rationally related to promoting any of the above attributes of fair housing. This represented a significant shift away from any efforts at residential desegregation and failed to adequately address barriers to opportunity. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), this could mean that “to ‘affirmatively further fair housing’ a city could merely donate one abandoned building in a disinvested neighborhood to a developer to rehabilitate and rent to low-income households, some of whom might use Housing Choice Vouchers to make it affordable,” (NLIHC 2020b; FHEO 2020). Shortly after the announcement, President Trump took to Twitter to frame the termination of the AFFH rule as a relief

for suburbs who were “bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in [their] neighborhood,” and repeated long held fallacies that low-income housing lowers property values and increases neighborhood crime (Trump 2020). The President’s tweets implied that the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream” is one where suburban communities do not have low-income housing built in them, which would mean largely excluding people of color and low-wage workers who work in those communities. Separately, HUD announced a revision to the 2013 disparate impact rule, a legal doctrine that allowed individuals to show a housing policy or program has a discriminatory impact based on their race, national origin, sex, disability, family status, or religion, even if the policy or program appears to apply to everyone equally. Under the 2013 rule, disparate impact cases needed to meet a three-step burden shifting test. In the first step, a plaintiff makes an allegation that a defendant’s action or program has a discriminatory effect on the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is successful in establishing the facts in step one, the defendant offers a rebuttal that must show that the action or program was necessary to achieve a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose. If the defendant accomplishes step two, the plaintiff must then show that the defendant could have reached the same objective with a less discriminatory action or program. The new rule shifted the responsibility to the plaintiff even more dramatically by only requiring the defendant to prove their program is non-discriminatory if plaintiffs could meet a five-step burden test. The changes raised the bar and aimed to make it harder to prove a disparate impact claim by victims and tipped the scale in favor of those accused of discrimination (NLIHC 2020a).

LOOKING AHEAD UNDER THE BIDEN ADMINISTR ATION The AFFH rule served as a roadmap for communities to more effectively provide fair and equal access to safe and affordable housing. It applied to recipients of HUD funding—not individual homeowners in the suburbs— and held these recipients accountable for using taxpayer dollars fairly. An absence of intentional policies to undo the pervasive, structural racism in housing and hold 21


Ultimately, HUD struggled to establish a balance between providing jurisdictions with a useful planning tool while also having teeth necessary for accountability. Without enough completed assessments to acquire enough on-theground experience, HUD continued to navigate the space between aspiration and full realization until the Trump Administration announced AFFH’s suspension.

Feature Article: Make Suburbia White Again

communities accountable would deeply impact families’ opportunities to obtain safe and affordable housing. During his campaign, President Biden’s housing platform promised to roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair housing protections—including the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, the 2013 disparate impact rule, and the 2016 rule to provide Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity (NLIHC 2020a)—and to “vigorously enforce” these standards (Biden For President 2020). Additionally, there were calls for the Biden Administration to reinstate the three-part burden shifting standard originally implemented with the 2013 disparate impact rule. President Biden’s team also laid out a lengthy platform that proposed to end “discriminatory and unfair” practices by pushing local governments to change discriminatory local regulations, including zoning policies that lead to racial and economic exclusion (Biron 2020). His platform also detailed a plan for investing $640 billion over 10 years so every American would have access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and within a reasonable commute to their jobs. The first step to achieving this, according to President Biden’s platform, is through ending redlining and other discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market. Many of these promises can be more easily realized with a House and Senate controlled by the Democratic Party. Shortly after inauguration, the Biden Administration ordered HUD to immediately assess the impacts of the Trump Administration changes to the AFFH and disparate impact rules and to then take actions to combat racially discriminatory impacts (Biden 2021). The early AFHs submitted in 2016 suggested that the rule provided some innovative approaches to fair housing that could be refined with time and experience (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). Looking ahead, the Biden Administration should consider improvements to any reinstated AFFH mandate, such as incentivizing collaboration, supporting state jurisdictions and their rural communities, leveraging effective community engagement, and strengthening enforcement. 22

Prior to the rule’s suspension, HUD proactively provided feedback to grantee jurisdictions and received many joint AFH submissions that detailed coordinated planning efforts. HUD could require those agencies that submitted strong fair housing plans under the original rule to share best practices around a new version of the AFFH assessment tool (Ross 2021). Additionally, health, transportation, and education stakeholders can be brought in to create a more robust assessment to any revised rule. For example, the Environmental Protect Agency and Department of Transportation can help elevate green infrastructure and tie transportation to funding programs. By reviewing and refining these processes, a continuous learning loop can be built into the AFFH rule (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019). For non-entitlement rural areas and small towns, HUD can require states to provide more robust technical assistance and data for assessments and planning. Increased technical assistance and capacity building resources can allow HUD to better support non-entitlement areas to address systemic challenges and aggregate best practices. HUD can also use census block-level data as the basis for assessments, which would help small towns and rural areas address long standing patterns of segregation (Hensley 2019). Deepening the HUD database that incorporates both income and racial measures can provide substantial value to these communities and their fair housing goals. Additionally, the AFFH rule can require a robust community engagement process aimed at greater inclusion. HUD can continue to establish guidelines for how to best develop meaningful community participation, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. AFFH can seek to address power imbalances by providing data and engaging with communities early in the process. Data from AFHs can provide examples of best practices for effective community engagement and be disseminated among grantee jurisdictions. HUD, via local stakeholders or agencies, can also provide residents with information from those who conducted the early AFHs and summarize which engagement methods were effective or ineffective (O’Regan & Zimmerman 2019).

Allowing room for refinement in any fair housing process can help federal, state and local actors improve decision making and achieve desired results per the AFFH mandate. Fair housing advocates believe that it is possible to build upon the original rule and develop an approach to equitable planning that is consistent with what FHA set forth over 50 years ago, and the Biden Administration has the opportunity to do so.

REFERENCES Biden for President. 2020. The Biden Plan for Investing in Our Communities through Housing. Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website. https://joebiden.com/housing/.

HUD. 2020b. Secretary Carson Terminates 2015 AFFH Rule. HUD.Gov. https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_ No_20_109.

Biden, Joseph Jr. 2021. Memorandum on Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefingroom/presidential-actions/2021/01/26/memorandum-on-redressingour-nations-and-the-federal-governments-history-of-discriminatoryhousing-practices-and-policies/.

NLIHC. 2020a. Opportunities to End Homelessness and Achieve Housing Justice in a Biden Administration. https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/ NLIHC_Biden-Transition-Memo.pdf.

Biron, Carey L. 2020. “Biden Win Seen as ‘turning Point’ for Affordable Housing.” Reuters, November. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usaelection-housing-trfn-idUSKBN27Q37T. Capps, Kriston. 2020. “With Rule Changes, Trump Launches ‘an Attack on Fair Housing From All Sides.’” Bloomberg, September. https://www. bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-09/how-hud-rewrote-the-ruleson-fair-housing. Chetty, Raj, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence F. Katz. 2016. “The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment.” American Economic Review 106 (4): 855–902. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20150572. FHEO. 2020. Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice. Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/ documents/2020/08/07/2020-16320/preserving-community-andneighborhood-choice. GAO. 2010. GAO-10-905 HUD Needs to Enhance Its Requirements and Oversight of Jurisdictions’ Fair Housing Plans. https://www.gao.gov/new. items/d10905.pdf.

———. 2020b. Trump Administration Final Rule Repealing AFFH Published in Federal Register. National Low Income Housing Coalition. https://nlihc.org/resource/trump-administration-final-rule-repealingaffh-published-federal-register. O’Donnell, Katy, and Daniel Lippman. 2020. White House Scraps Fair Housing Rule as Trump Bids for Suburban Voters. POLITICO. https:// www.politico.com/news/2020/07/22/white-house-scraps-fair-housingrule-as-trump-bids-for-suburban-voters-379379. O’Regan, Katherine M., and Ken Zimmerman. 2019. “The Potential of the Fair Housing Act’s Affirmative Mandate and HUD’s AFFH Rule.” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 21 (1): 87–98. O’Regan, Kathy, and Ken Zimmerman. 2019. “HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule: A Contribution and Challenge to Equity Planning for Mixed Income Communities.” What Works to Promote Inclusive, Equitable Mixed-Income Communities 5: 23. Ross, Lynn M. 2021. New Deal for Housing Justice. Community Change. https://communitychange.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/New-Dealfor-Housing-Justice.Policy-Paper.Community-Change.1.2020.pdf Trump, Donald J. 2020. Donald J. Trump on Twitter. Twitter. https://twitter. com/realDonaldTrump/status/1288509568578777088.

Hensley, Desiree C. 2019. “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in the Deep South: Obama’s AFFH Rule Won’t Make Rural American Less Segregated.” Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law 26: 45.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 23


Finally, the Biden Administration must work to develop an approach that allows federal, state and local agencies to hold bad actors accountable and support those achieving desired equity outcomes. HUD can develop stronger enforcement standards that provide the appropriate balance of discretion and accountability in the oversight of local agencies. HUD must also continue to evaluate workforce needs and human capital challenges within the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and other programs (GAO 2010).

Feature Article: Rethinking Race and Ethnicity as Disaster Risk Factors

RE TH I N KI NG RACE A ND ET HNIC ITY AS DI SASTE R RI SK FACTORS : A Critique of Social Vulnerability Indices

NORA LOUISE SCHWALLER Nora Louise Schwaller is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in

the Department of City and Regional Planning, and a registered architect in the state of North

Carolina. Her research interests focus on migration, climate change adaptation, and equitable


JORDAN BRANHAM Jordan Branham is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning, with a specialization in land use and environmental

planning. His research interests center around two major areas: coastal climate adaptation

and land use planning.

ATTICUS JARAMILLO Atticus Jaramillo is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the

Department of City and Regional Planning, with a specialization in housing and community

development planning. His research focuses on federal housing policy, neighborhood inequality, and residential mobility behavior. MAI THI NGUYEN Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen teaches in the Housing and Community Development specialization. Her

research focuses on housing policy, social and spatial inequality, and resilient communities. She has worked as the MURAP Program Director. She has also served as the Director of New Faculty Programs at the Institute for Arts and Humanities. Dr. Nguyen has recently accepted a

role to be the new Director of the Design Lab at the University of California-San Diego.

ABSTR ACT Problem Approach & Findings As hazards become more prevalent in the era of climate change, there have been a number of initiatives to develop ‘big data’ indices to define areas most at risk. Across a number of these indices, place-based vulnerability is attributed, in part, to the racial and ethnic composition of a given neighborhood, city, or region. Within these vulnerability frameworks, areas with high concentrations of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are often labeled as most vulnerable. We argue that this practice is problematic because it implies but does not make explicit an important link between BIPOC, vulnerability, and a long history of racialized development, while failing to illuminate and address the underlying causes. 24


Implications Using BIPOC as a defining measure for vulnerability perpetuates stereotypes and devalues the protection of BIPOC communities in the face of anthropogenic climate threats. Considering the widespread adoption of social vulnerability indices in hazard mitigation and recovery plans, failing to critically analyze how these indices contribute to the preservation and enhancement of historical patterns of inequality risks the continuation of inherently biased recovery.

INTRODUCTION Disasters do not inflict the same level of harm on all communities. Rather, the adverse effects of hazards vary by space and time, by the architecture of place and physical geographies, and by the supports available to impacted communities. For example, the Chicago heatwave of 1995 overwhelmed the City’s capacity to consistently supply electricity and water to all neighborhoods. By the time the heat broke, there were 525 medically confirmed heat-related deaths, and many of those deaths were concentrated in predominantly African American and lowincome neighborhoods (Klinenberg 1999). The heatwave also disproportionately claimed the lives of seniors – a population that largely lacked the resources needed to escape the heatwave and that was not equitably supported by public assistance and community support programs (Klinenberg 1999). As awareness of the unequal distribution of harm caused by natural disasters – such as the 1995 Chicago heatwave – has grown, so too have planning and policy efforts to mitigate those unequal impacts (Thomas et al. 2009). One way that researchers have attempted to respond to this issue is by developing ‘big data’ indices that use multiple risk indicators to identify areas most vulnerable to disasters (Cutter et al. 2003; Flanagan et al. 2011). The main argument for these indices is that, by identifying high risk areas and

populations before disaster strikes, they can help direct essential resources to those most in-need, reduce the loss of life and property, and mitigate inequality (Van Zandt et al. 2012). At the same time, however, vulnerability indices suffer limitations and are imperfect predictors of disaster impacts and post-disaster outcomes. For these reasons, it is vitally important for researchers and practitioners to be aware of the potential drawbacks of vulnerability indices as planning tools. In this article, we assess the drawbacks of using race and ethnicity variables in indices as indicators of “social vulnerability” – defined by Blaikie et al. (1994, 9) as “the characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impacts of a natural hazard.” In many social vulnerability indices, communities with high concentrations of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are labelled as the most vulnerable. While this approach acknowledges that many BIPOC communities are at an increased physical risk for disasters, we contend that labeling communities as vulnerable merely due to their racial and ethnic composition is also problematic. For instance, while historical development has often led to conditions where BIPOC have settled in more physically vulnerable areas, this is not always the case. Therefore, race is an inferior indicator for vulnerability, compared to measuring vulnerability by the physical composition of land and structures, and many social vulnerability indices obscure the relationship between race and physical vulnerability. Specifically, we argue that this practice is problematic because it implies but does not make explicit an important link between BIPOC, vulnerability, and a long history of racialized development (e.g., redlining, restrictive housing covenants, etc.). In our view, this shortcoming of social vulnerability indices is reason for concern because it 25

Feature Article: Rethinking Race and Ethnicity as Disaster Risk Factors

may reinforce inequities in the disaster recovery process and perpetuate stereotypes that harm communities with high concentrations of BIPOC. To help provide context for these arguments, the article first reviews the history of social vulnerability indices and highlights case-studies that exemplify why BIPOC communities are often most prone to hazards. We then provide justification for our argument and conclude by discussing why it is important to reframe disaster recovery and hazard mitigation planning in antiracist frameworks. By this, we mean that disaster recovery should be used as an opportunity to mitigate the legacy of racialized development in a manner that prioritizes BIPOC communities that have historically been relegated to residing in more physically vulnerable areas. This requires an understanding beyond that which is provided by social vulnerability indices, which are disassociated from historical development processes.

SOCIAL VULNER ABILIT Y INDEXES The social dimensions of disaster vulnerability have been documented in the literature for some time, as efforts to understand and assess vulnerability have long moved beyond a narrow focus on physical exposure (e.g., White and Haas 1975). In recent decades, the study of social vulnerability has evolved to encompass the systematic creation of indices designed to measure social vulnerability across large geographical scales, with the intention of illuminating how social vulnerability varies across space and interacts with physical vulnerabilities. In this section, we describe two such indices, focusing in particular on how these indices use race and ethnicity variables. Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) The Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) was developed by Cutter et al. (2003) in an effort to create a “consistent set of metrics” (245) that could reliably and repeatedly be used to assess social vulnerability to environmental hazards. Drawing on previous work that examined the intersection of social and physical vulnerability (Cutter, Mitchell, and Scott 2000), this team specifically identified seven dimensions of social vulnerability that represented “those characteristics that influence social vulnerability most often found in the literature” (Cutter et al. 2003, 245). They then collected 250 county-level variables related to these dimensions from 26

the U.S. Census. After testing for multicollinearity, and normalizing these data, they whittled the list of variables down to 42. They then used factor analysis to create an even shorter list of variables that adequately captured the explanatory power of the larger 42 variable set. In their final index, race and ethnicity account for a substantial proportion of the variables underlying the index, with 4 of the 11 final variables measuring either race or ethnicity (percent African American, percent Asian, percent Native American, and percent Hispanic). Unsurprisingly, therefore, many of the most vulnerable regions identified by SoVI are those with highly diverse, multi-racial communities (Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, 2016). The inclusion of race and ethnicity as a factor in the study of vulnerability is justified by previous studies that find that disasters tend to have disproportionate adverse impacts on certain racial groups (e.g., Bolin and Stanford 1998). It is also justified by research that documents the role that racism and structural inequalities of power play in creating and perpetuating environmental racism (Pulido 2000b). In their prior work studying vulnerability in Georgetown County, SC, Cutter, Mitchell, and Scott (2000) note the fundamental causes of social vulnerability, which include a “lack of access to resources, including information and knowledge; limited access to political power and representation; certain beliefs and customs; weak buildings or weak individuals; infrastructure and lifelines” (726). Race, as Cutter et al. (2003) later reasons, contributes to the circumstances that often become an underlying cause of vulnerability, such as political marginalization; thus, in the case of SoVI, race becomes a demographic indicator serving as a proxy for the measurement of these fundamental causes. CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) Developed by Flanagan et al. in 2011, the CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) is also commonly used in the U.S. In contrast to SoVI, which was originally constructed at the county level, the SVI is constructed at the Census tract level using data from the American Community Survey (ACS 5-year estimates) and is put forth as a tool that can be used in aiding emergency preparedness and targeting post-disaster relief (CDC 2020). Drawing in part

This trend extends to environmental justice, where the spatial application of racism contributes to environmental racism and can lead to situations where BIPOC face outsized exposure to environmental hazards (Pulido 2000). The remainder of this section outlines specific examples of how environmental racism can lead to such situations. These examples help contextualize why it is problematic that social vulnerability indices do not make explicit the important link between BIPOC, vulnerability, and a long history of racialized development.

Importantly, the CDC’s vulnerability measure is broken into four broad themes - Socioeconomic Status, Household Composition, Race/Ethnicity/Language, and Housing/ Transportation - with each tract receiving a separate ranking for each theme as well as a composite score. This disaggregation helps distinguish between the inputs that contribute to a community’s vulnerability and allows for a more nuanced assessment of risk and resulting community needs. However, it still aggregates diverse populations into vulnerable categories, without attention given to historical factors or nuanced local-level impacts.

Princeville, NC Princeville, NC, originally named Freedom Hill, was the first U.S. town to be governed by African Americans. It was founded in 1865, in the shadow of the Civil War, along the swampy banks of the Tar River and south of the predominantly white city of Tarboro, which laid on higher ground. This development was possible because, even in the mid 1800s, the land was so susceptible to flooding that it was cheap enough for freed slaves to afford and undesirable enough that their white neighbors found its development by their black neighbors, who provided cheap labor, to be advantageous rather than distressing (Philips, Stukes, and Jenkins 2012).

Racism, Inequality, and Disaster Risk While both SoVI and SVI rightfully acknowledge that communities with high concentrations of BIPOC are often at an elevated risk for disasters, these indices are problematic because they imply but do not make explicit an important link between BIPOC, vulnerability, and a long history of racialized development. Racial inequity is built into spatial patterns across the United States (Soja 2010). This is a product of both conscious hostile acts, such as instances of physical and personal attacks, as well as structural manifestations of white privilege, such as the development of restrictive housing covenants based on race (Trounstine 2020; Peacock et al. 2014). Further, areas predominantly populated by BIPOC tend to have more limited resources and services due to historical disinvestment in both the people and the places, which occurred in tandem with the production of advantages for white neighborhoods (Goetz, Williams, and Damiano, 2020; Williams 2019). As a result, BIPOC neighborhoods have traditionally faced issues not seen in intentionally privileged white areas.

The development offered a chance for formerly enslaved men and women to develop a community and insulate themselves, partially, from larger patterns of violent racism. However, in many ways, this was a false promise. Princeville continued to flood. In 1999, five rain events caused flooding that exceeded a 500-year event. There was a two-week period where the town was fully inundated; the floodwaters rose to sweep the land clean of structures, and with them, the photographs, furniture, and other trappings of a history of a lived life, so that only the land and legacy remained (Philips, Stukes, and Jenkins 2012). More recently, Princeville has had to continually reckon with its physical vulnerability as a result of Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018), which has led to a dramatic decline in population despite recently promised federal investment. The disparate impact these storms had can be seen in Figure 1, which shows the flooding extent of Hurricane Matthew, and how it disproportionately impacted Princeville, compared to Tarboro right across 27


on the work of Cutter et al. (2003), the authors note that social and economic marginalization and discrimination have produced more vulnerable populations, specifically asserting that “African Americans; Native Americans; and populations of Asian, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic origin are correlated with higher vulnerability rates” (Flanagan et al. 2011, 5). Accounting for this, the authors include ‘percent minority’, measured as the percentage of the population that is not white, as one of 15 variables comprising their index.

Feature Article: Rethinking Race and Ethnicity as Disaster Risk Factors

FIGURE 1 - Flood extents from Hurricane Matthew show a disproportionate impact on Princeville, which is

located on low ground

the river. Princeville is just one example of centuries of racist policies and actions producing conditions in which communities of color are more susceptible to natural hazards. New Orleans, LA The City of New Orleans was originally founded as La Nouvelle-Orléans by the French in 1718. It is a palimpsest of urban history through the colonization of the Americas, and the policies that guided the U.S.’s growth through to the 21st century. Through the first century of its growth, development in New Orleans focused on the thin strip of land along the Mississippi river, which was both advantageously located for shipping, and on higher ground, built up from centuries of silt deposited by the river. However, after a series of technological advances in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the swampland on the lake-side of the city was drained and 28

developed. These areas are below sea-level and need to be pumped dry whenever it rains (BondGraham 2007). Around the same time when low-lying lands were opened to increased development, Jim Crow laws and white flight resulted in an outmigration of white residents to the growing suburbs, which were largely unavailable to nonwhite Americans. Consequently, BIPOC became heavily concentrated in these low-lying areas. Because these were still the conditions when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, black neighborhoods were the areas that faced the most damage and displacement, the highest rates of mortality and illness, and the greatest loss of wealth (Germany 2007). Relationship Back to Social Vulnerability Indices These examples illustrate that racism, not racial composition, led to situations where communities with



high proportions of BIPOC are more likely to be physically it difficult to understand why a specific area is labeled as vulnerable to natural disasters compared to majority-white “highly vulnerable.” One cannot determine, for example, if communities. This is part of the reasoning behind using a given county has a high score due to the overlap between race as a socioeconomic vulnerability indicator; other poverty and percent population living in rural areas or, in aspects include how being non-white is associated with contrast, due to the overlap between people who identify less accumulated wealth, less political power, etc. (Cutter as black or African American and median home values. 1996). However, using race as a shorthand for physical Thus, these indices may help identify at-risk areas, but vulnerability obscures the path between racism and provide little information about what specific combination vulnerability to disasters and is therefore a less useful of factors makes those areas particularly susceptible to measure for indexing vulnerability compared to measuring natural hazards and disasters. With respect to race and actual physical risk (e.g., relative elevation, housing quality, ethnicity, this caveat makes it difficult to understand etc.). whether a community is deemed “highly vulnerable” due to the concentration of BIPOC in that community or due In the context of our case studies, both unveil a history to some other factor (Cutter et al. 2003; Flanagan 2011). of racism that drove the settlement of predominantly black residents in primarily low-lying and physically Part of this obfuscation has to do with the method used to vulnerable areas. This would be captured in the SoVI, which create some vulnerability indices: principal component would highlight these areas as particularly vulnerable to analysis (PCA). Within the social sciences, PCA is used to disruption. But it ignores the why, and would be better measure “unobservable variables” or “latent constructs” captured by simply measuring the relative elevation and that can only be captured via multiple indicator variables the quality of housing stock. Therefore, in areas where (Vyas & Kumaranayake 2006). Because it is not desirable low-lying lands are valued higher (e.g., in Miami, where to include all these indicators in a single statistical model, low-lying coastal lands are both particularly vulnerable PCA collapses these variables into multiple “principal and particularly desirable; Keenan, Hill, and Gumber 2018), components” – each of which measures the degree of interusing race as a shorthand for vulnerable development correlation among variables that display similar linear obscures and complicates the relationship. trends. Importantly, each of these principal components is assumed to represent a distinct factor explaining the A R ACIAL EQUIT Y CRITIQUE OF overall latent construct of interest. For example, Cutter SOCIAL VULNER ABILIT Y INDICES et al. (2003) labels one principal component of the SoVI As noted in the previous section, social vulnerability Index as “wealth” because it measures the degree of indices imply but do not make explicit an important intercorrelation between several variables that are link between BIPOC, vulnerability, and a long history reflective of wealth accumulation within a county, of racialized development. This section provides a more including: median housing value, percent of households in-depth discussion about why we believe this practice is earning over $200,000 annually, median gross rent, perproblematic and outlines our broader concerns with social capita income, and percent Asian. vulnerability indices. The main argument we advance is that this practice may reinforce inequities in the disaster Because each component is assumed to represent recovery process and perpetuate stereotypes that harm an important factor that explains the overall latent communities with high concentrations of BIPOC. construct, it is instructive to analyze the percent of cumulative variance explained by each component: the OBSCURING THE ROLE OF more cumulative variance explained by the component, R ACE AND ETHNICIT Y the more important it is in explaining the overall Because social vulnerability indices collapse numerous latent construct. A close look at both the SoVI and SVI indicators into a single measure of vulnerability, they make indices shows that the components representing race

Feature Article: Rethinking Race and Ethnicity as Disaster Risk Factors

and ethnicity account for a substantial amount of the cumulative variance explained. In the SoVI index, the race and ethnicity components account for 26 percent of the total variance explained. In the SVI index, principal components representing race and ethnicity account for nearly 30 percent of the total variance explained. Thus, in both indices, race and ethnicity are primary factors dictating the overall vulnerability score. This raises an important question: if race and ethnicity are such important factors in explaining the overall latent construct measured by the PCA analysis, why discuss that construct in terms of “social vulnerability” rather than “systemic racism”? To this end, one of our primary concerns with social vulnerability indices is that they obscure the centrality of race and ethnicity – and relatedly of racism – in shaping which communities are most adversely impacted by natural disasters. Unreliable Predictor of Disaster Impacts and Recovery Another reason that social vulnerability indices are problematic is because they do not appear to serve their stated goals – which are to highlight areas of concern for further investigation or as potential recipients of greater resources and to help communities “build back better” (Cutter 2003; Flanagan et al. 2018; Lue & Wilson 2017; Kim and Olshansky 2014; Oliver-Smith 1990). For example, work has shown that social vulnerability (defined by SoVI) is related to a “recovery divide” in Mississippi post-Katrina, but not in New Jersey post-Sandy (Cutter et al. 2014). Social vulnerability (defined by SoVI) also had a mixed relationship with recovery indicators in post-Katrina New Orleans when controlling for damages and, although SoVI and SVI have both been adopted into local plans, we have not found any studies that show a relationship to post-disaster aid (Finch, Emrich, and Cutter 2010). A larger scale analysis of social vulnerability indices also yielded similar results. Specifically, this study found that social vulnerability indices were not a consistent predictor of disaster outcomes – including disaster damages (by cost), disaster declarations, and disaster fatalities from 2000 to 2012 – across all counties in the Gulf Coast states (Bakkensen et al. 2017). In this study, SoVI had a positive and statistically significant relationship to property damages and disaster declarations; SVI had a positive and statistically significant relationship to damages and fatalities, but a negative and 30

statistically significant relationship to disaster declarations. In summary, the authors of the study noted that “not all indices perform as expected” (997). The fact that social vulnerability indices are not highly associated with disaster impacts or recovery implies that these indices do not comprehensively capture the political, social, economic, and natural factors that influence disaster impacts and outcomes. This is important because it suggests that social vulnerability indices are out-of-touch with disaster processes that actually unfold on the ground. Given this disconnect, it is therefore questionable whether these indices improve planning scholars’ and practitioners’ ability to understand and mitigate the inequitable distribution of disaster impacts across communities. Our main concern with this shortcoming is that absent practical utility, these indices merely identify communities as vulnerable rather than – as stated by their goals – encourage the equitable deployment of disaster recovery resources to those communities. As discussed in upcoming sections, this shortcoming of social vulnerability indices may have substantial ramifications for communities with a high concentration of BIPOC. Furthering Disinvestment in BIPOC Communities A major potential drawback of social vulnerability indices is that they may discourage planners and policymakers from making investments in neighborhoods labeled as vulnerable. Because the term vulnerability implies an increased threat of risk and likelihood of loss: why invest in an area that is “vulnerable” to natural destruction? If vulnerability indices are used in such a fashion to withhold investments from BIPOC communities, this practice may compound the failures of existing disaster relief programs for those communities. As studies have shown, disaster recovery programs rely on local governments to have the knowledge and capacity to act as the local administrators of the program and advocates for their citizens – a process that favors wealthier communities with more formal education and staff capacity. Due to historic disinvestment in BIPOC communities, however, such capacity is often lacking. This in turn makes it difficult for these communities to access disaster relief programs.



For example, an analysis by Mach et al. (2019) of 40,000 CONCLUSION voluntary buyouts has shown that buyouts are more likely Planners play an essential role in helping communities to occur in richer, more populated areas. However, within ‘build back better’ in the aftermath of a disaster (Kim these areas, buyouts are more likely to be used by poorer, and Olshansky 2014). However, much of the planning more socially vulnerable citizens. This finding suggests literature on disaster recovery minimizes or ignores that the institutional capacity, expertise, and money of the influence of racism on post-disaster outcomes (see, richer communities helps them connect citizens with for example: Siembieda 2014). Without accounting for post-disaster relief and – by the same token – that poorer this reality, most recovery processes systematically communities are disadvantaged in the disaster recovery increase inequality (Howell and Elliott 2019; Peacock process due to lack of access to institutional resources and et al. 2014). To address these issues, planners need to wealth. Recent research by Elliot, Brown, and Loughran reframe recovery with an anti-racist framework. By this, (2020) has provided further evidence of this trend, finding we mean that recovery initiatives need to consider and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) address structural disadvantages that are often inherent buyout programs tend to target whiter communities, in the communities of BIPOC due to a history of racist particularly in urbanized areas, even though history shows development. Planners and emergency managers need to that neighborhoods of color are more likely to accept a explicitly detail the impacts of inequitable development buyout. Research by Howell and Elliott (2018; 2019) further when creating recovery plans that identify social reveals that aid from FEMA exacerbates the racial wealth vulnerability as a pre-existing condition. This would gap between black and white residents. help recognize the limitations and problems of defining vulnerability primarily through race, and lead to plans Perpetuating Stereotypes that are more responsive to community needs. Finally, social vulnerability indices may perpetuate negative stereotypes of BIPOC communities. By labeling Anti-racism needs to inform how we think of social communities as “vulnerable” merely due to the high vulnerability indices. While these indices were developed concentration of BIPOC, these indices implicitly frame with the intention of helping to direct more support to predominantly white communities as less vulnerable those most in need, it is not clear that they are successful and more resilient. This, in turn, further reinforces the in identifying areas most in need of support, or that they view that BIPOC communities are inherently less resilient are being used appropriately in this manner. To this end, compared to white communities, rather than highlighting we suggest two solutions. First, future work is needed to the reality that systemic racism is a primary factor that identify how, and to what degree, social vulnerability has made BIPOC communities particularly susceptible indices are used by state and local governments to to natural disasters and hazards. Furthermore, it fails to inform post-disaster recovery and the allocation of recognize that BIPOC communities have shown incredible financial support. Second, we must re-conceptualize resilience when facing environmental and social hazards social vulnerability indices as blunt tools rather than throughout history. The potential for social vulnerability comprehensive databases. While social vulnerability indices to perpetuate stereotypes is particularly alarming indices may be useful in identifying areas in need of a given that – as described in previous sections – these more nuanced analysis of needs and risk, they should not indices do not appear to help planners identify or mitigate be used as a definitive marker of pre-existing deficiencies. the factors that make BIPOC communities particularly susceptible to disasters.

Feature Article: Rethinking Race and Ethnicity as Disaster Risk Factors

REFERENCES Bakkensen, Laura A., Cate Fox-Lent, Laura K. Read, and Igor Linkov. 2017. “Validating Resilience and Vulnerability Indices in the Context of Natural Disasters.” Risk Analysis 37 (5): 982–1004. https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.12677.

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Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute. 2016. “The SoVI Recipe.” http:// artsandsciences.sc.edu/geog/hvri/sovi-recipe.

BondGraham, Darwin. 2007. “The New Orleans That Race Built: Racism, Disaster, and Urban Spatial Relationships.” Souls 9 (1): 4–18. https://doi. org/10.1080/10999940701224874.

Howell, Junia. 2019. “The Unstudied Reference Neighborhood: Towards a Critical Theory of Empirical Neighborhood Studies.” Sociology Compass 13 (1): 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12649.

CDC. 2020. “CDC Social Vulnerability Index.” Center for Disease Control. https:// www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/fact_sheet/pdf/SVI_FactSheet_ v10152020-H.pdf.

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Cutter, Susan L., Bryan J. Boruff, and W. Lynn Shirley. 2003. “Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards.” Social Science Quarterly 84 (2): 242–61. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002. Cutter, S.L., Emrich, C.T., Mitchell, J.T., Piegorsch, W.W., Smith, M.M. and Weber, L., 2014. “Hurricane Katrina and the forgotten coast of Mississippi.” Cambridge University Press. Cutter, Susan L. 1996. “Vulnerability to Hazards.” Progress in Human Geography 20 (4): 529–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/030913259602000407. Cutter, Susan L, Jerry T Mitchell, and Michael S Scott. 2000. “Case Study of Georgetown County , South Carolina Revealing the Vulnerability of People and Places : A Case Study of Georgetown.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 90 (4): 713–37. https://doi.org/10.1111/0004-5608.00219. Elliott, James R, Phylicia Lee Brown, and Kevin Loughran. 2020. “Racial Inequities in the Federal Buyout of Flood-Prone Homes : A Nationwide Assessment of Environmental Adaptation.” https://doi. org/10.1177/2378023120905439.

IPCC. 2012. “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.” https://doi.org/10.1596/978-08213-8845-7. Keefe, Phil O, Ken Westgate, and Ben Wisner. 1976. “Taking the Naturalness out of Natural Disasters” 260: 566–67. Kim, Karl, and Robert B. Olshansky. 2014. “The Theory and Practice of Building Back Better.” Journal of the American Planning Association 80 (4): 289–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2014.988597. Klinenberg, Eric. 1999. “Denaturalizing Disaster: A Social Autopsy of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave.” Theory and Society 28 (2): 239–95. Lue, Evan, and John P. Wilson. 2017. “Mapping Fires and American Red Cross Aid Using Demographic Indicators of Vulnerability.” Disasters 41 (2): 409–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/disa.12198. Mach, Katharine J., Caroline M. Kraan, Miyuki Hino, A. R. Siders, Erica M. Johnston, and Christopher B. Field. 2019. “Managed Retreat through Voluntary Buyouts of Flood-Prone Properties.” Science Advances 5 (10): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax8995.

Fields, Billy. 2009. “From Green Dots to Greenways: Planning in the Age of Climate Change in Post-Katrina New Orleans.” Journal of Urban Design 14 (3): 325–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/13574800903056515.

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Finch, Christina, Christopher T. Emrich, and Susan L. Cutter. 2010. “Disaster Disparities and Differential Recovery in New Orleans.” Population and Environment 31 (4): 179–202. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-009-0099-8.

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Phillips, Brenda, Patricia Ann Stukes, and Pamela Jenkins. 2012. “Freedom Hill Is Not for Sale-and Neither Is the Lower Ninth Ward.” Journal of Black Studies 43 (4): 405–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934711425489. Pulido, Laura. 2000. “Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California (2000).” The People, Place, and Space Reader 90 (1): 334–39. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315816852. Siembieda, William J. 2014. “Toward a Risk-Based Framework for Land Use Reconstruction Planning.” Journal of the American Planning Association 80 (4): 338–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2014.989081. Soja, Edward W. 2010. Seeking Spatial Justice. University of Minnesota Press. Thomas, D. S. K., Fothergill, A., Phillips, B. D., & Blinn-Pike, L. (Eds.). (2009). Social vulnerability to disasters. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentralproquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu. Vyas, S. , & Kumaranayake, L. (2006). Constructing socio-economic status indices: How to use principal components analysis. Health Policy and Planning , 21(6), 459–468. White, Gilbert F., and J. Eugene Haas. 1975. Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Williams, Rashad Akeem. 2020. “From Racial to Reparative Planning: Confronting the White Side of Planning.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, no. June. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X20946416. Zandt, Shannon van, Walter Gillis Peacock, Dustin W. Henry, Himanshu Grover, Wesley E. Highfield, and Samuel D. Brody. 2012. “Mapping Social Vulnerability to Enhance Housing and Neighborhood Resilience.” Housing Policy Debate 22 (1): 29–55. https://doi.org/10.1080/10511482.2011.624528.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 33

Feature Article: “America’s Greatest Comeback Story” and the Forgotten Neighborhood

“AM E RI CA’S GRE ATEST COMEBAC K STORY” AND TH E FO RGOT T EN NEIGHBORHOOD Fifteen years post-hurricane Katrina, has the lower ninth ward recovered?

KATIE KOFFMAN Koffman is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student at the University of

North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying climate change adaptation and environmental planning. Her research focuses on resilience planning and natural hazards in coastal North Carolina. She

also has a master’s degree in Environmental Anthropology from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Spanish from Miami University (Ohio).

ABSTR ACT On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, creating widespread devastation and displacing thousands of residents. In the aftermath of the storm, white neighborhoods recovered and gained population. The city regained its status as a tourist destination. However, Black neighborhoods, such as the Lower Ninth Ward, still have a long way to go 15 years after the storm. The history of the social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities superimposed on non-white residents from the inception of New Orleans set-up the uneven recovery postKatrina. In this article, I demonstrate how the historic conditions of the Lower Ninth Ward are connected to the stymied recovery and the injustices residents faced in the subsequent 15 years. The disinvestment of Black New Orleanians implies that the Lower Ninth Ward has never recovered. Historically discriminatory housing practices prevented residents from rebuilding their homes. Decades of inequitable and racist policies favored white homeownership and prevented Black residents’ access to loans. The city segregated its neighborhoods based on wealth and elevation, relegating immigrants and Black residents to low-lying areas that flooded frequently. This resulted in low housing values, which impacted how much Black residents received to rebuild their homes post-Katrina. Only 37% of the 14,000 pre-storm residents returned to the Lower Ninth Ward. Those who have returned are susceptible to environmental hazards, economic instability, and a lack of basic, reliable public services. 34


INTRODUCTION On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. The city was unprepared for the storm’s devastation, despite prolonged warnings about a scenario such as this. The most devastating effects came from the levee breach, which caused up to 12 feet of flooding in sections of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward (LNW; Allen 2015). The flooding wiped out neighborhoods and covered about 80% of New Orleans (Rivlin 2015; Servick 2018). In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged the poorly constructed levees failed to protect residents from catastrophic flooding (Robertson & Schwartz 2015). Approximately 1,800 people died from the storm, but no official counts of direct and indirect deaths exist (Bialik 2015; Servick 2018). In 2015, around the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu stated the city was “America’s greatest comeback story” and “no longer recovering, no longer rebuilding” (Rivlin 2016). The city’s population was growing, and it reclaimed its standing as a popular tourist destination. Neighborhoods looked better than before the storm. The Army Corps of Engineers finished a massive public infrastructure project to reinforce the levees (Robertson & Schwartz 2015). However, Mayor Landrieu’s depiction glossed over the other side of the story. African American neighborhoods that were disadvantaged before Katrina are still devastated. Thousands of Black residents left New Orleans for good. Estimates suggest about 37% of the 14,000 pre-storm residents returned to the LNW. Approximately 700 LNW homeowners sold their land to the State of Louisiana after the hurricane (Allen 2015). Those who came back faced concerns about future flooding and a lack of resources to rebuild their homes. Many residents did not receive enough money to rebuild because of the low housing values in the ward, based on historically racist practices of zoning by

city officials and redlining by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC; Allen 2015). While Katrina impacted the entire city, the historical inequities faced by the LNW set the neighborhood up for devastation and unjust recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Disaster Recovery Framework describes recovery as the “capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively” (2016). FEMA frames recovery as a multifaceted process that includes more than just the physical restoration of a place after damage. It includes the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of community members. It also strengthens the resilience of communities through means such as improving medical and social services, the education system, natural and cultural resources, affordable housing, economic resources, and infrastructure. This process also includes preparation for future events, mitigation efforts to reduce vulnerability, and improved response capabilities after a significant event. While recovery takes time, it is essential to address all vulnerable aspects damaged by a weather event and not return to the baseline conditions that exacerbated the disaster’s effects. Based on FEMA’s framework, the LNW has not recovered from Katrina due to the pre-and post-storm conditions that persist, while predominantly white wards meet recovery criteria.

PRE-STORM VULNER ABILITIES OF THE LNW The LNW’s geographic, economic, and social vulnerabilities grew from historical discrimination and disinvestment, which impacted the community’s post-Katrina recovery. In the 1800s, wealthier, white residents constructed homes in elevated parts of the city with better drainage areas, such as the French Quarter (Landphair 2007). The French engineered the land to 35

Feature Article: “America’s Greatest Comeback Story” and the Forgotten Neighborhood

create levees, canals, floodwalls, and housing. Canals and ditches drained and carried water to the swamplands. After the Civil War, New Orleans built a system of gutters, ditches, and pumps that permanently altered the topography and created subsidence (Campanella 2018). While this naturally occurs when sediments accumulate and compress, sinking the land they are on, the subsidence of New Orleans is mainly due to human activity (Lux 2019). It is important to note that the construction and topographical alterations of the European settlers were built using the labor of enslaved people, and the City’s early economy centered on the slave trade (Seicshnaydre et al. 2018). Before the Civil War, there was little racial segregation in New Orleans, but this resulted from an ordinance that prevented enslaved people from living anywhere but on their enslaver’s property. After the Civil War, Jim Crow laws established segregation practices that separated people according to race in places such as public facilities and restaurants. These laws allowed states to disenfranchise residents through practices such as denying African Americans the right to vote. Additionally, cities passed racial zoning ordinances in the early twentieth century to prevent Black residents from buying homes in white neighborhoods (Seicshnaydre et al. 2018). Italian, Irish, and German immigrants, and formerly enslaved people, were relegated to low-lying, flood-prone areas, such as the Ninth Ward (Landphair 2007). Racial zoning practices—those that prevented racial groups from moving into white neighborhoods—were ended by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1917 in Buchanan v. Warley, but city officials found other ways to segregate residents (Silver 1997). For example, officials used their new Euclidean zoning powers to prevent the property value blight and congestion that occurred “whenever the colored or certain foreign races invade a residential section” (Ambler Realty Co. v. Village of Euclid, Ohio). HOLC and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) prevented Black families from buying homes by denying access to real estate loans and incentivizing white families to move to the suburbs through subsidized loans (Seicshnaydre et al., 2018). In 1914, the Louisiana state legislature authorized the construction of the Industrial Canal to connect to the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the Port of New Orleans. The 36

canal brought greater economic prospects to the city (Horowitz 2020; Kaplan-Levenson 2018). The MississippiRiver Gulf Outlet (MRGO) connected the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to the Industrial Canal by 1968. This allowed for increased shipping capacities, but also the expansion of the oil industry (Horowitz 2020). However, once completed, the canals cut the Ninth Ward and East New Orleans off from the city, creating the LNW, a physical and symbolic disconnect between the two parts of New Orleans (KaplanLevenson 2018). Initially, the canal brought more people to the LNW to work at the wharves to export oil. The City built the Claiborne Bridge in 1957 to reconnect the two parts of New Orleans (Kaplan-Levenson 2018). However, this bridge destroyed other Black neighborhoods and displaced residents (Seicshnaydre et al. 2018). The GI Bill created a construction boom in the LNW after World War II and doubled its size between 1940 and 1960 (Horowitz 2020). At the same time, white New Orleanians used the GI Bill to move to the suburbs and remain in the highest parts of the city. The GI Bill only provided loans to African American veterans if they constructed homes in specific parts of the city, such as the LNW. Racial covenants—a stipulation in property deeds that the owners could not sell or rent homes to nonwhite people—were instituted in white neighborhoods such as Lakeview to prevent integration. Despite racial covenants being declared unconstitutional in 1948, they persisted until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Seicshnaydre et al. 2018). Even though Black residents could not move to the white parishes and suburbs, the LNW offered homeownership opportunities and economic stability not found in other African American neighborhoods within the city (Horowitz 2020). However, the vulnerabilities of this area became apparent when Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965. The category three hurricane created a storm surge that caused the floodwalls of the Industrial Canal to collapse. About 12 feet of water inundated the LNW (Horowitz 2020; Landphair 2007). Eighty-one people died, and 6,000 houses flooded (Horowitz 2020). After Hurricane Betsy, economic disinvestment in the LNW exacerbated the neighborhood’s inability to recover from the devastation. LNW residents were not allowed back into their homes without the deeds,

Hurricane Betsy created long-term damage in its wake, intensifying the social vulnerabilities in the LNW in the years preceding Hurricane Katrina. By 2000, one-third of the LNW residents lived in poverty (Landphair 2007). The average annual household income was less than $20,000, and approximately 40% of the population in the LNW had no high school diploma (Lascell & Baumann 2015). The unemployment rate in the neighborhood was 11% in 2005. Seventeen percent of the households received public assistance (Turner & Zedlewski 2006). In 2003, a study found that 56% of 258 homes in the LNW had “at least one hazard (e.g., excessive moisture or pest infestation)” (Landphair 2007). Almost two-thirds of the residents in the LNW owned multi-generational homes, but many of the houses were poorly constructed and maintained (Lascell & Baumann 2015; Rivlin 2015; Turner & Zedlewski 2006). Despite repetitive flooding, subsidence, and prior devastation from hurricanes, FEMA zoned the LNW as “low-risk” for flooding because of its proximity to the levees and did not require residents to buy flood insurance (Turner & Zedlewski 2006). In the days leading up to Katrina, about 75-80% of the New Orleans metropolitan population evacuated the city. According to scenarios the state and FEMA ran in July 2004, a category three storm could create disastrous flooding and destruction, and residents would need a three-day warning to evacuate and avoid mass casualties (Thomas 2005). However, the City did not mandate evacuations until 20 hours before landfall. Approximately 20-25% of the city’s population remained, which disproportionately included vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and low-income residents (Horowitz 2020; Landphair 2007). In the LNW, 32.4% of the population did not have access to a vehicle or could not afford gas (Lascell & Baumann, 2015; Turner &

Zedlewski 2006), suggesting that a disproportionate share of LNW residents were unable to evacuate before the storm.

IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH IN NEW ORLEANS AND THE LNW A powerful storm surge came in through the Industrial Canal from the MRGO during the storm, which caused an estimated 50 levees to fail across the city and created massive destruction in the LNW (Horowitz 2017). When the Army Corps of Engineers built the MRGO in the 1950s, it wiped out thousands of acres of wetlands that served as a natural barrier against flooding and hurricanes (Lascell & Baumann 2015). After the hurricane, the floodwaters rose and did not subside for nearly six weeks (Lascell & Baumann, 2015). The city, the state, and FEMA were unprepared for a refugee crisis due to thousands of stranded residents, making for inhumane conditions in the Superdome and the Ernest K. Morial Convention Center. Meanwhile, police escalated violence against Black residents across the city under the guise of “maintaining order” (Horowitz 2020). Residents of the LNW faced adversity from the beginning of the recovery efforts. The city barred residents from returning to the neighborhood for four months after the storm. Armed guards prevented residents from crossing the bridge to check on their homes as the structures were “unsafe to enter or in imminent danger of collapse” (Landphair 2007; Rivlin 2015). Garbage piles accumulated in the streets, the sewer and drain systems overflowed, toxic mold destroyed homes, and powerlines fell during the storm. The ward experienced further flooding on September 24 from Hurricane Rita (Lascell & Baumann 2015). The city razed several homes before residents could return to gather their remaining belongings. LNW residents did not receive FEMA trailers until June 2006, six months after other neighborhoods, and ten months after Katrina (Rivlin 2015).



which people left behind while fleeing. At first, residents struggled to access recovery loans, food, and medical care. Residents received loans to rebuild if they qualified, which placed many in debt as they attempted to recover after losing everything. However, predominantly white parishes such as St. Bernard distributed grants to rebuild, which left these homeowners better off financially and socially post-Betsy (Horowitz 2020; O’Brien & Amin 2015).

Feature Article: “America’s Greatest Comeback Story” and the Forgotten Neighborhood

UNEVEN REBUILDING AND RECOVERY EFFORTS The recovery efforts of the LNW continue 15 years after the storm. While the inequities of recovery are extensive, this section covers the debate about rebuilding the LNW, housing and insurance payouts, and the role of wealth. As Berube & Holmes (2015) observed, New Orleans’s efforts, or lack thereof, to rebuild the LNW reflected “a long-standing policy of neglect toward the city’s most vulnerable residents, exemplified by their continued segregation into neighborhoods of high poverty.” In the weeks and months following Katrina, prominent figures such as New Orleans’s emergency operations director, Terry Ebbert; the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, Alphonso Jackson; and then-mayor Ray Nagin, wrote off the LNW as unsalvageable (Rivlin 2015). This sentiment, coupled with pre-and poststorm systematic discrimination, set-up a difficult recovery process. LNW residents wanted to restore the community for its history, culture, and social value (Turner & Zedlewski 2006). The discussion about not rebuilding sections of the city targeted historically Black neighborhoods, while white communities were never in question. For example, Lakeview, a wealthy, predominately white neighborhood with similar vulnerabilities, experienced extensive flooding and destruction from a breached levee, much like the LNW (Colom 2016; Landphair 2007; Rivlin 2015; Robertson & Fausset 2015). It is at a lower elevation than the LNW, but the city allowed Lakeview residents to rebuild their homes without question (Robertson & Fausset 2015). The city contemplated not rebuilding sections of the city for environmental engineering purposes. Tulane professor Richard Campanella dubbed this the “Great Katrina Footprint Debate” as the city grappled with whether it should revert 20-40% of its landmass to wetlands (Rivlin 2015). Racism tinged the debate, since the neighborhoods slated for potential demolition housed about 80% of New Orleans’s Black population (Rivlin 2015). The discussion reinforced historical injustices and discriminatory practices that restricted Black families to the vulnerable parts of the city.


The city eventually allowed the LNW to rebuild but placed barriers in the way. As mentioned, FEMA labeled the LNW as a low-risk flood area, and consequently, hundreds of families did not receive a payout for their homes after the storm (Turner & Zedlewski 2006). Residents also did not have access to basic public services such as trash collection and functioning sewers (Lascell & Baumann 2015). In 2008, the city agreed to help clear out the LNW, but as of 2015, there were houses still awaiting removal (Lascell & Baumann 2015). The federal government and the State of Louisiana implemented a market-based recovery, which drove further inequitable recovery efforts. HUD initiated the Road Home program, one of the largest housing recovery efforts in U.S. history, with a Community Development Block Grant to the State for distribution (Rivlin 2016; Horowitz, 2020). The State then paid homeowners based either on the market value of their house or the cost of rebuilding the home, whichever was lower (Colom,2016; Perry 2010). Many Black homeowners could not rebuild because they had low housing values, and it cost significantly more to reconstruct. Homes in Black neighborhoods “generally have lower appraisal values than homes in white neighborhoods, largely due to decades of racial discrimination in the Louisiana housing market that has caused and reinforced segregation in housing” (Colom 2016; Perry 2010). White neighborhoods had higher housing prices, experienced less damage due to elevation, and received more money to rebuild. Many white neighborhoods like Lakeview recovered and prospered due to their access to resources and insurance payments (O’Brien & Amin 2015; Seicshnaydre et al., 2018). The high rate of LNW homeownership diminished after Katrina because of the Road Home program. Road Home required proof of ownership, but multi-generational homeowners often did not have the original deed, which prevented them from receiving recovery money (Rivlin 2015). The program further exacerbated housing disparities in New Orleans since Black families could not afford to rebuild their homes. Additionally, the storm destroyed a significant portion of the city’s public housing stock, which was not rebuilt (Colom, 2016). In 2008, a lawsuit

Concurrent with market-based housing disparities and those produced by Road Home, FEMA created further issues with its infamous trailers. The agency did not have a plan to move displaced residents to temporary housing, nor subsequently from the trailers back to permanent housing. The trailers were not placed near the LNW and lacked basic amenities such as schools, public transportation, and jobs (Turner & Zedlewski 2006). Additionally, the trailers caused health problems because the levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, were five to 40 times higher than legally allowed. People developed headaches, nosebleeds, respiratory infections, and flu-like symptoms. In 2008, FEMA admitted during Congressional testimony it knew the trailers contained formaldehyde (Smith 2015). The tension over redeveloping the LNW is ongoing. While some residents returned, the LNW is a fraction of its original size. The city demolished the only public school in the ward and did not reconstruct another for over a decade. Other delayed promises from the city and the state include a $20.5 million community center and the reestablishment of public services (Lascell & Baumann 2015). In contrast, in predominantly white neighborhoods, the city invested in better infrastructure, public transportation, and recreation facilities (The Data Center 2018). Historically Black areas such as the LNW “have been much slower to rebuild and recover their previous population levels” (Berube & Holmes,2015).

PRESENT DAY HA Z ARDS IN THE LNW ASSESSED Environmental hazards The federal government recognized that the MRGO was partly responsible for the flooding in the LNW and St. Bernard Parish and closed the Canal in 2009 with a 1.8-mile surge barrier (Horowitz 2020). The Army Corps of Engineers spent over $14 billion to upgrade flood

infrastructures that included levees, floodwalls, and the world’s largest water pump, which displaces 20,000 cubic feet of water per second (Craig & Sellers 2019; Frank 2019). Despite these improvements, subsidence and rising sea levels will soon render the infrastructure useless (Craig & Sellers 2019; Frank 2019). In 2016, scientists found that the Lower and Upper Ninth Ward sink at a rate of 1.6 inches per year, which is faster than previous studies showed (NASA 2016). Additionally, Louisiana experiences about one centimeter of sea-level rise annually (Milne 2018). In August 2019, intense weather tested the levees and worried residents. Large quantities of rainfall and snowmelt from upriver caused the Mississippi River to sit right below the top of the levees as Tropical Storm Barry approached New Orleans (Masters 2019). Meteorologists expected the slowmoving storm to drop an extra 18 inches of rain on the city, testing the levees’ capabilities (Craig & Sellers 2019; Masters 2019). While the levees did not breach, warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico, climate change, subsidence, and rising sea levels further increase vulnerabilities for areas such as the LNW. FEMA Flood Maps Reassessed The FEMA flood maps continue to create controversy in New Orleans. After Katrina, FEMA reclassified much of the city as “high-risk”. However, in 2016, the flood maps were revised when the city lobbied the federal government for less stringent flood regulations, which removed over half of the population from the high-risk zone. Jared Munster, the Director of Safety and Permits in New Orleans, stated it “is absolutely a great victory, and it represents to us that the federal government is very comfortable in our level of protection” (Kailath 2016). While New Orleans officials believe they did enough to mitigate flooding, this endangers vulnerable residents. Flood maps create a false sense of security, and people do not buy flood insurance if they are not required to (Kailath 2016). The LNW is not in the lowest-lying part of New Orleans, but its history suggests it is a high-risk area (Rivlin 2015). As discussed, many households could not rebuild in the LNW with the lack of flood insurance, and a false sense of security continues 15 years later.



claimed discriminatory practices in the Road Home program prevented African Americans from rebuilding their homes (Rivlin 2015). In 2010, the judge found in favor of the plaintiffs, and the state agreed to pay out $62 million to those who had not received money for their losses (Rivlin 2015).

Feature Article: “America’s Greatest Comeback Story” and the Forgotten Neighborhood

Social Vulnerabilities Social vulnerability increased in the LNW after Hurricane Katrina as the neighborhood experienced increases in poverty and unemployment and a deteriorating state of housing. Those who left New Orleans for good after Katrina were likely African Americans, renters, and unemployed (Fussell 2015). As of 2018, the city’s population was up to 391,000 people, or 80% of the pre-storm population. There are approximately 93,000 fewer Black residents than there were pre-Katrina, while there are 8,000 white residents that never returned to New Orleans (Mosley 2020). In recent years, the city resurged in popularity among white professionals in high-tech industries. The post-Katrina economic boom did not benefit all residents evenly, as most new jobs only paid minimum wage (100 Resilient Cities 2015). Seven of the ten job fields that grew after 2010 were in “tourism, administrative services, and retail” (Perry 2017). This growth in low-wage jobs relates to the growing wealth gap between white and Black populations in New Orleans. Since 2005, white median household income increased by 40% to over $60,000, while Black median household income is around $30,000 (100 Resilient Cities 2015; Rivlin 2016). Childhood poverty in the city increased to 40%--double the national average (Rivlin 2016). Communities such as the LNW face barriers to recovery because of low-wage employment, a lack of access to affordable housing, and a lack of economic investment from the City and State for the parish’s recovery (100 Resilient Cities 2015).

CONCLUSION Fifteen years after the storm, the LNW still has not met FEMA’s definition of disaster recovery. There is a lack of physical restoration of homes and infrastructure in the ward. The levees were repaired but are likely to be ineffective in the coming years due to subsidence and climate change. The LNW’s economic conditions reflect the economic disparities and wealth gap between white and Black New Orleanians from measures of homeownership to median income. The recovery is not holistic nor continuous as FEMA, the state, and the city inequitably approached post-storm restoration haphazardly. The disastrous recovery reflects the need for better pre-disaster and post-disaster planning, which could have helped to avoid the mistakes that cost residents in the LNW and other Black neighborhoods their livelihoods and exacerbated historical inequities. The slow and ineffective recovery efforts of the LNW were not an accident. The manipulation of the real estate market, segregation, and deliberate policies at the local, state, and federal level favored white New Orleanians. While white neighborhoods in New Orleans have recovered and prospered, thousands of Black residents never returned to their homes. Continued failures at the city, state, and federal levels in the aftermath of the storm only compounded the harm inflicted on the LNW. As Rivlin (2016) explained, “Katrina was not an equal opportunity storm. A black homeowner in New Orleans was more than three times as likely to have been flooded as a white homeowner. That wasn’t due to bad luck; because of racially discriminatory housing practices, the high ground was taken by the time banks started loaning money to African Americans who wanted to buy a home.”


Allen, Greg. 2015. Ghosts Of Katrina Still Haunt New Orleans’ Shattered Lower Ninth Ward. NPR.Org. https://www.npr.org/2015/08/03/427844717/ ghosts-of-katrina-still-haunt-new-orleans-shattered-lower-ninth-ward. Berube, Alan, and Natalie Holmes. 2015. “Concentrated Poverty in New Orleans 10 Years after Katrina.” The Brookings Institution. August 2015. https:// www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2015/08/27/concentrated-povertyin-new-orleans-10-years-after-katrina/. Bialik, Carl. 2015. We Still Don’t Know How Many People Died Because Of Katrina. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/we-still-dont-know-howmany-people-died-because-of-katrina/. Campanella, Richard. 2018. How Humans Sank New Orleans. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/how-humanssank-new-orleans/552323/. Colom, Siri. 2016. Is New Orleans ‘Better’ After Katrina? Depends Who You Ask. https://talkpoverty.org/2016/09/21/new-orleans-better-katrinadepends-ask/. Craig, Tim, and Frances Stead Sellers. 2019. “New Orleans Braces for an Inundation of Water as Storm Grows in Gulf of Mexico.” Washington Post. Accessed December 4, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/ new-orleans-braces-for-an-inundation-of-water-as-storm-grows-in-gulfof-mexico/2019/07/11/b0827ae0-a351-11e9-b732-41a79c2551bf_story.html. FEMA. 2016. “National Disaster Recovery Framework, Second Edition.” 2016. https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/national_disaster_ recovery_framework_2nd.pdf. Frank, Thomas. 2019. After a $14-Billion Upgrade, New Orleans’ Levees Are Sinking. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/after-a-14-billionupgrade-new-orleans-levees-are-sinking/. Fussell, Elizabeth. 2015. “The Long Term Recovery of New Orleans’ Population after Hurricane Katrina.” The American Behavioral Scientist 59 (10): 1231–1245. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764215591181. Greicius, Tony. 2016. New Study Maps Rate of New Orleans Sinking. http:// www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/new-study-maps-rate-of-new-orleans-sinking. Horowitz, Andy. 2017. Don’t Repeat the Mistakes of the Katrina Recovery. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/opinion/ hurricane-katrina-irma-harvey.html. ———. 2020. Katrina : A History, 1915–2015. Harvard University Press. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ ebook/bmxlYmtfXzI0MzcwNTNfX0FO0?sid=23493b98-cc26-444a-b9d002fe9a3a21bf@pdc-v-sessmgr01&vid=0&format=EB&lpid=lp_19&rid=0. Kailath, Ryan. 2016. New Maps Label Much Of New Orleans Out Of Flood Hazard Area. https://www.npr.org/2016/09/30/495794999/new-maps-labelmuch-of-new-orleans-out-of-flood-hazard-area. Kaplan-Levenson, Laine. 2018. NOLA vs Nature: Building The Industrial Canal. WWNO New Orleans Public Radio. https://www.wwno.org/post/ nola-vs-nature-building-industrial-canal.

Lascell, W, and P Baumann. 2015. “Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans: Recovery and Rebuilding.” Middle States Geographer 48: 31–40. Lux, Travis. 2019. Sinking Louisiana: Studying Subsidence. WWNO New Orleans Public Radio. https://www.wwno.org/post/sinking-louisianastudying-subsidence. Masters, Jeff. 2019. New Orleans’ Achilles Heel: A Hurricane Storm Surge During a Mississippi River Flood? Weather Underground. https://www. wunderground.com/cat6/New-Orleans-Achilles-Heel-Hurricane-StormSurge-During-Mississippi-River-Flood. Milne, Nicky. 2018. “‘The Water’s Not Going Anywhere’ - Louisiana Confronts Climate Threats.” Reuters, April. https://www.reuters.com/ article/us-usa-climatechange-water-idUSKBN1HW02Z. Mosley, Tonya. 2020. On 15th Anniversary Of Katrina, Lower 9th Ward Resident Calls On New Orleans Diaspora To Come Home. https://www. wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/08/28/hurricane-katrina-new-orleansdiaspora. Neighborhood Change Rates: Growth Continues through 2018. n.d. The Data Center. Accessed November 29, 2020. https://www. datacenterresearch.org/reports_analysis/neighborhood-recoveryrates-growth-continues-through-2018-in-new-orleans-neighborhoods/. O’Brien, Soledad, and Sameen Amin. 2015. Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans’ Recovery Remains Uneven. http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/ shows/america-tonight/multimedia/2015/8/new-orleans-after-katrinaa-tale-of-two-cities.html. Perry, James. 2010. “The Road Home” Is a Road to Nowhere for Black New Orleanians. Planners Network. https://www.plannersnetwork. org/2010/10/the-road-home-is-a-road-to-nowhere-for-black-neworleanians/. Rivlin, Gary. 2015. Why The Plan To Shrink New Orleans Failed. https:// fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-the-plan-to-shrink-new-orleansafter-katrina-failed/. ———. 2016. White New Orleans Has Recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Black New Orleans Has Not. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/ white-new-orleans-has-recovered-from-hurricane-katrina-black-neworleans-has-not/. Robertson, Campbell, and John Schwartz. 2015. “Decade After Katrina, Pointing Finger More Firmly at Army Corps (Published 2015).” The New York Times, May. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/24/us/decade-afterkatrina-pointing-finger-more-firmly-at-army-corps.html. Seicshnaydre, Stacy, Robert A Collins, Cashauna Hill, and Maxwell Ciardullo. n.d. “Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality, and Disaster Risk.” The Data Center. Servick, Kelly. 2018. More than 12 Years after Hurricane Katrina, Scientists Are Learning What Makes Some Survivors More Resilient than Others. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/02/more-12-years-afterhurricane-katrina-scientists-are-learning-what-makes-some-survivors.

Landphair, Juliette. 2007. “The Forgotten People of New Orleans: Community, Vulnerability, and the Lower Ninth Ward.” The Journal of American History 94 (3).

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 41



Feature Article: Addressing Racial Disparities in US Port Development through Inclusive Port Decarbonization Planning

ADDRE SSI NG RACIA L DIS PA RIT IES IN US P O RT DE VE LO P M ENT T HROUGH INC LUS IVE P O RT DE CARBO N I ZAT ION PLA NNING AMANDA ULLMAN Amanda Ullman is a first-year PhD student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research is aimed at investigating the environmental and equity impacts

of energy systems development in Latin America and the Caribbean. NOAH KITTNER

Noah Kittner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering with adjunct appointments in the Department of City and Regional Planning

and Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program at UNC Chapel Hill. His research focuses on

the transition to clean and low-carbon electricity systems from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

ABSTR ACT Container ports are widely known as hubs of economic activity offering businesses access to international markets. The nation’s largest ports move hundreds of billions of dollars of goods annually and often provide income to local communities on the order of $50 billion. The vessels and equipment that operate at ports, however, are responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions. These emissions contribute greatly to global climate change and have detrimental health effects on near-port neighborhoods, which have historically been composed of low-income Black and Latinx community members. This article suggests strategies and research needs to rectify environmental and health-related disparities in U.S. ports.



INTRODUCTION Container ports serve as gateways to international markets and drivers of economic growth. While hundreds of billions of dollars of the world’s goods move through U.S. container ports, port activity is largely hidden from the public eye. The costs of ports, however, have historically affected communities of color in an outsized way through exposure to harmful air pollutants and lack of economic opportunity. Intensive fossil fuel consumption from oceangoing vessels, port drayage equipment, and freight truck traffic creates serious environmental and health issues for near-port communities and underlying ecosystems. For decades, distribution of these costs and benefits has been far from equal. While White households have benefitted from the economic opportunities offered by large container ports, past policies have also enabled white flight to neighborhoods insulated from the noise pollution, air pollution, and vehicular traffic commonly found at ports. As affluent households moved, it became more acceptable to perpetuate the presence of polluting industries across container shipping port neighborhoods. The result of this resembles that of many other cases examined in environmental justice scholarship: primarily low-income, Black and Latinx neighborhoods situated in near-port communities disproportionately faced increasing levels of pollution (EPA 2016). Those neighborhoods continue to incur long-term exposure to pollutants commonly emitted from the industrial processes and vehicular movement at container ports, like nitrous oxides (NOx), sulfur oxide (SOx), and particulate matter (PM). Extended exposure to these pollutants often leads to chronic respiratory health issues and increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer (WHO 2021). Greenhouse gas emissions from port processes also contribute to climate change, which is of great threat to coastal communities that are prone to flooding, sea level rise, and water damage in buildings.

Sustainable development at container ports has the potential to address historical inequities, criteria air pollutant emissions, and climate change inducing industrial processes. However, historically, port development and climate change mitigation policies have neglected these equity considerations. Background Understanding the inequitable distribution of costs and benefits provided to society by U.S. ports requires a historicized look into the early expression of White supremacy surrounding port cities’ urban planning processes. Investigation into the presence of White supremacy in early urban planning procedures is a necessary step for calling attention to the structures of racism built deeply into the foundation of American society and its institutions. In the case of port cities, it is helpful to identify the pathways through which Whiteness in urban planning measures, port employment, and port technology and energy consumption has led to disproportionate funneling of benefits to White communities. By identifying these inequitable foundations of American cities, we can begin to understand how to redistribute these benefits and rectify institutions that have historically passed along societal and environmental costs of ports predominantly to communities of color. Early American Ports: Throughout the transatlantic slave trade, U.S. ports served as the entryway for African men, women, and children forced from their homes to be sold as slaves to White slaveholders and slave traders (Lowcountry Digital History Initiative 2020). Ports’ early institutional role as gateways to an American society built on White supremacy underscored future economic inequities. Institutions disproportionately designed to economically support White communities simultaneously exposed many non-White, low-income communities in close 43

Feature Article: Addressing Racial Disparities in US Port Development through Inclusive Port Decarbonization Planning

TABLE 1 - HOLC “Residential Security” Map, Baltimore, MD.

Photo credit: Johns Hopkins University Library

proximity to ports across the country. White community officials dominated development of policies and plans of port cities and near-port neighborhoods, like Baltimore, Seattle, and Charleston. Baltimore, for instance, only elected its first Black city council member in 1890; Seattle its first Black city council member in 1967 and its first Hispanic city council member in 2015 (Baltimore City Council 2007; Frantilla 2021; City of Seattle 2021). Charleston had no Black city council members between 1877 and 1967 during critical phases of infrastructure investment and planning (City of Charleston 2021). As was the case in many American cities, White supremacy was systematically ingrained in port cities through policies like racially restrictive covenants, redlining policies, and predatory lending practices by financial institutions. Racially restrictive covenants relegated Black, Latinx, Asian, and Jewish households to less desirable areas of town, which, in port cities, were often those closest to the high levels of traffic, noise, and industrial pollution that take place in the port complex (Scott 2020). 44

Similar processes resulted from the redlining policies that began to take place in the U.S. during and following the Great Depression, in which real estate assessors, like the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), rated neighborhoods on their investment risk. In these cases, risk was based on characteristics of the housing stock, residents’ occupations, and residents’ races (Nelson et al. 2020). Such a practice disproportionately benefited White residents, whose neighborhoods were valued more highly and prioritized for mortgage loans with generous lending terms due to their “low risk” status (Rice 2009). Redlined neighborhoods, or those neighborhoods that were designated as highest-risk and provided the fewest mortgage lending opportunities, were most commonly composed of Black residents. Such was the case in the city of Baltimore, for example, in which assessors prioritized investment in “low-risk,” predominantly White communities by labeling the plots of land surrounding the port, where Black communities were concentrated, as “high-risk” loan areas (see Figure 1). This systematic denial of social mobility allowed Whites to hoard economic power and political power, even after slavery was formally abolished in 1865. The State of U.S. Ports Today: Today’s ports are greatly important economic hubs. For example, the Port of Long Beach moves an estimated $206 billion worth of goods through the port each year. About one in five Long Beach residents are employed by the port, which generates $44.6 billion per year in local, state, and federal taxes (Port of Long Beach 2019). On the East Coast, the Port of Charleston reports that it provides over $63.4 billion in economic activity, $12.8 billion in wages, and 225,000 jobs to the state of South Carolina (South Carolina Ports 2019). Growth in port activity has been attributed to increasing levels of American consumption and unsustainable ship traffic, which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Currently, a culture of consumerism drives port development, as greater consumption of foreign goods and materials invokes greater levels of container ship traffic (Levinson 2016). National-scale studies document the racial-ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure due to

A look into the individuals that hold port leadership positions also suggests that increases in port profitability disproportionately accrue to White households. While publicly available data on the demographics of port employees have not been made accessible for any of the United States’ major container ports, leadership profiles of the ports reveal that port leadership positions are overwhelmingly filled by White men (Georgia Ports Authority 2020; SC Ports Authority 2020; Port of Virginia 2020). Furthermore, statistics on wealth distribution in port cities suggest that port development tied to increased consumerism has done little, if anything, to support economic equality between White and non-White households. This is illustrated in Baltimore, where the city’s predominantly white, affluent neighborhoods have average incomes of $100,000 per year, which is $75,000 greater than the average incomes of the residents that live in the rowhouse neighborhoods historically occupied by Black families (Kresh & Deason 2016). Benefits experienced by White households are not purely economic, though. White households in suburban neighborhoods have also been shielded from the environmental and health detriments associated with port processes. These detriments result from a variety

of processes that take place at ports, which lack the regulation necessary to protect nearby communities from ports’ industrial pollution. Such detriments are similar to those issues incurred in communities adjacent to power generation facilities; however, ports are uniquely situated in complex global shipping networks. For example, ports produce high levels of air and noise pollution from containerships that continuously consume diesel fuel while idling and traveling within port waters. Adding to this pollution are the emissions released from small harbor craft and drayage equipment used to load, unload, and transport cargo containers. In many cities, these issues are often compounded by the frequent siting of oil refineries in close proximity to container ports for facilitated exportation of refined oil products (Hein 2018). In Baltimore, port operations are responsible for high levels of criteria air pollutant emissions, which have been found to contribute 11% of the city’s NOx emissions and 10% of its PM emissions (International Coalition on Clean Transportation 2007); the tract surrounding the port has the highest levels of asthma-induced hospitalizations in the city (Environmental Integrity Project 2017). Further studies demonstrate that proximity to the port is not the only environmental justice indicator, as pollution can travel further distances through weather, sometimes reaching communities far from cities centers, where pollution intake can also disproportionately accumulate in minority neighborhoods (Nguyen & Marshall 2018). Currently, container ports and planning communities are at a crossroads, where they must decide if they are willing to undertake the steps necessary to relieve nearport communities of these heavy emissions through participatory planning opportunities and better metrics to track the inequity between consumption of goods and services and the detrimental effects on communities of color (Tessum et al. 2019). Diesel fuel consumption has contributed significantly to the racial health disparities in port communities, but lack of regulation of ports and inherent technological challenges have thus far prevented diesel-eliminating decarbonization efforts from taking place (Nguyen & Marshall 2018). If this work is to be done, the United States will need large-scale solutions to comprehensively reduce the vessel, equipment, and 45


the inequity in consumption of goods and services (Tessum et al. 2019). While greater port traffic is often associated with greater port profitability, these increased profits don’t always accrued to locally based terminal owners. Instead, in many container ports, like the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of New York/New Jersey, port terminals are owned by multinational companies, based frequently in Japan, Europe, and Canada (Port of Los Angeles 2020; Port Authority NY NJ 2020). Thus, the ultimate result of this increase in business is that local communities incur far greater levels of greenhouse gas emissions without benefitting from the totality of economic growth possible from increased port profitability. Indeed, while company profitability may lead to some local expansion, studies have illustrated how increased profitability is often more greatly correlated with corporate stock buybacks and executive compensation and less towards supporting local employees (Lazonick 2014).

Feature Article: Addressing Racial Disparities in US Port Development through Inclusive Port Decarbonization Planning


NOx Emission Contribution


PM Emission Contribution

Miami, FL


Miami, FL


Wilmington, NC


Seattle, WA


Seattle, WA


Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA

Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. Los Angeles, CA

16% 11% 9%

Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA Wilmington, NC Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C.

Corpus Christi, TX

23% 22% 10% 10%

TABLE 1 - NOx and PM Contributions from International Ships in Major U.S. Port Cities. Adapted from the International Council on Clean

Transport (2007).

vehicle emissions released at ports. Ports vary widely in their governance structures, ranging from immediate governance by port authorities to state and federal governance that regulates emissions targets that ports must meet. As such, inclusive environmental reform at ports will require a broader, more diverse planning community to ascertain the optimal technologies, fuel alternatives, and development plans to employ. Future Port Planning: Correcting the drastic imbalances of cost and benefit dispersion in port cities will require anti-subordination (Steil 2018) and equity-focused proposals that prioritize participative planning, environmental justice, and support for near-port communities. As noted previously, significant environmental issues at ports must be corrected, including equipment and vessel emissions, heavy traffic caused by incoming and outgoing trucks, and noise pollution from port operations. However, it is necessary that such corrective policies be developed through planning processes that prioritize near-port community voices so that they adequately support the historical and economic integrity of near46

port communities. Corrective policies must adequately redirect economic benefits to community members and protect neighborhoods from the environmental harm and economic loss that have historically accompanied environmental policies and that are already beginning to take place in redeveloped port communities. Steps that planners and policymakers might take to promote this equitable redistribution of benefits and reduction in costs include: •

Create workforce development opportunities for near-port community members through a comprehensive Green New Deal-type policy

Involve local communities in transit-oriented development to focus on accessibility and mobility in near-port neighborhoods

Research the costs and benefits of zeroemissions sustainable development to ensure strategies improve equity and health in near-port communities

There are many avenues through which communityfocused sustainable development could occur, however further research is needed to examine the potential costs and benefits of these policies on near-port communities. One emerging potential source of new job creation, for example, could be promotion of green hydrogen fuels at ports to power port drayage equipment, small harbor craft, and large vessels and ships. Hydrogen fuels have a promising future in the maritime industry, as experts have identified the fuel as the optimal sustainable technology for decarbonizing trans-oceanic container ship travel (Mao et al. 2020). These fuels, however, have mostly been produced through the use of fossil fuels and could exacerbate fossil fuel production without careful policy development. Alternatively, attention to new opportunities to use wind and solar power to produce hydrogen through electrolysis could offer unique promise. Planning processes must examine the equity implications of hydrogen at ports to determine how to optimally produce hydrogen and ensure economic inclusion. For example, local production of these fuels could offer significant workforce development opportunities specifically designed to support near-port community members.

An inclusive Green New Deal policy could also employ fiscal policy measures, like a price on carbon, to account for the environmental and health externalities arising from use of heavy-polluting equipment and vessels at ports. The revenue earned from such a tax could, for example, be re-invested in near-port communities through assessment of communities’ unique needs—such as support for affordable, high-quality housing options, financial assistance for residential energy efficiency and weatherization interventions, or technical assistance and ample lending opportunities for small businesses owned by community residents. However, a great concern with a price on carbon and other fiscal measures is the potential to bring out regressive effects, further burdening lower-income and disadvantaged communities. Planning processes must include specific analyses to understand the implications of such measures for local communities and should include community voices to best understand how allocation of tax revenues could best support community needs. Another direct planning strategy that could be wellsuited for near-port communities is investment in transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD envisions the creation of dense, walkable neighborhoods that facilitate and motivate greater uptake of sustainable transit modes, like public transit, walking, and biking. These designs seek to increase environmental sustainability by reducing vehicular greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions, and to decrease residents’ travel costs through decreased dependence on personal automobiles. Ports are ideal locations for transit-oriented development as most ports are sited in urban neighborhoods with density levels that are high enough to support increased levels of public transit. The mixed-use residential and commercial developments commonly associated with TOD would be well supported by the local economic activity generated by the ports. While TOD would not directly eliminate pollution arising from the port itself, the sustainable design would provide a mode through which to decrease air pollution and vehicular traffic originating within near-port neighborhoods, thereby decreasing total pollution levels in these vulnerable communities. To do so



A “Green New Deal” policy describes legislation designed to comprehensively address climate change while transforming the economy to support historically disadvantaged communities (Ocasio-Cortez 2019). This type of policy derives inspiration from the New Deal programs and projects launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. A Green New Dealtype policy has great potential to address disparities across economic benefits and reduce the environmental and health impacts of container ports, since its comprehensive nature could catalyze the elimination of diesel and bunker fuel consumption at ports. To ensure inclusivity in this legislation, though, a Green New Deal policy must not just prioritize green environmental action, but must also prioritize support of port communities through highquality local job training and employment. Without this community-centered focus, redeveloped port areas would likely gentrify further without displaced communities realizing the benefits.

Feature Article: Addressing Racial Disparities in US Port Development through Inclusive Port Decarbonization Planning

successfully, though, TOD in port neighborhoods should be accompanied by the adoption of mixed-use zoning ordinances, allowing for neighborhood density increases and facilitated travel by foot, bike, and public transit (Brozen et al. 2018). TOD could even allow for the creation of transit hubs that link the port with the rest of the city, creating environmentally sustainable modes of access to and from the port. However, TOD is commonly associated with high housing costs and gentrification as neighborhoods benefit from new amenities (Rayle 2015). Further research on equity in TOD planning and on the dispersal of costs and benefits of TOD among different communities is critical. Past research has noted, for example, that TOD can successfully lower residents’ cost of living if policymakers encourage increased housing density in TOD neighborhoods to meet the increased demand, greater tenant protections, and more affordable housing options (Brozen et al. 2018). Redevelopment of near-port neighborhoods should be conducted to support the existing community’s needs, preserving their historic cultural foundations, and ensuring that community members maintain affordability of their homes. Such redevelopment should follow reparative planning tenets, prioritizing the voices of Black community members in the planning process and redistributing public goods in such a way that acknowledges and repairs injustices that Black households have faced and continue to face today (Williams 2020). Opportunities to increase environmental sustainability as well as social mobility among residents of near-port communities may be achievable through intentional inclusion of community members in TOD planning processes. Neglect of these inclusionary planning processes, however, may reinforce current systemic inequities and lead to further civil unrest and animosity among communities.

CONCLUSION The inequitable distribution of the costs and benefits associated with America’s container ports is a phenomenon that has arisen from centuries of urban planning decisions that neglect the voices of communities of color. Redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and White flight have enabled White communities to hoard the economic benefits that ports provide to the local and national economies while simultaneously concentrating ports’ environmental health impacts in lowincome communities of color. There are many lessons that we must take away from these public planning failures if we are to correct these systemic engines of inequity. Urban planning processes in port cities should prioritize reparative planning processes and implement sustainability interventions, like an inclusive Green New Deal and community-driven transit-oriented development, to begin to correct these wrongdoings. Future research must be conducted on how to best implement these planning processes, specifically highlighting and supporting the wants and needs of near-port communities. In implementing future public policy measures, a more inclusive research agenda will investigate how benefits of public policies are distributed among members of the community’s varying racial and economic groups. Current research does not identify how demographics of near-port communities in many American cities have changed over time, especially in the context of increasing gentrification of coastal communities. More voices from local communities with connections to the ports should be incorporated into examinations of these benefits to highlight the often-overlooked context of disempowered neighborhoods and communities. Greater transparency is needed to identify the representation of near-port community members in highly coveted well-paying jobs at the ports, and workforce development processes should be put in place to create environmentally sustainable job opportunities for historically disadvantaged community members. This work is essential for planners, as the field of urban planning can help create more inclusive and equitable ports in ways that are not currently exhibited in today’s near-port community development plans. Such work can begin to develop more inclusive and sustainable port cities that are designed to prioritize equity and environmental justice first.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 48

Baltimore City Council. 2007. Baltimore City Council: History. https:// web.archive.org/web/20070818113541/http://www.baltimorecitycouncil. com/history.htm. Brozen, Madeline, Matthew Hartzell, Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen Monkkonen, and Mark Villianatos. 2018. “Transit Oriented Los Angeles: Envisioning an Equitable and Thriving Future,” November. http:// escholarship.org/uc/item/4r514641. City of Charleston. 2021. African American Council Members. https:// www.charleston-sc.gov/DocumentCenter/View/18338/Charleston-AfricanAmerican-City-Council-Members?bidId=. City of Seattle. 2021. About Councilmember Lorena González. http:// www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council/lorena-gonz%C3%A1lez/ about-lorena. EPA. 2016. Environmental Justice Primer for Ports. https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-07/ documents/420p16002.pdf. Frantilla, Anne. 2021. Sam Smith (1922-1995), Seattle City Councilmember. https://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/digitaldocument-libraries/city-councilman-sam-smith. Georgia Ports Authority. 2020. Leadership Team. Georgia Ports Authority. https://gaports.com/organization/leadership-team/. Hein, Carola. 2018. “‘Old Refineries Rarely Die’: Port City Refineries as Key Nodes in The Global Petroleumscape.” Canadian Journal of History 53 (3): 450–479. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjh.ach.53.3.05. HOLC. 1937. “Residential Security Map of Baltimore Md.” https://dspaceprod.mse.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/32621. International Coalition on Clean Transportation. 2007. Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ocean-Going Ships: Impacts, Mitigation Options and Opportunities for Managing Growth. https://theicct.org/sites/ default/files/publications/oceangoing_ships_2007.pdf. Kresh, Nate, and Madeleine Deason. 2016. Drive Nine Miles across Baltimore, Life Expectancy Drops 15 Years. CNS Maryland. http:// cnsmaryland.org/baltimore-health/story/drive-nine-miles-acrossbaltimore-life-expectancy-drops-15-years.html. Lazonick, William. 2014. “Profits Without Prosperity.” Harvard Business Review, September, 9. Levinson, Marc. 2016. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. REV-Revised, 2. Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvcszztg. Lowcountry Digital History Initiative. 2020. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade · African Passages, Lowcountry Adaptations. http://ldhi. library.cofc.edu/exhibits/show/africanpassageslowcountryadapt/ introductionatlanticworld/trans_atlantic_slave_trade. Mao, Xiaoli, Dan Rutherford, Liudmila Osipova, and Bryan Comer. 2020. “Refueling Assessment of a Zero-Emission Container Corridor between China and the United States: Could Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels?” The International Council on Clean Transport, March, 13.

Nelson, Robert, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, and Nathan Connolly. 2021. “Mapping Inequality.” In American Panorama. Nguyen, Nam P., and Julian D. Marshall. 2018. “Impact, Efficiency, Inequality, and Injustice of Urban Air Pollution: Variability by Emission Location.” Environmental Research Letters 13 (2): 024002. https://doi. org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa9cb5. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria. 2019. Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal. https://www.congress.gov/116/ bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf. Port Authority NY NJ. 2020. Container Terminals. https://www.panynj. gov/port/en/our-port/container-terminals.html. Port of Long Beach. 2019. “Study Confirms Port’s Nationwide Impact,” April. https://polb.com/port-info/news-and-press/study-confirms-portsnationwide-impact-04-30-2019/. Port of Los Angeles. 2020. Container Terminals. https://www. portoflosangeles.org/business/terminals/container. Port of Virginia. 2020. Our Leadership \textbar Port of Virginia. https:// www.portofvirginia.com/who-we-are/our-leadership/. Rayle, Lisa. 2015. “Investigating the Connection Between Transit-Oriented Development and Displacement: Four Hypotheses.” Housing Policy Debate 25 (3): 531–548. Rice, Lisa. 2009. An Examination of Civil Rights Issues with Respect to the Mortgage Crisis: The Effects of Predatory Lending on the Mortgage Crisis. US Commission on Civil Rights. SC Ports Authority. 2020. Executive Management. SC Ports Authority. http://scspa.com/about/mission-and-leadership/executive-management/. Scott, Amy. 2020. Inequality by Design: How Redlining Continues to Shape Our Economy. Marketplace. https://www.marketplace.org/2020/04/16/ inequality-by-design-how-redlining-continues-to-shape-our-economy/. South Carolina Ports. 2019. S.C. Ports Makes a $63.4 Billion Annual Economic Impact on S.C. SC Ports Authority. http://scspa.com/news/sc-ports-makes-a-63-4-billion-annual-economic-impact-on-s-c/. Steil, Justin. 2018. “Antisubordination Planning.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, December, 0739456X18815739. https://doi. org/10.1177/0739456X18815739. Tessum, Christopher W., Joshua S. Apte, Andrew L. Goodkind, Nicholas Z. Muller, Kimberley A. Mullins, David A. Paolella, Stephen Polasky, et al. 2019. “Inequity in Consumption of Goods and Services Adds to Racial–Ethnic Disparities in Air Pollution Exposure.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (13): 6001–6006. https://doi.org/10.1073/ pnas.1818859116. WHO. 2021. Ambient Air Pollution: Health Impacts. WHO. http://www. who.int/airpollution/ambient/health-impacts/en/. Williams, Rashad A. 2020. “From Racial to Reparative Planning: Confronting the White Side of Planning.” Journal of Planning Education and Research. https://journals.sagepub.com/ doi/10.1177/0739456X20946416. 49



Feature Article: The 1992 Uprising

TH E 1 9 9 2 UP RI SI NG H i s t o r i c Pre s e r v at i o n a n d t h e D u ra b i l i t y o f W h i t e n e s s

JACKSON LOOP, MPL/MHC Jackson Loop is an urban planner and historic preservationist working in the Los Angeles area. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Florida, and a dual master’s

degree in planning and heritage conservation from the University of Southern California. He is a scholar in residence at the Gamble House in Pasadena, California.

ABSTR ACT Problem, Approach, and Findings Like every city, Los Angeles has histories of both triumph and shame. But these pasts are not told equally. Lurking beneath empty lots, nondescript intersections, and even this city’s most stately landmarks are stories of strife and oppression, largely invisible. This paper inspects three sites associated with the 1992 Uprising to illustrate that conventional, government-based tools for preserving the past often avoid painful histories and produce stories that are reductive. Designed through a white lens to protect monumental landmarks, this policy framework falls short at these significant sites. Nearly three decades later, in the midst of an international uprising over racial justice, Angelenos still lack a place by which to remember the largest insurrection in the nation’s history.


Planning builds cities on selective memory. While people around the world tear down racist monuments in response to the police murder of George Floyd, important places associated with the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising remain undesignated, and the city still lacks a central place of remembrance. This project unpacks the role whiteness plays in historic preservation, using the legacy of the 1992 Uprising as a case study to demonstrate the field’s shortcomings. Literature Review Broadly speaking, historic preservation seeks to manage the past for present and future gain. As with all planning, power structures and racial hierarchy necessarily affect this process. The profession “normally goes with privilege,” argues famed professor of heritage studies David Lowenthal: “elites usually own it, control access to it, and ordain its public image” (Lowenthal 1996). Preservation’s funding, its legal backing, its bureaucracy— each component propagates this arrangement. By preventing the survival of certain sites and stories, those with power can exclude others, affecting both how and what societies remember. In recent years, scholars like Laurajane Smith have drawn attention to the role white supremacy plays in this process. In Uses of Heritage, Smith demonstrated how Euro-American ideals on monumentality automatically privilege landmarks associated with the white and wealthy while excluding many non-white historic sites (Smith 2006). In nations throughout the world, such sanitation gives hegemonic cultures “a more long-standing or deeply historically rooted sense of belonging,” as put by sociologist Jo Littler (2008). This process lends the construct of whiteness

more legitimacy while invalidating the existence of marginalized people in the present. While scholars frequently criticize the racist underpinnings of preservation, current policy tools continue to propagate this issue at the national and local level. In 2010, the National Park Service reported that just eight percent of the 86,000 listings on the National Register for Historic Places were designations associated with women or people of color (Meeks 2015). This distinction is much more than honorific: it influences how agencies like FEMA disperse recovery funds for historic sites and is a key step for attaining tax breaks necessary for expensive maintenance. In short, policies that privilege the history of society’s most powerful have real impacts on whether certain stories can obtain the resources needed to survive. The 1992 Uprising: Whiteness and the Avoidance of Difficult History On April 29, 1992, a majority-white jury acquitted three of the four officers charged with the brutal beating of Rodney King (Felker-Kantor 2014; Sides 2012). Over the next three days, Los Angeles burned. Footage from helicopters and home video cameras of beatings and torched cars exposed the image of Los Angeles as a multiracial center of prosperity and sunshine as a blatant fiction. One billion dollars in property damage, sixty-three dead, and over 16,000 arrested attested to this (Oliver et al. 1993). Despite the shock that the unrest caused worldwide, contemporary researchers and commentators agreed that the rebellion was far from unexpected. Many immediately connected the uprising to a recent memory in South Los Angeles, the Watts Rebellion of 1965, which began due to similar causes and left thirty-four dead. In the three decades that followed the Watts Rebellion, changing demographics and decades of federal, state, and municipal policies that gutted urban industrial economies forced people of color in South Los Angeles to continue struggling. In the early 1990s, the Black male unemployment rate in some areas of South Central Los Angeles hovered around fifty percent, which has influenced some historians to refer to the unrest as a “postmodern bread riot” (Gooding51


Implications Dominant narratives that develop following traumatic historic events often exclude marginalized perspectives. Planning plays this dynamic out in the built environment through preservation. By obsessing over historic building material and landmarks of wealth and state power, this profession limits marginalized peoples’ access to important histories of oppression. Thus, through avoidance and erasure, preservationists enshrine whiteness itself.

Feature Article: The 1992 Uprising

Williams 1993; Johnson et al. 1992). To make matters worse, Du’s business, Empire Liquor, closed soon after Harlins’s between 1965 and 1992, the War on Drugs replaced the social murder, and graffiti immediately covered the building’s safety net with a brutal “criminal dragnet,” which targeted façade with phrases like “Closed for Murder & Disrespect young Black men disproportionately (Alexander 2010; of Black People” and “Burn This Mother Down” (Morrison Johnson et al. 1992). In the pointed words of journalist and 1992). With the help of neighbors who prevented several native Angeleno Marc Cooper, these policy changes sent “a attempts of arson at the site, the stucco box in the heart clear message that the only public service that would be freely of South Los Angeles survived the 1992 Uprising. A offered to minority communities was a shit-kicking police large chain grocer, Numero Uno Market, now occupies department to keep the lid on” (Cooper 1992). the building. Constructed in 1962, photo evidence and Los Angeles’s efforts to heal these wounds have been permits show that the building has undergone substantial tepid at best. Rather than call attention to how systemic alterations, including the addition of an accessory structure discrimination caused the unrest, the City has offered minor in its parking lot in 2001 (LA Department of Building and police reforms and failed investments over the past three Safety 2001). The site has no preservation protections decades. With some 600 police killings county-wide since and is not designated as a landmark at the local, state, or 2012, and people of color constituting a disproportionate national level. Ultimately, this site’s past remains dormant, percentage of the area’s COVID-19 deaths, it seems the state and passersby may have no understanding of the role this of oppression in Los Angeles remains the same in 2021 (Myers building played in the year leading up to the 1992 Uprising. 2021). Moreover, because preservation planning is designed Preservation planning, designed by and for whiteness, has to protect stately monuments of wealth, highly altered played a role in this forgetting. Its compulsion to see the buildings like the site of Harlins’s murder typically most value in unaltered, grand relics of the past overlooks cannot be designated. This assessment of a place’s historic many significant sites and avoids shameful histories. The “integrity” is common across various bodies that manage three examples discussed below demonstrate how this historic designations in the United States. However, approach leaves important but mundane places unmarked because many communities do not have the resources and indistinguishable from their surroundings. to maintain their buildings in such specific ways, this approach automatically excludes many significant sites SELECTED SITES around the country, focusing instead on the properties of Empire Liquor typically white, wealthy landowners (Page 2016). Lifting On March 16, 1991, a year before the acquittal of King’s these requirements for sites associated with difficult assailants, a Korean-American shopkeeper killed a fifteen- history—or potentially offering flexibility to sites in year-old Black girl named Latasha Harlins after she allegedly which the building’s architecture is less significant than attempted to steal a bottle of orange juice from a liquor store its social history—could allow communities to utilize (Gold 2013; LA Department of Building and Safety 1989). A jury painful landmarks like the former location of Empire convicted the shooter, Soon Ja Du, of voluntary manslaughter Liquor more fully. and recommended the maximum sentence: sixteen years in prison. Trial Judge Joyce Karlin disagreed, sentencing Du with Site of Rodney King Beating (Lot near Foothill five years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and Boulevard and Osborne Street) a $500 fine (Murphy 1991). In defending her decision, Karlin A 1993 article from the Los Angeles Times discussed the argued that “This is not a time for revenge . . . and no matter lot where police officers beat Rodney King as an “odd what sentence this court imposes, Mrs. Du will be punished landmark” (Glionna 1993). Discovery Cube Los Angeles, an every day for the rest of her life” (Bihm 2017). An appeals court educational museum constructed in 2006 with hands-on upheld the sentence in April of the following year, one week exhibits for children, now stands on the site, which is not before the uprising (Schatzman 1992). designated on any local, state, or national register. There 52


FIGURE 1 - Building of former Empire Liquor store, now occupied by a Numero Uno Market. Photo by author.

is no information about King’s beating available there, nor in a nearby public library. This place lies some twenty miles north of the heart of the uprising, which makes connecting this place to its historic context challenging. Moreover, the ubiquity of police brutality could make the site of King’s beating sadly unremarkable. Rod Dotson, a Black mechanic, was quoted in the same Los Angeles Times article from 1993 saying that “for most black people that particular spot has no significance whatsoever because a lot of blacks I know have been manhandled by police the same way Rodney King was . . . It’s like trying to find a significant spot on a battlefield. Take your pick” (Glionna 1993). The lack of designation and avoidance of this site’s difficult history by preservationists demonstrates deep-seated flaws

in the profession. Influenced by the white perspective on history—which typically lauds particular individuals, heroes, or places—preservationists have few tools with which to tell stories about systemic violence. This limited approach is even embodied by King’s assigned role as the face of the 1992 Uprising, which overshadows other important issues from this moment, such as disinvestment, municipal neglect, and the widespread assault and murder of Black people by police throughout the United States. Any approach that homes in on particular buildings or sites associated with the unrest would undoubtedly pull attention away from this greater context and leave much untold. Finding new tools to memorialize sites of painful history while understanding them as part of a larger whole could eventually lead to more meaningful, connective storytelling at the site of King’s assault. 53

Feature Article: The 1992 Uprising

Florence and Normandie The intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Los Angeles is widely cited as the major flashpoint of the 1992 Uprising. It was from this intersection that police retreated as angry crowds became violent following the announcement of the acquittal (Grover 2012). Tom’s Liquor, a store at the intersection’s northeast corner, was one of the first businesses looted (Bermudez 2012). It was also here that four men pulled Reginald Denny from his eighteen-wheeler and beat him while a helicopter crew circled above, filming. Today, the site is not designated on any local, state, or national register and is as non-descript as the hundreds of other wide intersections that make the grid covering Los Angeles’s flatlands.

This site affected different races, professions, and classes disparately, which gives those interested in memorializing such a place pause. Preservation, which frequently relies on a celebratory, white perspective on the past, is underequipped to handle such contention. Even an effective designation program could run the risk of further tying this already disinvested area to a narrative of danger, crime, and violence. Moreover, much like the site of King’s beating, designating this particular site may not effectively call attention to an uprising which affected the entire nation. Relying on tools that fetishize material and attempting to freeze this place’s relationship with the past may also prove less than useful, since the site’s daily use differs greatly

FIGURE 2 - Intersection nearest to the lot where police officers beat Rodney King, now occupied by Discovery Cube Los Angeles, the low-slung

building in the background. Photo by author.



FIGURE 3 - Intersection of Florence and Normandie, a major flashpoint of the 1992 Uprising, with Tom’s Liquor visible at the northeast

corner. Photo by author.

from the way it was used in 1992. Meanwhile, while the policies guiding preservation struggle to accommodate a significant site, residents and visitors alike continue to lack any central place of remembrance for what is arguably Los Angeles’s most significant historic event.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Empire Liquor, the site of Rodney King’s assault, and the intersection of Florence and Normandie demonstrate just how blunt the tools of preservation are. While policies designed to protect white history may perform well at Mount Vernon or Monticello, they clearly fall short at highly altered places of shame and erasure. Narrowly focused on sites, they are incapable of overcoming the thirty-mile distance between the site of Rodney King’s beating and the intersection of Florence and Normandie to tell one story. Obsessed with material and integrity, they offer nothing for the now-unrecognizable site of

Latasha Harlins’s murder. Clearly, not all pasts can live on in buildings alone, particularly if we rely on the policy tools of the state—a party that played a direct role in these dark histories of oppression and racial strife. Alternatives lie outside of the government, where history and grassroots planning come together to validate alternative forms of remembering. As Dolores Hayden (1995) argues best in The Power of Place, projecting marginalized understandings of the past into public space affirms the struggle of oppressed people in the present. In preservation, this process involves trusting communities to build their own relationship with the past to construct a form of counter-memory, which resists mainstream narratives of avoidance and oversimplification (Foucault 1977). By highlighting histories of the oppressed as opposed to the oppressor, preservation can disrupt the status quo, rather than reinforce it.


Feature Article: The 1992 Uprising

While these alternative approaches often come from the grassroots, governments could take steps to aid these movements in protecting marginalized understandings of the past. Policy adjustments that reduce the importance of historic structural integrity may welcome sites from disinvested areas, even if they are highly altered. Planners in San Francisco are also testing forms of designation that focus on intangible cultural practices and the way residents use buildings, rather than only protecting buildings themselves (San Francisco Planning n.d.). Lastly, a new form of landmark designation for sites of contention in particular could allow local governments to recognize fraught places without fearing political fallout. This small step could provide a practical means to start conversations about places like Florence and Normandie, which mean something vastly different to every impacted group. Each of these policy shifts can help communities hold space for growing through challenging histories, and recognize harm done by systems that still exist today. The story we tell through our cities is one of the greatest gifts we have to pass on. But when planners choose to protect only our most monumental buildings, they automatically enshrine and celebrate whiteness at the expense of all nonwhite understandings of the past. This case study shows that this profession needs new tools to tell the story of the 1992 Uprising more fully. Until these are found, further avoidance will only deepen Los Angeles’s crisis of oppression, which will continue boiling over as it did in 1965, 1992, and 2020.


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———. 2001. Alteration Permit. http://ladbsdoc.lacity.org/idispublic/.

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Los Angeles Times. 2020. “885 People Have Been Killed by Police in L.A. County since 2000; Most Were Black or Latino.” KTLA. June 2020. https:// ktla.com/news/local-news/885-people-have-been-killed-by-police-in-la-county-since-2000-most-were-black-or-latino/. Lowenthal, David. 1996. Possessed by the Past: The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. New York: Free Press. Meeks, Stephanie. 2015. A More Perfect Union: Towards a More Inclusive History, and a Preservation Movement That Looks Like America. National Trust for Historic Preservation. https://savingplaces.org/press-center/ media-resources/a-more-perfect-union-towards-a-more-inclusivehistory-and-a-preservation-movement-that-looks-like-america. Morrison, Patt. 1992. “Symbol of Pain Survives Flames.” Los Angeles Times, May. Murphy, Dean E. 1991. “Reiner to Seek New Sentence in Girl’s Death.” Los Angeles Times, November. Myers, Erin. 2021. “In California, COVID-19 Deaths Surge at Record Pace as Cases Decline.” KTLA, January. https://ktla.com/news/california/incalifornia-covid-19-deaths-surge-at-record-pace-as-cases-decline/. Oliver, Melvin L., James H. Johnson Jr., and Walter C. Farrell Jr. 1993. “Anatomy of a Rebellion: A Political-Economic Analysis.” In Reading Rodney King: Reading Urban Uprising, edited by Robert GoodingWilliams. New York: Routledge. Page, Max. 2016. Why Preservation Matters. New Haven: Yale University Press. San Francisco Planning. 2021. “Cultural Heritage.” San Francisco Planning. 2021. https://sfplanning.org/cultural-heritage. Schatzman, Dennis. 1992. “Du Sentence Upheld by State Appeals Court.” Los Angeles Sentinel, April. Sides, Josh. 2012. “20 Years Later: Legacies of the Los Angeles Riots.” Places Journal, April. https://doi.org/10.22269/120419.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 57



Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

P RE SE RVI NG WH OS E HISTORY? W h i t e n e s s a n d H i s t o r i c Pre s e r v at i o n i n Ca m b r i d g e , M a s s a c h u s e tt s

DAVI DA SILVA Davi da Silva completed his graduate studies in Medical Engineering/Medical Physics at the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020. Outside of his research, he was involved in

student organizing and activism around affordable housing in Cambridge.

ABSTR ACT Problem, Approach, and Findings Whose geographies get to be considered “historic?” We attempt to answer this question in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a centuriesold city with a varied history, by comparing the location of National Register of Historic Places and other landmarks to the city’s 20th-century “redlining” maps. From this, we see that the current distribution of protected and visible sites privileges white geographies, despite the clear existence of Black people and landmarks in the city’s history. Implications From these results and an examination of the context of a few particular sites, we argue that there are procedural and other structural factors that may privilege white history in the designation of historic protections. Moreover, we argue that given the entrenchment of racism throughout United States history, historic preservation is a project inherently tied to white supremacy. Planners and activists must consider the implications of glorifying a city’s (racist) history in discussions about the future of historic preservation.



During Ayanna Pressley’s 2018 congressional campaign, in which she unseated the longtime incumbent in Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District, one word was used frequently: historic. Often, the word was used to describe her campaign, as when she won, she became the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. But she also used the word herself to describe the problems facing her district: the historic inequities left by centuries of structural racism in Massachusetts and the nation as a whole. She made this point perhaps most deftly in a 101-second campaign ad, in which she took the MBTA 1 bus from one end of its route to the other (Ayanna Pressley for Congress, 2018). The 1 bus winds through her district from west Cambridge, one of the wealthiest and whitest parts of the Boston area, to Nubian Square in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, one of the region’s Blackest and poorest. In the ad, she ties history and lived experience to geography, noting in a voiceover the drops in income and life expectancy across the bus’s route. Implicit in her message is that only some of this geography and history is represented in government by her (white) opponent, a gap she aspired to fill. When one thinks of representation in government and public life, one most often thinks of politicians like Pressley—people in public roles, and the power they hold through office and the bully pulpit’s effect on discourse and culture. But just as Pressley’s ad referenced places, so too can representation and its resultant cultural capital be held by geographies. In particular, the notion of which locations are considered officially “historic,” and therefore deserving of state-derived protection, is a form of representation and power. And just like the inequities mentioned in the 1 Bus ad, these privileges of historicity are divided across her district—by geography and race. In this piece, I show the extent of the racialized geospatial disparities in historic preservation and landmarking in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city that is part of Pressley’s district, a

former major center of industry and manufacturing, a current biotech hub, and, perhaps most famously, the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I also explore several possible reasons for these trends, chiefly that there is inherently an ideology of whiteness within the goal of historic preservation as it exists in Cambridge (and the United States)—an ideology that planners must reckon with. The project of historic preservation in the United States is enacted through a regionally varying patchwork of protections and designations at the local, state, and national levels, each conferring different protections or restrictions on owners of properties deemed to be historic. In Cambridge in particular, there are two main designations of legal consequence. The first is the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), a list administered by the federal government in conjunction with local and state historical societies. Being listed on the NRHP does not grant any special protections for a property per se, but it confers certain tax advantages to the owner and has implications for public funding and for state and federal licensing for projects affecting those properties. There are over 200 NRHP sites within the City of Cambridge. The second important designation is that of a Cambridge Designated Landmark, a more local distinction (Cambridge Historical Commission n.d.). The process for landmark designation requires a landmarking study conducted by the Cambridge Historical Commission, triggered either by a citizen petition or the Commission itself, followed by a vote by the Cambridge City Council. Once designated as a landmark, a property is limited in the ways its publicly visible features may be modified. Over 100 sites in Cambridge have been designated landmarks in this way. 59

Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

FIGURE 1 – Cambridge, Massachusetts in context. - The northeastern United States, with detail

highlighting the City of Cambridge and its surrounding Massachusetts municipalities.

In addition to these two significant statuses, there are two other semi-official designations that provide a perhaps honorary historic designation status with no concrete legal protections. The first is visible: that of the Cambridge Historical Society’s Blue Oval markers that adorn some Cambridge properties with facts about their history. The other is fairly invisible and less well known: the Cambridge African-American Heritage Trail, which lists locations important to Cambridge’s Black community. These carry no physical marker but can be found in a pamphlet available for purchase from the city and are listed online.


As with most things in the geography of American cities, these sites granted official historic designation are not uniformly distributed within Cambridge’s borders. A walk down mansion-lined Brattle Street in west Cambridge finds many—but just a mile or two to the south, near Central Square and the neighborhood of Cambridgeport, they are few. To quantify this discrepancy through a racial lens, these sites can be counted with reference to their location on perhaps the most culturally significant marker of American urban racial geography: redlining maps. These maps arose from the racist New Deal-era practice by the federal government’s Home Owner Loan’s Corporation (HOLC) of carving up cities into different areas for the

on Dame St. and threaten to spread” (Nelson et al. 2021). HOLC maps are most known for their racist economic effects—namely, their role in creating and perpetuating residential racial segregation and creating barriers for Black wealth creation through real estate. But they also serve as a powerful symbol of (white) American society’s official perception of different neighborhoods and their moral value at the time. I use redlining maps here in that sense, not to suggest that redlining was itself the proximal cause of the observed patterns in historic preservation— although the discriminatory lending practices derived from HOLC’s maps may have contributed in various ways.

The term redlining is a reference to the HOLC’s maps, where so-called “hazardous” neighborhoods—typically Black neighborhoods—were colored in red. However, the HOLC’s maps were more detailed than that—they divided up cities into different distinct districts and assigned each a grade: A for “Best,” B for “Still Desirable,” C for “In Decline,” and D for “Hazardous.” The HOLC also provided detailed information on various facets of each I examined the relative distribution of all four types of area. This included quantitative data, such as the percent historic designations mentioned above: NRHP, Cambridge of “Negro infiltration” in that district. It also included Landmarks, Blue Oval markers, and Cambridge’s Africanqualitative assessments, such as “Apartments on Prescott American Heritage Trail. I measured the density of sites: are fairly high class… A few negro families have moved in the number of sites per square kilometer by HOLC grade (A,

FIGURE 2 – Redlining in Cambridge, a representation of the city’s racial geography. - The

HOLC’s redlining map of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with their defined districts colored by grade. The refers to the HOLC grade assigned that district: A for “Best,” B for “Still Desirable,” C for “In Decline,” and D for “Hazardous.” The city can be roughly divided into the wealthier, whiter west Cambridge, and the less white, more industrial central and eastern portions of the city.



purpose of guiding banks’ lending practices in major American cities, including Cambridge. By overlaying the location of historic sites and the redlining maps of Cambridge, a clear pattern emerges that prioritizes white geographies most highly.

Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

FIGURE 3 – Cambridge, Massachusetts in context. - (Top). HOLC maps of Cambridge, overlaid with the

locations of National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) sites (left) and Cambridge Registered Landmarks (right). (Bottom): total area of historic sites per square kilometer, for National Register of Historic Places sites (left) and Cambridge Designated Landmarks (right), by HOLC grade.

B, C, D, or No Grade), based on the redlining district in which the property’s geometric center falls, using digitized map files from the University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality project (Nelson et al., 2021). For the listings that carry legal weight (NRHP and Landmarks) or public visibility (Blue Oval markers), we see the same result: B-graded areas of Cambridge (those designated “Still Desirable” by the HOLC) are disproportionately considered “historic”, compared to C- and D-graded properties (“In Decline” and “Hazardous,” respectively). Oddly, the A-graded 62

properties don’t seem to enjoy the same level of official historicity, but this may be explained by the very small size of the one A-graded region on the HOLC maps, relatively far from either campus or major commercial centers. By contrast, the invisible, legally unprotected landmarks of the African-American Heritage Trail are found mostly in D-graded, “redlined” districts—absolutely none are found in the “Best” or “Still Desirable” districts given an A or B grade. In summary, Cambridge’s white geography, as shown by HOLC maps, aligns neatly with what is officially considered “historic” and worthy of preservation.

One possibility is that there are fewer potential sites of historic value in the C- and D-graded districts of Cambridge, due to neglect, demolition, or gentrification. Indeed, this has been the case for many sites of Black history in the United States. For example, the Rosenwald schools were once a project that at its height in the early

20th century consisted of thousands of schools for Black children in the segregated South. In the decades since Brown v. the Board of Education, though, 90% of the schools were demolished or fell into disrepair, leading to challenges for Black historians seeking to preserve them (Cep 2020). And while urban highway construction did not raze Cambridge’s Black communities (although early plans for the Boston area intended to), many other American communities that did suffer such a fate do not exist today to be preserved (Crockett 2013). In a similar vein, one

FIGURE 4 – Cambridge’s unprotected Black landmarks are exclusively found in low-grade districts, while the opposite is true for historic markers for tourists. - (Top): the locations of Cambridge’s Blue Oval

markers and African-American Heritage Trail sites, overlaid on Cambridge’s HOLC redlining map. (Bottom): The density of such sites by HOLC grade. African-American Heritage Trail sites are located exclusively in C-grade and D-grade (redlined) districts. Oval markers are mostly found in upscale B-grade districts, especially along Brattle Street and near Harvard Square.



This may not be surprising, but why and how did this trend arise? What underlies the racialized geography in Cambridge’s official history?

Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

patterns of historicity may indeed become self-reinforcing: only structures that were previously protected from demolition can enjoy continued protection. Cambridge today has a pattern of valuing its white neighborhoods, with its famous and powerful residents, over others. However, these factors cannot completely account for the disparities seen in Cambridge’s historic protections. First, the African-American Heritage Trail shows that there are sites of interest, particularly notable sites of Black history, in redlined districts. There is no shortage of history there, if one is willing to look.

FIGURE 5 – The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, the headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society. Slaveowners were among some of its earliest inhabitants. - The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House,

headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 159 Brattle St. in a B-graded HOLC district. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

could argue that whatever sites do exist in redlined areas of Cambridge may not satisfy arduous technical requirements of historic preservation ordinances that may demand, for example, architectural significance or connection to famous figures most likely to be connected to the wealthy and white, a concern sometimes raised about 20th century historic preservation in other contexts (Gans 1975). It is true that Cambridge is subject to some of those forces. Local political forces in Cambridge have a pattern of directing “undesirable” changes away from white neighborhoods in west Cambridge and towards communities of color, such as a recent controversy in which the (white) president of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association attempted to divert a proposed marijuana dispensary away from prestigious Harvard Square and towards Central Square, long a center of Black Cambridge life. And a Historical Society blue oval marker adorns the former home of T.S. Eliot near Harvard, where Eliot taught very briefly, a clear example of how it may be easier to achieve a standard of historicity simply by proximity to fame and notability when most classically famous figures in the mainstream are white. And because Cambridge’s development policy includes a demolition delay ordinance that applies to any building older than 50 years, old 64

And to the second point, while other communities may have historic protection standards that on paper favor white historical sites, Cambridge’s are, at least textually, quite broad. This is the definition on the Cambridge Historical Commission’s website of what is considered a designated landmark, for example: “A landmark is a place, structure, feature, or object that has been designated by the City Council as historically or architecturally significant by itself or because it is associated with events, persons, or trends significant in the history of the City.” The inclusion of architecture, events, and trends in this definition (as opposed to just people) gives a broad, generous interpretation of what could be considered historic. A triple-decker apartment building in midCambridge could be considered historic by virtue of its association with a regional architectural trend, for example. Similarly, a Black church could be landmarked for its association with the local Black population that has long lived in the neighborhood nearby. The standards as written could sustain a more populist approach that broadly values the lived history of residents across the city and does not de jure prioritize whiteness. Another possibility is that the process required to see a site through to landmarking is biased in favor of whiteness and white participants. There is evidence of this type of effect in other hyperlocal decision-making processes. One recent Boston University study found that participants offering public comment at Massachusetts municipal zoning and

Some structures go even further to center white voices in historic preservation processes. As became contentious in a recent debate over a proposed East Cambridge Historic District, part of the Historic Commission’s process is to assess the sentiments of local homeowners, but not renters, through postcards mailed to their residences (Levy 2020). A 2015 report of the Boston metropolitan statistical area found that while almost 80% of white people in the Boston area owned their homes, only a third of Black households did (Muñoz et al. 2015). Thus, majority-renter Cambridge’s historic districting process is structurally biased to elevate the voices of whites, who are more likely to own homes. And while not included in the above redlining calculations, the historic district maps of Cambridge are equally stark. If the East Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District were enacted, almost all of Cambridge would be covered with a historic district, with the notable exceptions of Central Square and Cambridgeport, the Blackest parts of the city, which would be left without a historic district. Both of those sources of racism in historic preservation concern logistics: details of the sites or the process, and how those may be structurally biased. They also, in some sense, are focused on deficits in the process related to communities of color. That is, why non-white landmarks might be less recognizable, or why those communities have difficulties navigating the process. However, as Goetz et al. (2020) argue, it can be valuable to shift the discourse away from the perceived pathologies or deficits of communities of color and towards an explicit consideration of whiteness and how it shows up in planning. Along these lines, I offer

a third, more theoretical criticism: that in a society with a deep history of racism, historic preservation is inherently a project of white supremacy. The fundamental tenet of historic preservation—that being “historic” makes something inherently worth preserving—stems from the assumption that the past was essentially good. A site is worth preserving solely by virtue of the fact that it is connected in some way to the past, and a politics of nostalgia seeks to promote its continuation into the present. But America’s past was really only good to some, particularly white people, while being a site of intense pain and oppression for others. Using a bare connection to the past as justification for protecting something in the present will necessarily then glorify the connections to violence lurking in even seemingly innocuous pieces of history. This dynamic is not necessarily true for the study of history; one can recall the past without glorifying it, applying a critical lens to both the joys and miseries of what came before in order to understand the present. Historic preservation, however, largely does not seek to analyze, contextualize, or understand. It is a form of hagiography through the built environment, and through its very existence may elevate particular framings of history while masking others. Cambridge offers several examples of uncritically elevating sites with troubling, racist histories. When I lived in Cambridge, almost every day I would walk past a handsome house with a Historical Society plaque that read: “Home of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse who was the first Harvard professor of medicine and introducer of the Small Pox vaccine.” It was only years later, when reading Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid (2008), that I would learn another fact about Waterhouse not mentioned on the plaque: that Waterhouse was supported in his work by Thomas Jefferson, who used Waterhouse’s vaccine samples to conduct experiments on some of the people he enslaved. And the Waterhouse House’s ties to slavery pale in comparison to many historic sites in west Cambridge. Indeed, the very headquarters of the Cambridge Historical Society, the Brattle Street mansion known as the HarperLee-Nichols House (Figure 5), was owned by at least two slaveowners, and the Society notes that enslaved people 65


planning meetings were whiter and wealthier than the communities themselves, resulting in a distortion of democratic outcomes (Einstein et al. 2019). The authors speculated on some possible mechanisms: “These forums require significant outlays of time, interest, and expertise. All of these factors will serve to further bias these forums in favor of advantaged voices.” These factors would all certainly be true of Cambridge’s landmarking process, which requires marshalling the support of the public via petition, as well as the backing of the Historical Society and political capital of the City Council to achieve landmarking success.

Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

may have lived in the Harper-Lee-Nichols House itself (Cambridge Historical Society n.d.). Both the Waterhouse House and the Harper-Lee-Nichols House reside in the B-graded districts of west Cambridge and concern centuriesold sins, but the elevation of complementary white narratives and erasure of racist violence in historic preservation also extend to modern landmarks and ones in redlined parts of the city. As an example of this, consider the recent discourse around one landmark: the EMF Building. The EMF Building is a structure in a D-graded HOLC district, not far from Central Square and south of Massachusetts Avenue and the neighborhood Cambridgeport. Following the 2018 eviction of the artists who had been using the building for studio space, a local group of activists submitted a petition to have

the building landmarked. The Cambridge Historical Commission then authored a 24-page landmarking study (Sullivan & Hill 2019) assessing its historical significance and recommending landmarking. The landmark designation was eventually approved (Levy 2019). The narrative told in the landmarking study is of Cambridge’s nature as a dynamic city of arts and industry, with the building playing a role in both. Built in 1920, the EMF Building served as a factory for many industrial and commercial products, including cameras and radios. As manufacturing waned in Cambridge, a group of artists eventually repurposed the former factory as a set of rehearsal spaces. Since cameras and radios are tools of technology that enable cultural and artistic expression, the building serves as a bridge between these two eras of

FIGURE 6 – Three selected landmarks. - HOLC map of Cambridge, Massachusetts, showing the

location of three landmarks: the EMF Building, the Harper-Lee-Nichols House, and the Waterhouse House.


This history is factual, but incomplete. It is true that Cambridge has an industrial history, but not all of Cambridge does–you’ll find no remnants of factories in Harvard Square or along stately Brattle Street. The landmarking study (Sullivan & Hill 2019) attempts to draw a universality to the history of Cambridge, rather than situating the building in its more local context. In fact, the only explicit mention of its neighbors is to note their ignorance of the building: “Tenants said that many nearby residents did not know the space was being used by musicians—they would simply see people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.” Other landmarking studies make explicit reference to, say, architectural features typical of a particular neighborhood, or connection to a particular immigrant group, making ignoring the local neighborhood context notable here. So what is the local neighborhood context of the EMF Building? Cambridge’s HOLC map (Nelson et al. 2021) described the district it occupies: “70% Negro predominating. Obsolescence. Low class occupants. Poor housing. Congested area. Home ownership: low. Occupation: labor – relief.” The presence of a Black community around the EMF Building (or, perhaps, the absence of uniform whiteness) means that the site may also be a potent symbol of another trend in the urban history of the United States: the environmental racism of placing industrial zones and other noxious projects in communities of color, to the detriment of their physical health (Wilson et al. 2008). This trend certainly existed in Boston and Cambridge: early plans would have placed an urban highway directly through the site of the EMF Building, which would have led to the building (and neighborhood’s) destruction absent the activist effort that eventually defeated it (Crockett, 2013). Moreover, given these demographics, the cultural shift brought on by artists to a declining industrial area,

celebrated by the landmarking report, could also be seen as an unsavory symbol of gentrification, another widespread source of harm for non-white communities. In these contexts, the EMF Building’s history is less quaint and more troubling. This is not to say that this latter interpretation of the EMF Building’s status in the area is necessarily more correct, or in and of itself a complete and accurate representation of causality between various neighborhood elements; the relationship between the arts, new residents, gentrification, and industry is complex and contentious. The two narratives may be simultaneously true—it could be that there was an interplay in Cambridge of arts and industry that led to vibrancy for some and suffering for others. What is important is that the landmarking study’s version of the EMF Building’s history serves a political purpose: to situate the artists as sympathetic, and their place in local history as uniquely important, so that their political allies on the City Council and elsewhere can have a basis to come to their aid. In these ways, the ideological contours of historic preservation of sites like the EMF Building in liberal urban areas have much in common with the debate over the preservation of Confederate monuments, statues of Christopher Columbus, or other violent figures of

FIGURE 7 – The EMF Building, a former factory and recently landmarked property in a redlined district of Cambridge. - A

1994 photo of the EMF Building. (Photo credit: the Cambridge Historical Commission landmarking study) district. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)



Cambridge’s history, the story goes. Moreover, with the owner evicting those tenants, the building and its history must be protected from this emerging threat.

Feature Article: Preserving Whose History?

FIGURE 8 – Current distribution of Cambridge’s Black population, which still roughly resembles HOLC’s maps.

history. Those who support their removal do so because they recognize that official recognition, be it with legal protection or valuable space in the public built environment, ensures not just their continued existence, but their glorification, no matter how much context may be offered in an accompanying plaque. Simply being “historic” is insufficient justification for its continued communal display and preservation. This has largely been argued for sites tied to violent, racist individuals of particular fame (or infamy). But if we extend our understanding of the history of racism to include not just individuals, but social histories involving movements and larger structures, then far more sites of urban geography become ensnared. With this framing follows the recognition that skepticism currently directed towards monuments should be extended to historic preservation as a whole. To reform some of the current quantitative imbalances in historic preservation, there are a couple different approaches. Some work focuses on centering communities 68

of color in historic preservation efforts. For example, Black preservationists like architectural historian Brett Leggs are involved in efforts to identify landmarks of importance to African-American history and organize financial and logistical support for their preservation (Cep 2020; Leggs et al. 2012; The Widespread Failure to Preserve African American History 2020). Similar efforts exist in other communities, although it should be noted that support some measures, such as historic districts, have been controversial in communities of color due to concerns of gentrification and uneasy political alliances with white preservationists. Cameron Logan’s Historic Capital (2017) gives an accounting of such conflicts in Washington, DC, for instance. But for the urban planning community, particular white people in the profession, the solution cannot just to add a handful of new sites. As shown in Pressley’s campaign ad, “historic” can equally be an inspiring source of celebration or an oppressive weight to be shed. An equitable response to the current state of

In summary, by mapping the distribution of various Cambridge historic designations, it is apparent that they are disproportionately applied to sites in historically white areas. Some of this disparity can be explained by legal and procedural hurdles that give white people and their properties a systemic advantage in historic preservation process. However, looking at which historical narratives are included in official histories of preserved sites, and which are not, reveals how the act of preservation itself may involve glorifying flattering retellings of history while ignoring uncomfortable truths and context. Given the ubiquity of racism in the fabric of American history, the act of preservation itself requires the protection and elevation of symbols of our violent, painful past—if not indeed celebrating them. As such, the future of historic preservation needs to consider the costs of laundering violence into nostalgia that can accompany landmarking.

REFERENCES Ayanna Pressley for Congress. 2018. The 1 Bus - Ayanna Pressley for Congress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgF79Shc_YI&ab_ channel=AyannaPressley. Cambridge Historical Commission. 2021. “Landmarks.” 2021. https:// www.cambridgema.gov/historic/districtsHistoricProperties/Landmarks. Cambridge Historical Society. 2021. “Brief History of the Hooper-LeeNichols House and Enslaved People.” 2021. https://cambridgehistory.org/ research/did-you-know/brief-history-of-the-hooper-lee-nichols-houseand-enslaved-people/. Cep, Casey. 2020. The Fight to Preserve African-American History. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/03/thefight-to-preserve-african-american-history. Crockett, Karilyn Michelle. 2013. “People Before Highways”: Reconsidering Routes to and from the Boston Anti-Highway Movement. Einstein, Katherine Levine, Maxwell Palmer, and David M. Glick. 2019. “Who Participates in Local Government? Evidence from Meeting Minutes.” Perspectives on Politics 17 (1): 28–46. https://doi.org/10.1017/ S153759271800213X. EJI. 2020. “The Widespread Failure to Preserve African American History.” Equal Justice Initiative. January 2020. https://eji.org/news/widespreadfailure-to-preserve-african-american-history/. Gans, Herbert J. 1975. “Preserving Everyone’s Noo Yawk.” The New York Times, January. https://www.nytimes.com/1975/01/28/archives/preservingeveryones-noo-yawk.html. Goetz, Edward G., Rashad A. Williams, and Anthony Damiano. 2020. “Whiteness and Urban Planning.” Journal of the American Planning Association 86 (2): 142–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2019.1693907. Leggs, Brent, Kerri Rubman, and Byrd Wood. 2012. “Preserving African American Historic Places,” 28.

Levy, Marc. 2019. EMF Building Wins Landmarking Designation, Not Preventing Its Renovation into Office Space. Cambridge Day. https:// www.cambridgeday.com/2019/12/06/emf-building-wins-landmarkingdesignation-not-preventing-its-renovation-into-office-space/. ———. 2020. Council Affirms Role of East Cambridge Renters in Deciding Neighborhood Conservation District. Cambridge Day. https://www. cambridgeday.com/2020/10/20/council-affirms-role-of-east-cambridgerenters-in-deciding-neighborhood-conservation-district/. Logan, Cameron. 2017. Historic Capital: Preservation, Race, and Real Estate in Washington, D.C. U of Minnesota Press. Muñoz, Ana Patricia, Marlene Kim, Mariko Chang, Regine O. Jackson, Darrick Hamilton, and William A. Darity Jr. 2015. The Color of Wealth in Boston. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. https://www.bostonfed.org/ publications/one-time-pubs/color-of-wealth.aspx. Nelson, Robert, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, and Nathan Connolly. 2021. “Mapping Inequality.” In American Panorama. Sullivan, Charles, and Hill, Eric. 2019. Preliminary Landmark Designation Report, EMF Building. Cambridge Historical Commission. https:// www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/historicalcommission/pdf/ chcmeetingfiles/L128_prelim_report.pdf. U.S. Census Bureau. 2019. Percent Total Population: Black or AfricanAmerican Alone, ACS 2019 (5-Year Estimate). Prepared by Social Explorer. Washington, Harriet A. 2008. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Illustrated edition. New York: Anchor. Wilson, Sacoby, Malo Hutson, and Mahasin Mujahid. 2008. “How Planning and Zoning Contribute to Inequitable Development, Neighborhood Health, and Environmental Injustice.” Environmental Justice 1 (4): 211–216. https:// doi.org/10.1089/env.2008.0506.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 69


the preservation of such history must therefore include a confrontation of the whiteness that underlies the project of historic preservation as a whole, a recognition that you cannot uncritically preserve the history of a white supremacist society without also preserving that white supremacy.

Feature Article: White Magic, Black Magic

WH I TE M AGI C, BLAC K MAGIC : Design Education as a Site of Racial Justice Contestation

DARIEN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS Darien Alexander Williams is a doctoral student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies &

Planning, where he focuses on disaster recovery, climate change, and Black religious organizing. He has previously worked across eastern North Carolina on local planning in the aftermath of hurricane events and is an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill’s DCRP.

ABSTR ACT Problem, Approach, and Findings This paper explores urban planning and other design departments as sites of studentled contestation for racial justice. I first draw on urban design education history, citing statements and examples from planning departments across the United States. In exploring this history, I reference recent forms of student critique and protest following the national outrage over the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Particular attention is given to urban planning. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, founded in 1933, offers illustrative examples as the longest standing and largest planning department in the United States. I argue that planning education is uniquely ‘magical’ in that it provides students with the tools and credentials to materialize their desires in the built environment. There are two characteristics that we shall explore: 1) Planning students learn ‘magic,’ a term I use to describe a privileged ability to transform an imagined world (informed by ideology, identity, and biases) into something ‘real’ and material in the built environment, and 2) planning students, particularly Black and other students of color, recognize this magic’s impact on our shared built environment and repeatedly target curricula as a means of intervening in the reproduction of white supremacy. Implications Planning and design education has historically been an institution for the implementation of white imaginaries. The lengthy historical record of Black students critiquing this institution demonstrate that ways our discipline can disrupt white power’s ability to manifest and organize the built environment. Disrupting white power begins with decolonial struggle (e.g., landback), dismantling infrastructures of death and exploitation, and learning from alternative education formats modeled by recent experiments with curricular transformation. “There is a dialectic – a back and forth – between alternative Black spaces and the forces they resist.” – Karla Slocum, Black Towns, Black Futures, 2019



INTRODUCTION This text engages the histories of academic design institutions as sites of student-led advocacy for racial justice, with particular attention given to urban planning and architecture. I will first draw on the role of planning institutions in white worldbuilding (‘white magic’) and constraining alternatives. This tradition would necessitate decades of Black resistance, knowledge production, and the development of alternative planning and education institutions (‘Black magic’). Magical thinking and bureaucratic institutions have tradition in other planning work in literal and symbolic ways (James 2012). Both white and Black magic have mediated internal university dynamics that have impacted the built environment outside of the university, particularly during moments of national conflict. As of 2021, this resistance has most recently manifested in student demand statements and the experimental building of alternative educational institutions outside of the design academy.

WHITE MAGIC To better understand the history of Black resistance within academic design departments, we must briefly reflect on the history of universities implementing white supremacist interventions in the built environment. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the founding of the first architecture and urban planning departments in the United States. The new departments shaped generations of designers who implemented many of the interventions that the same departments and their connected institutions now critique: racial zoning, apartheid townships, segregated neighborhoods, company and prison town-planning, and the massive decades-long forced movement of people and land dispossession known as urban renewal. I call the skills and credentials imparted by these institutions ‘white magic’ because they allowed students to conjure white imaginaries of urban space into the material, built environment. Numerous works have explored this history

of dispossession at the hand of white planners (Massey & Denton 1993; Rothstein 2017; Taylor 2019; Goetz et al. 2020). The goal of this paper is not to detail the impacts of this violent white legacy, but to explicitly name the target of student organizers. This white magic was motivated by a set of communal priorities long-considered moral and of service to a greater good, and is the target of student resistance. White magic has mediated internal departmental arrangements (the most glaring being explicit racial discrimination producing all-white departments until educational de-segregation) as well as external relationships with surrounding communities. White magic is not limited to white people, extending to anyone implementing work, even well-meaning work, sanctioned by white institutions. This includes institutions that were founded by slaveowners (such as MIT), segregated institutions built by slaves, and institutions operating off of wealth generated in racialized oppression (Krantz 2018). Despite integration of the university, the primacy of whiteness in the form of race-blind, racially-antagonistic, and race-deprioritized work manifests in planning departments. Samuel James Cullers, likely the first Black urban planning graduate degree-holder (awarded in 1952), serves as one example of this deprioritization. Cullers’s historic thesis, an interview analysis that cites race among other identities as variables that “time would not permit [a] detailed cross-classification of,” is in and of itself an early example of the nature of the scholarship that would secure an early urban planning degree (Cullers 1952). By referencing Cullers, I do not necessarily intend to implicate him in the white supremacist planning endeavor. Cullers’s work is important, but serves as a useful reference for how even a well-intentioned university program has historically constrained and deprioritized racial inquiry.


Feature Article: White Magic, Black Magic

BL ACK MAGIC The urban upsets of the 1960s sparked resistance to the work carried out by planning departments in their surrounding communities. Students critiqued town-gown dynamics of university expansion and gentrification of Black communities, like the famous 1968 resistance to development of Morningside Park by Columbia University (Carriere 2011). In the subsequent decades, cresting in the 1990s, universities witnessed student-led resistance to complicity in South Africa’s white nationalist apartheid regime (Soule 1997). More recently, particularly for planning schools in the South, departments saw student calls for action regarding confederate monuments on and near university campuses (DCRP 2018). These protests took the form of conventional demonstrations, committee disruptions, and even physicallybuilt displays of resistance in public space. Following the Long, Hot Summers of the 1960s Revolutionary global upsets of the 1960s impacted student organizing in planning departments across the United States. One recorded example is the 1969 National Urban Planning Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an annual event hosted by the American Planning Association’s predecessors: the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning Officials. Among a group of “over 300 students and faculty from 50 city planning departments around the country,” a large group of over sixty Black student attendees staged a mass walkout (Jacobs 1969). Black students released a set of demands alongside this walkout, including dedicated funding to found Black city planning schools, scholarships, and budget contributions to a newly-founded Black Planning Network devoted to transforming planning into a discipline in the service of Black communities under Black leadership. Commentary from non-Black students who witnessed the action mirrored the sentiments expressed. “[One Cornell student] noted that city planners look on black urban communities as ‘workshops’” (Jacobs 1969). Another student, Lawrence Susskind, now Professor at MIT, remarked, “the demands were neither unreasonable nor revolutionary” (Jacobs 1969). Some educators were so struck by such student demonstrations that they subsequently pushed their architecture and planning departments to transform beyond 72

diversity of admission. One such call to action warned that the field currently “[fails] to prepare black people [with] needed skills for discerning and pursuing vital black metropolitan-wide interests,” and that planning education has “not equipped them to collectively absorb an equitable share of post-urban America’s resources” (Mitchell et al. 1970). Such publications preceded the student demonstrations of 2020 by a half century. Student resistance was not limited to conferences. Members of architecture and urban planning departments were involved in local and global struggles that centered universities as complicit agents in oppressive interventions in the built environment. Student protest against Columbia University’s expansion into Harlem involved a Black-led, multiracial set of tactics within and beyond the walls of the university (Bradley 2010). Student strategies, including the occupation of campus buildings and discouraging investments in the school, were central to preventing what students viewed as an extension of urban renewal. They were ultimately successful. Protesting university investment in the apartheid regime of South Africa likewise required a level of creativity that deeply engaged members of planning and architecture departments. Students built shantytowns to disrupt public space on campus and called for boycotts and university divestment from apartheid South Africa (Naylor 2010). Student-led struggles toward racial justice in architecture and planning schools have largely been bi-directional. The first direction of student efforts has been towards internal departmental processes, including admissions, funding, programming, and curricula. In a sense, these priorities mirror those of any other academic department. The second direction focuses externally on disrupting white supremacy in the form of urban planning practice. This student inclusion of external impact signals their acknowledgment of the uniqueness of design education (and planning education in particular) concerning impacts on the material conditions of Black communities globally. Such an intervention, to transform urban planning and design from a tool of the white imagination to a tool for the Black imagination, is engaging what I consider to be the discipline’s magical nature. This Black magic speaks

FOLLOWING THE LONG, HOT SUMMER OF 2020 Following the police executions of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, global Black protest produced new examples of collective statements, demands, and moves towards transformative action. Black planning student groups and their accomplices engaged in similar work. Like their 1960s predecessors, these demands primarily called for: 1) internal departmental change in the service of a racially-just education, and 2) disrupting the external impact of urban planning and design as a vehicle for white supremacist worldbuilding. Internal Transformation Departments in all regions of the continental United States were met with comprehensive critiques of internal processes. The following section traces the thread of Black magic through each set of demands. Students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) stated, “given the sociocultural, environmental, and economic impacts of architecture, it is imperative that we seize this important historic moment to reexamine the culture, priorities, and pedagogy of UCLA” (UCLA 2020). Students at the University of Virginia (UVA) Architecture School went on to demand their departments “take radical steps to reflect our obligations to each other, to design, and in solidarity with Black lives” and argued their proposed changes are “what the next 100 years should look like” (UVA 2020). These proclamations urged planning and design educators and practitioners to recognize the present moment as a window of opportunity for transformation. Inherent in framing a particular moment as opportune is an implicit assessment that normal circumstances do not carry the same transformational potential. Organized students at UCLA and UVA sent an important message to future cohorts: if transformation does not occur under present circumstances, at the guidance of clear critique

and widespread desire, then future change may require greater organized disruption. Black students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) organized under the banner of ‘Black DUSP Magic’. The students directly engaged recent planning literature published by planning educators, several of whom are members of the department. Black DUSP Magic’s (BDM) 2020 publication was formatted as a Master’s Thesis submission and titled Planning Ideas That Matter: Blackness, Indigeneity, Redistribution, and Reparative Practice (also referred to as The Black DUSP Thesis; BDM 2020). Across sections, the demands posed questions to wrestle with regarding “white supremacy and anti-blackness [that has] permeated [planning department] culture, in the past and present” (BDM 2020). The Black DUSP Thesis proposed specific interventions, including hiring goals, changes to the curriculum, increased funding (for Black faculty, staff, and programming), line-item support for Black and Indigenous students, and transformation of admissions, communication, and professional development processes. Black DUSP Magic used their discipline’s words against itself, with critical subtitles such as “We LOVE Ananya but Y’all Can Do More: Implement an Anti-Racist Curriculum and Strengthen Anti-Racist Educators,” “Align DUSP’s Mouth and Money,” and “Create a Department That Black Students Don’t Have to Fix” (BDM 2020). Concurrently, planning students at Columbia University referenced departmental history, stating their school “has made it clear across its many disciplinary boundaries that it has little interest in the critical, creative, or scholarly work of black students unless it aligns with preconceived notions of blackness… ignoring and invisibilizing the full range of black creative production” (Black Student Alliance 2020). Students at Ohio State University reflected that their prior learning “[only] romanticized histories of our profession as practiced by white practitioners, taught by mostly white professors, in a community where BIPOC voices aren’t heard, on land violently dispossessed from Black and Indigenous peoples” (NOMA OSU 2020). These critiques served as alternative starting points 73


to a tradition of resisting the ways white imaginaries are conjured into material existence, which involves the use of land, the setting of economic relationships, movement of people, remembrance of history, the building of new structures, and the demolition of old.

Feature Article: White Magic, Black Magic

for expressed educational transformational goals. Rather than taking on institutional burden, students established boundaries and engaged administration and educators as distinct agents who perpetuated systemic issues in planning and design education. These are but a few examples of demands put forth, with additional statements made across the United States and Canada (AASU 2020; AVSSU et al. 2020; Black Student Alliance 2020; CAPLA 2020; CED 2020; Cornell AAP 2020; Design Justice Actions 2020; Design JusticeMaryland 2020; Inclusion in Design 2020; NOMA OSU 2020; NOMAS VT 2020; PSoA 2020; RISD 2020; RSA 2020; Ryerson DAS 2020; SAIC 2020; TSASG 2020; UCLA 2020; UVA, 2020; WhereIsDalArch 2020; YSoA 2020). Beyond the Academy This brings us to what student demands are ultimately in service of: the transformation of the material realities of Black communities in the United States and globally. In the struggle to interrupt planning and design education as an instrument of white supremacy, 2020 student-led resistance has mirrored the critiques of the half century prior. The current critiques call for a moment of reckoning with the discipline’s impact on the built environment of Black communities. Resistance at Rice University’s School of Architecture articulated that “too often White architects, politicians, and developers have had nearly exclusive control over architectural means of production, while Black and Brown Americans have historically been denied the agency to shape the very environments where they were forcibly compelled to work and live” (RSA 2020). Black student-led demands at the University of Pennsylvania brought the focus of departmental discourse down to the city scale, prioritizing the “understanding [of how] systemic racism and colonialism have operated throughout the history of the built environment -- globally, nationally, and within the city of Philadelphia” (Inclusion in Design 2020). Similarly, students at the University of Arizona also drew attention to local sites of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous dispossession, describing their


school as “[inhabiting] a city where minority communities were removed for the Tucson Convention Center; [where the school’s] previous Dean advocated for the current urban renewal happening downtown and near the University” (CAPLA 2020). Student critiques spanned scales, from local to national and international manifestations of white supremacy and nationalism. Students of University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design described their disciplines as “not exempt from the fight for justice [and] deeply complicit in the American tradition of white supremacy” (CED 2020). Students at the University of Toronto indicted their disciplines as those that “encode systemic anti-Black racism in both our built and digital spaces… [perpetuated through] academic, social, and cultural production” (AVSSU et al. 2020). This collective recognition of disciplinary impact and attempted disruption draws explicitly on prior efforts in and out of the design fields. In the spirit of the Black Radical Tradition, Black planning and design students have articulated their struggle as part of a centuries-long series of resistance to white supremacy. Groups at Princeton University’s School of Architecture connected their demands to “weeks of civil unrest demanding justice and reflecting on 401 years of anti-Black racism and violence across the nation” (PSoA 2020). Those at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago included a reference to Harriet Tubman in their statement, claiming “the future is coming--Harriet Tubman taught us that it is already here” (SAIC 2020). Perhaps most explicitly, Black DUSP Magic students at MIT recalled and referenced the work of Black Cambridge community members from the prior century. The front page of their Black DUSP Thesis features a 1968 photograph titled Questions to MIT, 1968, which features a public display on campus bearing the questions “Should MIT continue to hold conferences

on urban problems without substantial attendance of grass roots Black people- not just so-called leaders of the community? Should MIT continue research in the ghetto without having approval & active participation from the Black people living there?” (Figure 1; MIT Black History, 2020). Towards an Alternative Student and community resistance has been generative, conjuring new, non-hierarchical forms of education and practice. One such example includes Dark Matter University (DMU). Dark Matter University is an alternative digital space, organized by members of the Design As Protest group and their contemporaries to build “a democratic network” guided by a set of principles (DMU 2020). These principles include “new forms of knowledge and knowledge production, institutions, collectivity and practice, community and culture” and ultimately “new forms of design” toward anti-racism (DMU 2020). Other examples include Emergent Grounds for Design Education, a collective led by Chris Daemmrich, My Anh Nguyen, and Michelle Barrett that documents and engages these recent and unfolding histories in real-time, offering alternative ways to develop values and skillsets for design practice.

I invite the reader—the planner or designer, the practitioner or scholar—to engage with the Black Radical Tradition. Calls for justice, equity, and transformation do not exist in a vacuum. These calls represent concurrent horizontal organizing, across field, school, race, and nation. They also represent generations of struggle, firmly rooted in the impact of planning, architecture, and design in our shared communities. Engaging the Black Radical Tradition and the magic of planning education begins with following the thread of decolonial movements cited in student demands, such as landback to Native peoples, reckoning with apartheid history, Black freedom struggles, and Palestinian liberation. Engagement involves attending to disinvestment, exploitation, and facing urban renewal’s continued legacy head on. I invite you to push for planning justice for the people of Flint, Michigan, Hurricane Mariaimpacted Puerto Rico, and marginalized communities in Texas. Finally, decades-long calls for transformation implore us to try out new ways to congregate, to produce and share knowledge, disrupt our universities, and build community, as Dark Matter University and Emergent Grounds for Design Education have done.



FIGURE 1 – Questions to MIT, 1968. Photo credit: MIT Museum

Both DMU and Emergent Grounds for Design Education include urban planners, architects, landscape architects, and other designers in meetings, workshops, meet-andgreets, and, in the case of DMU, full-fledged courses associated with university communities. The spaces serve as models of a non-hierarchical alternative to the university, inviting anyone with internet access to engage in both learning and knowledge production without barriers, guided by a democratically agreedupon normative approach. These alternatives point to decentering the university as the only place where legitimate planning and design skills and credentials are bestowed. DMU and Emergent Grounds let planners start from scratch, at least as much as they can in a well-established discipline. This enables learners to avoid wrestling with institutional lag in universities with tangled histories and incentive structures that hinder the speed of the overhauls in student demand statements.

Feature Article: White Magic, Black Magic

CONCLUSION In content, character, and form, these internal and external demands are more than department or school-specific moves to reform the university. The demands recognize the school as a bottleneck where massive changes can be implemented. They contend with how planning and design education reproduces the skillsets and priorities of white supremacy. They demonstrate that Black students, many of whom come from communities impacted by generations of white planners and designers from the departments they now find themselves in, have rich and magical legacies of resisting white supremacy in every segment of their education. This resistance has always required a deep inward interrogation alongside far-reaching transformation beyond the academy.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was inspired by the undergraduates, graduates, and alumni of Black DUSP Magic, as well as the intellectual support and assistance of Dasjon Jordan at MIT CoLab and Enjoli Dominique Hall.


Black Student Alliance. 2020. On the Futility of Listening. https:// onthefutilityoflistening.cargo.site/.

Massey, Douglas, and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Harvard University Press.

AVSSU, GALDSU, and FGSA. 2020. A Letter to DFALD on Dismantling Systemic Anti-Black Racism. https://mail.danielsdobetter.com/. Bradley, Stefan M. 2010. Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s. University of Illinois Press.

Mitchell, Melvin L., Lawrence Casey Mann, and Robert F. Jayson. 1970. “The Case For Environmental Planning Education in Black Schools.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners 36 (4): 279–284. https:// doi.org/10.1080/01944367008977320.

CAPLA. 2020. A Response Towards Clarity. https://docs.google. com /do c u ment /u /2/d /e/2PACX-1v Q1KTnOIK_h5u68feZDHtFTxksZ2B6Ih63AOBaYneQa4xW3lFefxD-p9ZGUKbMyxbTijjrBvce1NDD/ pub?urp=gmail_link.

Naylor, Sophia. 2010. MIT Students Campaign for Divestment from Apartheid South Africa, 1985-1991. Global Nonviolent Action Database. https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/mit-students-campaigndivestment-apartheid-south-africa-1985-1991.

Carriere, M. 2011. “Fighting the War against Blight: Columbia University, Morningside Heights, Inc., and Counterinsurgent Urban Renewal.” Journal of Planning History. https://doi.org/10.1177/1538513210392882.

OSU, NOMA. 2020. BIPOC Coalition - Public Statement to Knowlton. Google Docs. https://docs.google.com/document/ d /1e33 yX 2 i a 0 0 w 0 8 0 q v nUGW- s z B Ql w g Z 6D d f e f u Zu e S e R 8/ edit?usp=embed_facebook.

CED. 2020. CED Architecture: A Call to Action. https://docs.google.com/ document/u/2/d/e/2PACX-1vSNtg-IhUERNVDor3hvnNezAmhDUCp1a73 jUK8qBJEvIvHWhqREeF4ifCz3BLT_dnewYJjUs6t0IVp3/pub.

PSoA. 2020. Open Letter on Anti-Racism to the PSoA. https:// do c s.go ogle.com /do c u ment /u /1/d /17gSR7-Zm xay OBfdZwI5_ nhVpz4cncvKtUKTzjK9pRhY/mobilebasic.

Cullers, Samuel J. 1952. “A Study of Planning Attitudes in Cambridge: Census Tract 15.” Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. https:// dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/73330.

Rothstein, Richard. 2017. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright Publishing.

Dark Matter University, (DMU). 2020. Actions - DarkMatterU. https:// darkmatteruniversity.org/ACTIONS.

RSA. 2020. RSA Call to Action. Google Docs. https://docs.google.com/ document/d/1i_LU8pf3DSfMMZf0-QePBmeHeG_h8ikLT2mQUiI9ef8/ edit?usp=embed_facebook.

DCRP. 2018. DCRP Statement on Silent Sam - MCPS. Google Docs. Goetz, Edward G., Rashad A. Williams, and Anthony Damiano. 2020. “Whiteness and Urban Planning.” Journal of the American Planning Association 86 (2): 142–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2019.1693907. MIT Black History. 2020. Questions to MIT, 1968. MIT Black History. https:// www.blackhistory.mit.edu/archive/questions-mit-1968.

SAIC. 2020. SAIC Co-Signers. https://forms.zohopublic.eu/ bl a c k f ut u r e s mov i n g for w a r d /for m /Co s i g ne r s /for mp e r m a / KD5RIpWR68knBUIiuGM22lergOn_Xb9FRwLAwUgQ7Uk. Sanyal, Bishwapriya, Lawrence J. Vale, and Christina D. Rosan. 2012. Planning Ideas That Matter: Livability, Territoriality, Governance, and Reflective Practice. MIT Press.

Inclusion in Design (IiD). 2020. Open Letter to the Dean of Stuart Weitzman School of Design. https://docs.google.com/ document/u/2/d/e/2PACX-1vRc9KV1NzNWYrS-Fbxsbny61ST7STb viObJnFA3bzp8GDJRVb2MKREFNig4W_eThGiJKk5qeWJ3yWcb/ pub?f bclid=IwAR2VsGAEullBu0Q8xhKaz5TUxQFP75Ra1UnM_ urV6zrLzQQ2zuPpl2YycBg.

Slocum, Karla. 2019. Black Towns, Black Futures: The Enduring Allure of a Black Place in the American West. UNC Press Books.

Jacobs, Scott J. 1969. “Black Urban Planners Walk Out of Meeting.” The Harvard Crimson, November. https://www.thecrimson.com/ article/1969/11/24/black-urban-planners-walk-out-of/.

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2019. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. UNC Press Books.

Krantz, Laura. 2018. “Looking into Its Past, MIT Finds Its First President Once Owned Slaves.” BostonGlobe.Com. 2018. https://www. bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/02/12/mit-reckoning-with-slavery/ ycYjRNa3dgwOenvbDCCEsO/story.html.

Soule, Sarah A. 1997. “The Student Divestment Movement in the United States and Tactical Diffusion: The Shantytown Protest.” Social Forces 75 (3): 855–882.

UCLA. 2020. UCLA AUD Call to Action. https://audcalltoaction.cargo.site/. UVA. 2020. A-School Call to Action. Google Docs. https://docs.google. com/document/d/1Hv9ULzxsJxxVzlTPFEva9ekXctUrEKD96JeEFZPInBI/ edit?usp=embed_facebook.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 77



Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge


L. DARA BALDWIN, MPA L. Dara Baldwin, MPA (@NJDC07) is the Director of National Policy for the Center for Disability Rights and works on policy issues that include transportation, housing and community

development. Ms. Baldwin has worked in federal policy for over 15 years, leading multiple policy campaigns that have resulted in the passage of laws. She serves on a number of boards

including the steering committee for the Campaign for Housing and Community Development

(CHCDF), the Board of Directors for the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and

as a Co-Chair of the Transportation Equity Caucus. She anchors her work in ending systems of

oppression through ending racism and creating a new world order. She lives in Washington, DC and is a staunch advocate for DC Statehood.

TAMIKA L. BUTLER, ESQ. Tamika L. Butler, Esq. (@tamikabutler) is a national expert and speaker on issues related to

the built environment, equity, anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, organizational behavior,

and change management. From speaking, to writing, to training, Tamika has worked with a

myriad of clients. As the Principal and Founder of Tamika L. Butler Consulting, she focuses

on shining a light on inequality, inequity, and social justice. She provides consulting, training, coaching, and public speaking for a wide range of organizations in the public and private

sectors. Tamika received her J.D. from Stanford Law School and her B.A. in Psychology and

B.S. in Sociology in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. She currently lives in Los Angeles,

where she is pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning. ANITA COZART

Anita Cozart (@anitamhairston) is an urban planner who was raised outside Cleveland, Ohio

and now calls Washington, DC her home. She currently serves as a Deputy Director with the DC Office of Planning. She has pursued a racial equity vision through many venues including

municipal government planning, policy advocacy, graduate school instruction, volunteer board

service, and for-profit consulting. She draws inspiration for her work from her faith, family, and

the growing network of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are the vanguard of the

planning profession.

VERONICA O. DAVIS, PE (@VeronicaODavis) is a self-described transportation nerd. She has experience in civil

engineering and planning. Currently, she is the Director of Transportation & Drainage operations for the City of Houston. Previously, she co-founded and acted as the and Principal Planning

Manager at Nspiregreen LLC. She is also one of the co-founders of Black Women Bike (BWB),

and is on the Board for America Walks. She lives in Houston with her husband, daughter, and dog.



WESLEY LOWERY (@WesleyLowery), the interviewer for this piece, is a journalist as a correspondent for 60 in 6,

a short-form spinoff of 60 Minutes for Quibi. He was a lead on the Post’s “Fatal Force” project

that won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016 as well as the author of They Can’t Kill

Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement (Little, Brown,

2016). He is a former journalist with The Washington Post and a political consultant with CNN.

ABSTR ACT This paper is an invitation to planning professionals to confront the roots and the impact of institutional and systemic racism in the planning profession, and begin to explicitly address these issues in their work. This paper features reflections and analysis in response to the question, “Does Planning have a White Problem”? The authors are four Black women who are leaders in the fields of urban planning, transportation, and public policy. Together they leverage their experience, observations, and writings to provide a pathway forward to recognize, reconcile, and repair the fractures in the planning profession as a result of its White Problem. The paper describes four ways the White Problem shows up in the planning field:

In response to the issues raised, the paper provides several calls to action for planners to address the profession’s White Problem:

1. Historical context 2 . Planning education rooted in whiteness 3 . Exclusionary words and terminology 4 . Lack of empathy around racism

1. Create and cultivate Brave Spaces to celebrate new forms of action and strategy. 2 . Confront power and privilege and end practices that perpetuate inequities and marginalize Black, Indigenous and People of Color. 3 . Examine and end institutionalized racism in the planning industry. 4 . Revise the planning curriculum to reflect the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.


Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge

INTRODUCTION In developing this conversation, the authors found inspiration from a poem that illustrates the dimensions and the impacts of the White Problem in Planning. Below is an excerpt from the poem: “I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the Black separatists to the artists, the artists to my friends’ parents. Then I’ve got to explain myself To everybody I do more translating Than the Gawdamn U.N.” This poem, This Bridge Called my Back by Donna Kate Ruskin, is made up of less than 300 words yet speaks volumes of the daily existence of being a Black woman in the world and in the planning industry. The authors of this article are all strong, proud Black women. We know all too well that in a country built on the foundation of white supremacy and anti-Blackness where less than half of planners are women and less than six percent of planners are Black, those of us at the intersection of those identities often carry a heavy burden (Data USA 2019). Black women planners play the role of the bridge between white planners and stakeholders. We play the role of the bridge between government agencies and communities. We play the role of the bridge between clients and consultants. We play the role of the bridge between colleagues and neighborhoods. We play the role of the bridge between academic institutions and students. Then we have to explain ourselves to everybody. In that role as a bridge, we experience a tiredness that Ruskin describes in her poem as “sick of filling in your gaps.” Our ancestors passed down the need to protect and nurture, which today means protecting communities of people that look like us. White planners have the privilege of solely focusing on the project or plan, whereas Black women have a constant tension during the plan or project. We know we have


to do the technical work based on principles we learned in planning school, but we also have to translate, codeswitch, bridge build, and protect our people. We do more translating than the U.N. and it is exhausting. This need for Black women to do the technical work and emotional labor in this industry is a problem--a white problem. For far too long, people in the planning industry have been complicit in playing their roles and allowing oppression, racism, and anti-Blackness to thrive. Rather than suffering silently and alone, the authors of this paper decided to join one another in conversation about the white problem in planning. In October 2020, CBS journalist and bestselling author, Wesley Lowery, facilitated a conversation to help us organize our thoughts around the major issues we believe contribute to the White Problem in Planning. This interview provided a venue to unpack our belief that history, education, words, and a lack of empathy and consideration have preserved white supremacy in planning and to discuss solutions for how all planners can contribute to addressing the white problem in planning. Together the aforementioned poem and the interview provide inspiration for an approach to organizing our reflections on our lived experience and analysis of the planning profession as described in the rest of this article.

CONTEXT - LEVELS OF POWER Wes Lowery began the interview by having us articulate the goal of planning in its ideal. How is it supposed to function? In the past, who has been in control of the decision making? The goal of urban planning is to create places that celebrate our humanity, facilitate our wellbeing, and help us sustain ourselves today and in the future. These are broad goals because planning is a broad discipline. Once you get past this breadth and get into the depth, the levers of power in planning, land use, and public space in the United States have been controlled by white, land-owning men since this country was “discovered.” Starting with settler colonialism, the United States has manifested a destiny built upon white centered ideas of

Even in 2021, the leadership in the planning industry continues to be made up of white, cisgendered, straight, able-bodied white men with privilege tied to their race, education levels, wealth, and access to resources. These leaders often make decisions that shape the future and define the goals of well-being without incorporating or listening to the perspectives of Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color (BIPOC), people living with disabilities, and other historically oppressed and marginalized people who have unique needs, strengths, and priorities. Rather, BIPOC people are often seen as bridges to cross as people in power work to actualize their planning visions. The way the planning industry is constructed, led, and works centers whiteness. As Robin DiAngelo describes in White Fragility: “Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over people of color. This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete behaviors that some individuals may or may not demonstrate, and goes beyond naming specific privileges (McIntosh, 1988). Whites are theorized as actively shaped, affected, defined, and elevated through their racialization and the individual and collective consciousness formed with it (Whiteness is thus conceptualized as a constellation of processes and practices rather than as a discrete entity (i.e. skin color alone). Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and my myriad levels. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all, but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people.” (emphasis added) By engaging in planning practices and enacting planning policies that center whiteness and build on the ideals of white men, officials may believe that they are planning in a way that includes basic perspectives and experiences when in reality they are planning based on experiences of

place and space that are only afforded to those who are able to experience them in white bodies (NACTO 2021). Racialized people and those in oppressed groups often silently suffer under the weight of the white problem in planning. This is particularly true for planners at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. Selfdoubt and imposter syndrome seep in as their backs become heavy with the oppressive weight of serving as a bridge between multiple communities. Scholars Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following four conditions are found (DrWorkBook 2021): 1. The oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others; 2 . The target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them); 3 . Genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and; 4 . Members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct

HOW THE WHITE PROBLEM MANIFESTS IN THE PR ACTICE OF PL ANNING The White Problem in Planning manifests in a variety of ways. In this paper we demonstrate how it shows up as it relates to history, education, words, and a lack of empathy and consideration. 1. HISTORY - WHO TELLS THE STORY

Wes Lowery asked the authors about planning history, and specifically posed the following question: Who has controlled how the goals and ideals of the planning profession have been defined? History, who tells it, and what it’s like to root a plan in history are things planners should be thinking about any time they start a new project. Whether it is the “American



who belongs in a space, who can move freely between spaces, who should have access to certain spaces, and who should be relocated to another space (Smith 2012).

Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge

Dream” outlining an ideal life for white Americans or the development of the highway system, there is a part of history that is intentionally excluded. The work of proving that racism and racist systems are part of transportation and urban planning is complex. White leadership has repressed and denied its role in this work for many years. In most conversations about creating equitable transportation systems, “the experts” planning and implementing these programs are usually white and in particular, white cisgendered men. Most of the people doing this work have little to no knowledge of the horrific historical destruction that slavery has done to Black people. They are also not aware of how that historical knowledge is paramount to the successful creation and implementation of all of their work. But this does not stop us from doing what is necessary to create equitable systems that provide safe travel and movement for BIPOC. Transportation is the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement, as it was the Montgomery Bus Boycott that started the movement. There is absolutely no way any genuine transportation policymaker, program developer, or planner can work to create change in transportation (or any other issue) and not recognize that race is at the core of this work. 2. PLANNING EDUCATION - GUARDRAILS OF THE PROFESSION

Wes Lowery stated that “Education is often the guardrails of any profession.” He asked us about planning education. Who defines the heroes of the profession? Who gets erased? How does race enter the space of how planning is taught? If you go to any academic institution’s website you will notice that the professors--especially tenured professors--are not reflective of the diversity in this country. However, they do reflect the lack of diversity in the industry. If we hope to change those in leadership and decision-making positions in the planning industry, we cannot ignore the role that academic institutions play in defining who the heroes are in the planning profession. Planning education is rooted in heroes who are white men. Traditionally trained planners can name Robert Moses, 82

Ebenezer Howard, and Daniel Burnham as key leaders in the profession. We were taught how Greco-Romans designed their empires. Jane Jacobs is mentioned when someone brings up women leaders in urban studies. However, planning education rarely explores the design of the BanTu States or empires of the Mayans. The contributions of Benjamin Banneker are rarely, if ever, given proper treatment, particularly that he assisted Pierre L’Enfant in designing the District of Columbia in the midst of the enslavement of Black people. We are not taught about the collaborative design of Freedmen’s towns. Transportation education does not feature the vast network of underground tunnels that Harriet Tubman and others used to get enslaved Black people to freedom as far North as Canada and as far South as Mexico. Professors are increasingly including more equity focused work in their planning curriculum across the United States (Dill, Levine, and Barajas 2020) and Canada (Back Voices 2020). Scholars are now focusing both on the burdens that lack of access to transportation can create, as well as the benefits that viewing transportation distribution as a form of justice can bring to individuals and communities (Martens 2012). Following this scholarship, many practitioners have become more intentional about applying an equity framework to transportation decisions (Bradford 2019). In the active transportation space, there is explicit recognition of the way BIPOC people have been invisible in urban planning decisions (Agyeman 2020). While this scholarship is growing, however, there is still a large gap in mobility justice-related advocacy and research centered on the experiences of BIPOC people by BIPOC people. Black geographies scholarship is deeply impactful, but still not mentioned in planning spaces as much as it could be to deepen understandings about space and race (Brand & Miller 2020). At a minimum, planning must be more intentional about incorporating Critical Race Theory into the field. Critical Race Theory considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which


Wes Lowery stated that “often terminology is assumed to be a shared language.” He posed the following question to the authors: Are there terms that mean one thing in the white-centered planning world that may be different in BIPOC communities? Words defined by white people often mean something different to BIPOC individuals. Planners use words to give something meaning using a lens of whiteness that is irrelevant to and exclusive of the lived experience of BIPOC communities. “Safety” is one example. For many planners, “safety” means eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries. Every so often people will discuss “vulnerable populations” or protecting women from street harassment. However, the murders of Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown reflect how unsafe and vulnerable Black boys and men are as they move and exist in the public space. Breonna Taylor shows us that Black women cannot even expect “safety” in their own homes. Words have meaning and language is critical in creating and implementing policies and programs that affect people’s lives. The white problem in planning around language is the lack of care and knowledge about language use and how terms are harmful to the point of causing death in BIPOC communities. Infusing equity into this work is difficult when white people must always be comfortable in order to feel like they can participate in a process. Should anything generate distress to that comfort, whiteness and fragility often result in describing the source of that distress or discomfort as problematic and dismissing it as such. A number of the words used in the discussion of race, racism, discrimination, marginalization, or disenfranchisement are about actions and harm done to BIPOC people. Many white people in this work (and all

work) that do not want to acknowledge this history feel that “times have changed for the better.” They do not value or recognize the trauma associated with being BIPOC in this country. Furthermore, there are terms that mean different things to different communities yet are used as if they only have one meaning. For example, using words that draw on engaging the seven senses (e.g., mobility, safety, and walkable) is ableist behavior that does not acknowledge that these words might mean different things for people with disabilities. There are a number of words and phrases that consistently show up in planning spaces that are meant to represent inclusion and present a façade of care but are actually discriminatory and exclusionary: •

Empower: The word empower is a verb and means to give someone power or the authority to do something (Oxford Dictionary). No white person can empower BIPOC communities. This concept of “giving authority” must end as communities have always owned and always will own their power. This is a part of the domination and savior complex entrenched in all white people’s outreach programs.

Engage: This is a verb that means to occupy, attract, or involve (Oxford Dictionary). It is a word used to interact with the community. There are no BIPOC communities that want to be occupied; they are not attracted to white-led programs and this is why they are not involved. If the goal is to work jointly on a program then the word to use is collaborate – a verb that gives neither participant leverage.

Enforcement: This is a noun that deals with the verb of enforcing which means compelling obedience (Oxford Dictionary). When white people use the term enforcement to compel obedience, it can only mean one thing and that is the use of law enforcement or police in every



embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order (Delgado & Stefancic 2017). Understanding and confronting racism and anti-Blackness in every aspect of planning education is essential to overcoming the white problem in planning.

Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge

program they create. Safety as a white concept in transportation and urban planning equates police coming to the rescue. The data on law enforcement harming and killing BIPOC bodies is clear. Any program that involves providing safety for the community must eliminate any aspects of enforcement that rely on law enforcement. •

Mobility: This is a noun that refers to the ability to move or travel around easily (Oxford Dictionary). Many planners define mobility as using forms of the transportation system to get from place to place. However, people with disabilities may define mobility as the ability to move from room to room in their own home or to enter a building or a public restroom. Walkability: This is a term that is often used, and the definition of which is often debated. Many planners define walkability as ease of moving from one destination to another on foot. However, a focus on walkability excludes people in wheelchairs and other mobility-assisting devices. Safety: This is a noun which means the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury (Oxford Dictionary). Community safety programs created by white people more often cause the harm to and killing of BIPOC. This is because of the lack of understanding and knowledge that being protected for BIPOC is not engaging with law enforcement. Even more frustrating and problematic is the lack of ability for white planners to accept that their definition of safety is not shared by BIPOC communities and that there are other ways to provide safety that are not connected to enforcement.

Wordsmithing may not solve systemic racism in the United States. But a lack of attention and inability to decenter whiteness in the language planners use prevents us from confronting racism and moving towards equity. 4. LACK OF EMPATHY AND CONSIDERATION

One of the reasons Wes Lowery was selected to facilitate our discussion and help guide this paper is the truth he examines 84

in his book “They Can’t Kill Us All.” Although many white journalists covered protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown, Wes as a Black journalist provides a glimpse into the tension of reporting the story while also being affected personally by that story. Specifically, the authors were asked: how does the ethnic background and racial makeup of the people who hold power in planning spaces relate to the ability of the industry to be empathetic and responsive to the needs of various communities? Not unlike Wes’s experience, we experience a tension between being a professional and implementing planning principles and being Black, with the understanding of how Blackness is perceived. BIPOC people know that race is a major factor in our safety and in our ability to succeed as we move about our cities. Planners do not always discuss that all systems in this country are based and founded on racism and white supremacy that is harmful to Black bodies. This must be recognized and discussed in order to create change. For many white planners, working on projects and plans is a job and maybe even a passion. However, in many plans the community is boiled down to merely numbers and percentages. Even with a lack of engagement of the community, projects march forward. Often BIPOC communities are labelled “hard to reach” because they do not engage on the terms of the planner by attending a night meeting during dinner time at a location that is not accessible by public transportation. Or the relationship between the planner and the community is transactional, where the planner engages a community for the first time around a project versus around the needs of the community.

MOVING FORWARD TO ADDRESS THE WHITE PROBLEM IN PL ANNING Too many people think understanding the problem is where the work ends. Instead, understanding a problem is the first step in moving beyond it. There then have to be concrete actions taken to change course and do things differently. Everyone has a role to play in dismantling the white problem in planning. Those who are not racialized or members of oppressed groups cannot fade into the


Any spaces created must recognize that we do not own this land and honor the Indigenous people whose land was stolen and is now being occupied. Upon acknowledgement, collaboration with Indigenous people, and acceptance of this fact, one must then work to create spaces that are inclusive of all and provide the tools necessary for all to fully participate and to self-determine their own outcomes and goals. It should be noted that ensuring accessibility of these spaces for people with disabilities is an essential outcome. Brave spaces are created and maintained by a transparent commitment to practices that allow difference and celebrate new forms of action and strategy (Sisk et. al 2020). This requires that those with privilege show up in professional planning spaces as their full selves and with vulnerability. Gone are the days of seeking out safe or comfortable spaces. Instead, courage is needed to bravely exhibit open vulnerability. This means taking risks, making mistakes, taking responsibilities for wrongdoing, and continuing to try--not freezing in inaction from fear of getting it wrong. Black women do not have the privilege to separate their personal and professional lives. Everywhere we go, we are Black. Those in power see it and use it against us with racist tropes and unreasonable expectations (Asare 2021). So those with the privilege to separate their personal and professional lives must find a way to be their full selves in each space, embrace their fears, push through insecurities, and take part in dismantling the White Planning Problem.


Urban planners must push against conscious and unconscious practices that perpetuate inequities and marginalize BIPOC communities. This calls for confronting and shifting existing power and privilege through open conversations that are based in truth and reconciliation. The association for the planning profession issued a charge consistent with this call in 2019, saying: “Planners need to examine and become aware of their own blind spots and implicit biases, and their relationship and intersectionality with power and privilege in the societal and organizational structures” (APA 2019). In 2020, people engaged in deep conversations about structural and systemic racism in all aspects of life. This is the first part of moving toward an end to systems of racism and oppression, and must continue. Many want to just get to that place of ease and put this all behind them. They do not understand that it took hundreds of years for the United States to get to this point and there are no “quick fixes” for dismantling these horrific and harmful systems. It is like being in any relationship where someone who has been harmed desires an apology prior to resolution. This work must start with a process of truth and reconciliation where the oppressors (white people) acknowledge the harm done to BIPOC communities and the people who make up these communities. Until there is recognition and acceptance of structural and systemic racism in this work, progress will not be explicit or accomplished. The paradigm of white privilege encompasses the fact that white people hold the power and until that power is released there will be no end to racism. Practically, for any planning policy or process being considered those involved should ask two questions: 1) who will be most impacted by this, and 2) are the most impacted people part of the group making the decision? If the answer to the second question is not yes, this is a clear indication that there is a power and privilege imbalance. This is a problem--a white problem. It must be challenged and confronted and any decision should be questioned and reassessed.



background and put this work on the shoulders of BIPOC planners, planners with disabilities, queer planners, or any other planners in marginalized groups. Too often these planners are asked to do the free labor of serving as a bridge. This is particularly true for planners at multiple intersections of historically oppressed identities, and Black women often lead the way. We are tired. Our backs are weary. How can you help? During the interview, we explored several calls to action, resulting in the four suggestions outlined below.

Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge

Focusing on the most impacted populations, while not as common as it ought to be in the planning profession, is smart planning. The road user most vulnerable to injury is one waiting to cross the street. When traffic engineers time a crosswalk signal to allow people with limited mobility to cross the street safely, then all road users benefit. BIPOC individuals, who have been denied power and privilege, live in communities which are over-policed and underinvested in. If white planners want initiatives to yield better blocks, neighborhoods, cities and regions, centering the aspirations and needs of BIPOC people is the first step. 3. EXAMINE AND END INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM IN ALL AREAS OF THE INDUSTRY

Achieving equity will not occur without talking about race. We must start with race. We cannot say that Black Lives Matter, hire Chief Equity Officers, start diversity task forces, and proclaim that our work is not racist if we are not willing to discuss racism and how it appears in our projects, organizations, and individual actions. The twin crises of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism have shown us that structural racism impacts everything — from who has access to healthcare, to who is privileged to work from home, to who gets to exercise on their neighborhood “slow street” free of fear of death. If you say you care about equity yet are afraid to mention race, then you are not truly committed to this work. Wanting to believe racism does not exist will not make it disappear. If that makes people uncomfortable and want to retreat to conversations about diversity and inclusion, then that is a problem--a white problem. Now it is more important than ever that planners understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not interchangeable terms. Moreover, inclusivity is not just everyone feeling like they belong. “This is 2020. If that is your definition of inclusion, you are behind. To catch up, realize that true inclusion requires a shift in power. Diverse people are beyond just needing a seat at the table, we need to be at the head of that table. Beyond that, we need to have full participation, decision-making power and culture-setting ability to tell people who are used to having a seat at the table to pick up their chair and meet


the community wherever they are — including the corner, the temple, the stoop, and even on the bus. Inclusion means that people can show up as their full selves, with dignity, and with the ability to guide, lead and wield power with anti-racism firmly centered” (Butler 2020). Professional associations can be agitators for ending institutionalized racism. For example, in 2020 the medical profession recognized racism as a threat to public health and issued a policy declaring police brutality to be “a manifestation of structural racism disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color” (AMA 2020). The association further committed to advocating for policing reform and community-driven public safety practices. For planners, the American Planning Association (APA) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) have significant influence over the policy and practice within institutions that carry out planning functions. In fact, the AICP Code of Ethics includes language upon which the profession can build out a strategy to end institutionalized racism within the planning field. The code states: “We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs” (AICP 2021). However, when urged by a 2020 open letter from hundreds of planners to call for the defunding of police generally, and particularly in the context of planning-related initiatives, the association declined to take on this issue (Planetizen 2021). Moreover, APA and AICP provide continuing education and thought leadership for the profession. What if the webinars, newsletters, and journals produced by these organizations consistently included a focus on the ways that planners explore the impact of historic racial injustice on BIPOC communities and ways to orient planning strategies toward ending institutionalized racism? What if national conferences and other high-profile activities of the associations made a public commitment (backed by

includes approaches such as participatory action research and disaggregating data by race, both of which include a focus on highlighting data and trends as they impact BIPOC people? These actions would help to ensure that the planning academy contributes to ending the white problem in planning.


This is the moment to educate current planning students on the role that BIPOC people have had in building cities, as well as the systematic oppression of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. A first step is to examine the curriculum of core classes of undergraduate and graduate planning programs. This examination of curricula should be grounded in the wisdom, voice, and innovative ideas of current BIPOC students, alumni, scholars, and practitioners. This examination should explore the extent to which the curriculum includes scholarship of BIPOC academics and references history of urban development from communities from the continents of Africa, Central America, and South America. Planning programs often include content intended to prepare students for professional practice. What if this content reflected the wisdom and experience of BIPOC planners and community members? For example, case studies highlighted in planning courses would lift up BIPOC-led city-building efforts. Studio courses and professional projects would focus on serving BIPOC leaders as clients. Centering BIPOC voices and experiences early in the education of the urban planner is an antidote to the whiteness problem of urban planning. This approach would yield cohorts of emerging planning professionals prepared to confront power and privilege in the academic setting and ready them to bravely take an active role in dismantling the racist institutions that guide the profession. In addition to a reorientation of the planning curriculum, another important area of focus is research affiliated with planning programs. Many planning students receive their initial professional experience through academic research centers. Moreover, research from these centers informs the point of view that planners develop about BIPOC communities and the members of these communities. What if these centers focused on advancing research that

CONCLUSION “We were trying to wake the country up and wake the world up too…. How can you ask someone to live in the world and not have something to say about injustice?” – John Carlos (Carter Magazine) This quote is from an interview about the Black Power protest executed by Tommie Smith, Gold medal winner, and John Carlos, Bronze medal winner, at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. The image of these two men is iconic as they stand on the podium with their medals around their necks, multiple symbols of activism to “wake up the world,” their eyes to the ground and black leather gloved fists held high in the air. That pose is a sign created by the Black Panther Self-Defense Party that means Black Power and is still used today. This act of intelligent, enlightening, and peaceful demonstration was met with anger, backlash, and years of pain for both men. This moment of using an opportune time--being on a platform in front of the world--to tell their truth cost these two heroic Black men dearly. It is one example of the pain, anguish, and trauma many Black people go through every day as they work to convince white people that almost every system in this country that exists was created by white land-owning racist men and therefore is harmful to Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. This is acutely the case in trying to create and implement equity within the field of planning. As highly educated, worldly, and renowned activists, planners, policy and change makers, we are four Black women who are respected for our prose and organizational and people skills and seen as competent and successful leaders in our respective fields. We are the epitome of the phrase “Black Women get things done.” But for the many years that we have been involved in transportation policy 87


a strategic plan) to build their efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, and move toward an explicit focus on ending institutionalized racism? This would certainly go a long way in beginning to address the white problem in planning.

Feature Article: My Back is Still the Bridge

and urban planning, we have been the object of ridicule, harassed for telling our truth, and questioned about our knowledge and descriptions of the tyranny that is embedded in this work and the workforce. We have also been the victims of racism and racist systems for daring to bring this language and these beliefs to the forefront of our work. Like Smith and Carlos, we have endured the mockery, backlash, and anger by many--particularly white people. This is a problem--a white problem. The work that is starting today--because of the horrific pandemic we are trying to survive and the horrible shootings and murders of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many other precious lives lost to name-builds on a foundation created over many years by numerous BIPOC activists. This is the beginning of work that must have a strategy with long term plans, because it took centuries for this country to be aroused and it will take many years to bring this to an end. It is always the right moment to educate the planning students who will lead tomorrow and the people in offices today about the systematic oppression of people of color. This is the moment to look at the racism institutionalized into our nonprofits, planning firms, academic institutions, and government agencies, and hire a workforce that reflects the diversity of our communities at every level and in every position. This is the moment to invest in continual and consistent education of our employees. When we allow our colleagues and ourselves to live in isolation from those most impacted by our work, our language reflects this and our work lacks impact. If people in the planning industry want to tackle the white problem in planning, they should start by listening to Black women. We are often the most impacted, but also the most ignored. We’re told to calm down and are painted with stereotypes because people assume we simply do not understand how things work. This devalues and dismisses our lived experiences and ignores the fact that we often have to have twice the technical skills of our non-Black female counterparts to even matter. Rather than dismissing us and our ideas while riding on our backs as bridges, those in planning should start by first considering that we do know how things work, we have ideas, and we are here to help. We might do things differently than you are used to, but different is not always wrong. In fact, to overcome the foundation of white supremacy that planning is built upon, doing things differently is a must. We invite all planning professionals wondering how to think about equity — and those trying to ignore equity — to consider this article and the ideas presented in it, integrate them into your work, and make yourself realize that the time to do what is right, just, and equitable is always right now. As a result of being sick and tired of serving as the bridge and having to explain our Blackness to everyone along the way, many of us have moments of resonating deeply with Ruskin when she says later in her poem: “I will not be the bridge to your womanhood. Your manhood. Your human-ness.” Planning has a problem--a white problem. We will not be the bridge to you recognizing that problem or our value. You must do the work to be part of the solution. Get off of our backs.


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WORKS CITED Agyeman, J. 2020. Poor and black “invisible cyclists” need to be part of postpandemic transport planning too. The Conversation. Retrieved November 26, 2020, from http://theconversation.com/poor-and-black-invisiblecyclists-need-to-be-part-of-post-pandemic-transport-planning-too-139145 AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. 2005. American Institute of Certified Planners. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.planning. org/ethics/ethicscode/ AMA. 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.ama-assn.org/ press-center/press-releases/ama-policy-recognizes-police-brutalityproduct-structural-racism Asare, J. G. 2019. Overcoming The Angry Black Woman Stereotype. Forbes. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ janicegassam/2019/05/31/overcoming-the-angry-black-woman-stereotype/ Ascala Sisk, Odetta MacLeish-White, Vedette Gavin, Tamika L. Butler, Liz Ogbu, Veronica O. Davis, Nupur Chaudhury, Sharon Roerty, Hanaa Hamdi, Kelly Worden, Noxolo Kabane, Shelly Poticha, & Hedzer Pathuis. 2020. Confronting power and privilege for inclusive, equitable, and healthy communities. The British Medical Journal Opinion Blog. https://blogs.bmj.com/ bmj/2020/04/16/confronting-power-and-privilege-for-inclusive-equitableand-healthy-communities/ Black Voices on the City. n.d.. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://bvotc. shinyapps.io/Guide/ Brand, A. L., & Miller, C. 2020. Tomorrow I’ll Be at the Table: Black Geographies and Urban Planning: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Planning Literature, 35(4), 460–474. https://doi.org/10.1177/0885412220928575

NACTO. Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery Grant Program. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://nacto.org/wp-content/ uploads/2020/12/2020-SPRR-City-Grants-Report.pdf Oxford Dictionary. Accessed March 22, 2021 from https://www. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/ Planners Call for Deep Police Reforms. 2020. Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www. planetizen.com/news/2020/08/110135-planners-call-deep-police-reforms APA. Planning for Equity Policy Guide. 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://planning-org-uploaded-media.s3.amazonaws.com/publication/ download_pdf/Planning-for-Equity-Policy-Guide-rev.pdf Racism Defined. 2021. DRworksBook. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https:// www.dismantlingracism.org/racism-defined.html Smith, Andrea. 2012. Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy. In D. M. HoSang, O. LaBennett, & L. Pulido (Eds.), Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 66–90). University of California Press. Tamika L. Butler. 2020. To tackle pandemic racism, we need to take action, not just take to social media. The Kinder Institute for Urban Research Urban Edge Blog. https://kinder.rice.edu/urbanedge/2020/09/14/transportationtransit-tackle-pandemic-racism-we-need-take-action-not-just-takesocial-media Unlocking the Insights of Disaggregated Data. 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.policylink.org/equity-in-action/webinars/ disaggregating-data_8-19-20 Urban & regional planners. 2019. Data USA. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://datausa.io/profile/soc/urban-regional-planners#demographics

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors attest that they have no financial interest in the materials and subjects discussed in this article. 89



The White Problem in Planning

RE VI E W | U RBAN LEGENDS : The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin

AUTHOR/ PETER L’OFFICIAL Review by Veronica Brown

Harvard University Press, 320 pages


A few televised moments speak to their era so well that they surpass television history and stand in for an entire period in American history. Surely the 1988 World Series, in which the camera panned from Yankee Stadium to a burning building in the South Bronx as Howard Cosell announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning,” is such a moment. Except for the fact that Cosell never said his most famous line. Peter L’Official debunks this story in the introduction to Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin, an exploration of how during the late twentieth century, various media constructed a South Bronx that stood in for both the concept of urban decline and for the place itself. When presidents visited the rubble of Charlotte Street, as L’Official writes, they “did not visit the ‘South Bronx’ as much as they did the site of the nation’s shorthand for urban ruin” (129). Through thoughtful analysis of the period’s visual art, books, and movies, L’Official provides a necessary reexamination of the South Bronx’s history that also serves as a compelling argument that places are constructed not only through plans but through their artistic representations. In the strongest two chapters of the book, L’Official pairs the photographs of Jerome Liebling and Roy Mortenson and the conceptual work of Gordon Matta-Clark with examples of what he terms “municipal art” (14), or work with a function that is bureaucratic as much as aesthetic. This “art, at work” (46) includes the Department of Finance’s project to photograph every lot in New York City from 1983 to 1987 in order to standardize the city’s tax assessment system. In this “administrative mode” (77) of photography, life emerges at the corners of straight-on photos of South Bronx buildings caught in the process of abandonment. Passersby move from one photo to the next as the city photographer progresses down the block. Situating these tax photos within a rich tradition of artists depicting urban ruin, including through conceptual photography, L’Official creates a “dualpurposed ethic of viewership” (76). This mode of looking considers the art-historical canon as well as sociopolitical upheaval in the urban environment. In another inspired pairing, L’Official uses the work of Gordon Matta-Clark and the Occupied Look program, two forms of urban trompe l’oeil, to demonstrate how perception and perspective shaped understandings of the South Bronx. Through Occupied Look,


the actual windows of abandoned buildings were covered with panels with painted-on windows. Occupied Look presents itself as an easy subject for derision, but L’Official rejects cynical mockery, instead comparing the initiative to Gordon MattaClark’s building cuts in the Bronx Floors series. L’Official’s deft exploration of these various artistic interventions in Bronx abandonment proves municipal art projects as worthy of analysis and also figures the period’s conceptual artists as key urban theorists of twentieth-century decline. In later chapters, L’Official turns to popular media depictions of the South Bronx, including books and movies, and continues to home in on well-chosen details. In a particularly gratifying turn, the main character of Abraham Rodriguez’s Spidertown (1993) has a scavenged Occupied Look window mounted on his bedroom wall, literally reversing the direction of the faux portal and co-opting its furtive purpose as he hides his cash behind the panel. The 1981 films Fort Apache, the Bronx and Wolfen each center on Charlotte Street, a block sufficiently metonymic for urban distress that Jimmy Carter staged a photo opportunity there when he visited the borough in 1977. In Fort Apache, the Bronx, both character and setting assume the identity of Charlotte Street. Pam Grier, the ultimate blaxploitation star, plays a sex worker named after the street. The film received significant protests from the local organization Committee Against Fort Apache, which argued that the film was reductive and offensive. Charlotte Street, however, had become a studio backdrop rather than a neighborhood with residents, a transformation made clear through the construction of a new building that appeared to be burnt-out for the production of Wolfen. Although L’Official does not extend his analysis of Charlotte Street to Ed Logue’s zealous development of the corridor into a row of single-family homes in 1987, recently detailed in Lizabeth Cohen’s Saving America’s Cities (2019), the aestheticization of the street through its movie appearances demonstrates why the American aesthetic ideal of the whitepicket fence would be all the more appealing as a solution to the borough’s problems.

Full of both rich detail and exciting ideas, Urban Legends is an enjoyable book for any audience interested in the South Bronx, but the book provides a particularly important meeting ground for urban planners and historians of visual culture. As L’Official argues, the South Bronx “has been hard to ‘see’ clearly beneath the layers of myths, stereotype, and urban legend” (245). Urban planners have historically failed to see the Bronx and used its representation to obscure a clear vision of countless Black and Latinx urban neighborhoods across the country. This pattern has fostered rampant exploitation of these neighborhoods, including current gentrification and displacement in the South Bronx. What is perhaps most useful for planners to take from Urban Legends is an understanding of how representations will continue to construct the space. When L’Official asks “What vision of the Bronx will live on” (247), planners should recognize this vision will not only be constituted through their efforts but also through art and popular media.


The White Problem in Planning

RE VI E W | CAP I TAL C ITY: Gentrification and the Real Estate State

AUTHOR/ SAMUEL STEIN Review by W. Pierce Holloway

Gentrification, a phrase uttered at the same frequency as “Instagram” or “climate change”, has become a phenomenon deeply intertwined with cities across the world. Its touch on a neighborhood is easily identifiable, with speedily built mixed use condos replacing working class apartments at an alarming rate. While pockets of individuals welcome the new housing and amenities it brings, deep-rooted residents face exponentially rising property taxes and rents, placing their one-time home beyond financial reach. The momentum behind increasing development in the United States is born from social, political, economic, and cultural pressures. These forces have culminated in real estate representing 60 percent of global assets and a real estate mogul becoming U.S. president. In Capital City, Stein explores in straightforward terms the various pushes and pulls of real estate development that have shaped our modern urban fabric. Capital City investigates not only the influences and desires of the wealthy, but how city planners facilitate development in order to increase property tax revenues. Stein explains how often the blame of gentrification is laid on the shoulders of private developers and yet, city planners and other municipal forces frequently enable, if not accelerate, gentrification. Here, Stein draws a false conclusion that city planners understand real estate and larger financial implications. Frequently, planners make their decisions outside of the realm of real estate finance and are more concerned with adhering to zoning codes and public complaints.

Verso, 2019. 199 pages.


The first half of Capital City presents a broad overview of what is gentrification, its fingerprint on cities, and its wake of displacement. Stein presents several case studies of neighborhood gentrification, many of which unfold in a common pattern. First, a building offering affordable or working-class housing falls into slight disrepair. Next, the building is deemed blighted and presented as an opportunity for community revitalization. Typically, the redevelopment is fought by residents, heavily incentivized by politicians, and finally enabled by zoning boards. This process culminates with developers reaping exorbitant profits, while the social capital of the community members is fractured. This destructive finale of gentrification is prominently on display when Stein dedicates a chapter of the book to the real estate-centered family history of Donald J. Trump. The chapter chronicles the Trump family’s pattern of leveraging political motivations for community revitalization and housing needs to maximize profits while minimizing public good.


While Stein does not pull his punches when criticizing city planners and policy makers, he does offer sympathy and a way forward.

“We can and should be mad at planners, but ultimately they cannot undo real estate’s grasp on the city until people wrest power back from those who profit off land.” (p. 193) Admittedly, Stein uses New York City as the reference point for nearly all examples of real estate development’s side effects and political influence. While understandable, as Stein has lived and studied real estate development in New York City for many years, the limited geographic scope of Capital City is a detriment to its usefulness to planners outside of large metropolitan areas. By increasing the diversity of reference points for real estate development, ranging from the small town to the large metropolitan area, Stein would provide more tangible examples for individuals and planners alike who have never set foot in New York City. Moreover, gentrification as a field of study is as vast as it is complex. The intricacies of gentrification necessitate more than 199 pages to see the many paths that gentrification encompasses and draw deeper connections than what is presented. Furthermore, Samuel Stein is a doctoral candidate in geography at the City University of New York, yet there is not one map to be found in Capital City. Stein’s analysis of gentrification would be greatly aided by the inclusion of maps displaying the spatial story of where rezoning and redevelopment occurs or what income groups live in the impacted areas. I wonder what conclusions the reader would come to if presented data on gentrification’s displacements and economic impacts in table and map form?

indigenous areas that make up present-day Broadway, and the displacement of Black and Brown populations in Brooklyn. Stein provides ample evidence to address a variety of developmental situations in the New York boroughs, from Manhattan skyscrapers to Brooklyn brownstones. Stein, to his credit, does manage to offer tangible avenues for change to address gentrification. In the last section of Capital City, he presents a five-point anti-gentrification plan released by “New York City Not for Sale,” as well as action items that came out of the Occupy Wall Street and other socialistic movements. Nearly all action items presented propose substantial shifts in the current development and profit driven structure of our cities to systems focusing more on public empowerment and democratizing development. “Plans can change; planners can change; but nothing will change simply because it ought to.” (p. 158) Stein concludes with a vision for the future, one where housing and development is centered around quality of life and equitability over the existing profit-motivated capitalist system. His strong background in anti-gentrification organizing and urban studies provides the reader with a general understanding of the forces that influence development and the forces that incentive municipal governments to increase property values. Capital City provides readers new to city planning with the tools to begin looking at development with a critical eye and an appetite for reform.

For anyone unfamiliar with the social, economic, and political forces influencing development and real estate speculation in the United States, Stein provides an approachable introduction. Capital City cites specific instances of real estate’s destructive influence in communities, including a history of the


The White Problem in Planning

GO LDE N GATE S: Fighting for Housing in America

AUTHOR/ CONOR DOUGHERTY Review by Nora Louise Schwaller

There is no state where an individual working a full-time minimumwage job can afford a one-bedroom housing unit without paying in excess of 30% of their income, the standard benchmark for affordability. While stagnant wage growth has contributed to this issue, an increasing imbalance between supply and demand in the housing market is a major feature of the problem. In Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, Conor Dougherty focuses on the evergrowing housing shortage by sharing stories from those living in the cities of the Bay Area, California. In doing this, Dougherty lends insight into the economics, laws, history, and human experiences behind the rising housing prices and reasons why ‘The Rent is Too Damn High’. Dougherty is well suited to this task. He is both a Bay Area native and current resident. He works as an economics reporter for the New York Times, focusing on the West Coast, real estate, and wage stagnation. His experience allows him to write with both the sober perspective of a researcher and the insight of someone who has lived in the midst of this evolving crisis. This background gives him credible authority to note that he has never seen it quite so bad. In San Francisco, the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,650. Dougherty delves into the history of how we got here with clear-sighted nuance. The real-life characters in his book veer to polarized ends of the debate (e.g., affordable housing advocates who don’t want to see developers make a profit, or local residents who use racist dog-whistle comments to discuss the “horrors” of new housing construction). However, Dougherty balances the risks of displacement and homelessness with the practicalities of having the means to make money in and from a competitive housing market. In doing so, he gives fair consideration to those who often become the local villains of housing scarcity – the techies in their Google Buses, the developers, and suburban natives – by contextualizing them in the biases and incentive structures of local governments that often limit dense construction.

Island Press, 2019. 235 Pages.


Dougherty anchors his book with Sonja Trauss, the founder of the Yes in My Back Yard (YIMBY) activism movement. The book


begins with her first appearance at a public hearing where she spoke in favor of more housing just about anywhere in the Bay Area. She was nearly 30 then, an economics PhD dropout oscillating between teaching math and working at a local bakery. At this time of her life, she was long on passion but short on concentration – with a list of discarded hobbies that included weight lifting, role playing games, and participating in comedy troupes. Affordable rent advocacy focused her, and before long, she was showing up at any public hearing on residential construction, from affordable mid-rises to high end apartments, asking them to build anything so long as it was more. Her organization, coined San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SF BARF), gave a voice to the disparate group of people who were hurt by the non-building of homes that they could have lived in, or that could have at least put downward pressure on rents. This was a marked shift in housing advocacy that expanded the conversation around new construction far beyond local residents and the project developers, the typical stakeholders. Her ‘build everything’ position, habit of inserting herself in local fights, and colorful comments put her at odds with traditional affordable housing non-profits, local residents, city councils, and developers. But her movement was designed to get attention, and she succeeded in attracting local reporters and big time donors. While Dougherty does an admirable job noting the privilege of the YIMBY movement, which is predominantly white and often funded with tech money, this is not the main focus of the book. Still, he contrasts SF BARF with an impactful chapter covering advocacy by and for low-income service industry employees, who are often at the greatest risk of displacement. This includes an in-depth story centered on an apartment building that was bought and flipped in a majority Hispanic neighborhood. Through this process, Dougherty describes the actions and perspectives of the developers, the residents who suddenly found themselves faced with $1,000+ increases in monthly rent, the residents’ children, and local activists and

charities. This chapter is reminiscent of influential reporting from the turn of the 19th century, such as the work captured in How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, or mid-century activism work, such as The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. However, in this ending, the Robert Moseses of the world carry the day. Dougherty makes clear that the housing shortage, and the displacement, homelessness, and inequity that follows it, calls for a human rights discussion centered on the conscience of the nation. While he discusses solutions such as imposing rent control, reducing building restrictions, changes to the building industry, and increasing multi-family zoning, they do not form the central thesis of the book. Instead, Golden Gates ends on how the housing crisis is, in many ways, about what we are willing to provide for those of us who have the least when it comes at the cost of those with more affluence and power. These moral questions are contrasted with the mismatch of incentives for addressing wide-spanning issues at the local level when the responsibility for the problem is diffused across states, countries, or even the global population. This point is captured by Steve Falk, a city planner for Lafayette, California, who resigned in the face of resident outrage during discussions on increasing density near a BART (light-rail transit) stop: “All cities – even small ones – have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability” (116). Golden Gates is on Time’s list of 100 Must-Read Books of 2020, is an Editor’s Choice of the New York Times, and is on Planetizen’s list for Top Urban Planning Books of 2020. These accolades are well deserved. The book is accessible to readers working outside of this subject area, and interesting to those, such as planners, working within it. Even housing scholars will find new insights and unfamiliar stories, while those without such a background will be able to pick it up and find themselves invested in the intricacies of local planning and the friction of the democratic process. 95

The White Problem in Planning

RACE AFTE R TE CHNOLOGY: A b o l i t i o n i s t To o l e s f o r t h e N e w J i m C o d e

AUTHOR/ RUHA BENJAMIN Review by Joungwon Kwon

Ruha Benjamin’s Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code offers past and current technology examples in our everyday life to demonstrate technology’s failures in eliminating racism. Without assessing the problems entailed by emerging technology, the public and private sectors are quickly implementing technology in different settings. Although many advocates frame technology as an unbiased tool, Benjamin asserts that technology, including AI and robots, are not neutral. Indeed, to Benjamin, the dominance of emerging technologies, and the racism underlying their design and use, constitutes a “New Jim Code.”

“Data, in short, do not speak for themselves and don’t always change hearts and minds or policy.” (p. 206) When programmers create technological tools, they use data that reflects the systematic racism built into our society. The most common example is discrimination based on names. Research shows that white-sounding first names have advantages over Blacksounding names (Benjamin 2019, 15), and technology that uses this racially biased data reproduces this racism and continues to support White supremacy. Benjamin informs users that critical thinking is necessary, and it may be challenging compared to the past. For example, Robert Moses’s plans to build bridges in New York City so low that buses would not be able to pass underneath were an explicitly racist effort to exclude poorer people of color. In contrast, racism in technology is challenging to detect because technology is often framed as an objective tool. It is difficult for users to understand all the data and design choices that programmers have made. Therefore, Benjamin encourages users to not blindly accept what is shown on the screen, and to ask questions about programmers’ intentions and how the design of technology can disadvantage some communities over others.

“Invisibility, with regard to Whiteness, offers immunity.” (p. 14)

Polity, 2019. 172 pages.


One of the most infamous algorithms for racial bias is predictive policing. Predictive policing tries to predict future crimes by analyzing historical crime data, which perpetuates racist historical patterns of incarceration among Black and Latinx populations.


Benjamin provides ways to flip the script for racially biased algorithms. One example is the White-Collar Early Warning System, which highlights financial crimes on a heat map and includes a facial recognition program to identify corporate executives, mostly White, who are likely to be perpetrators. It makes Whiteness and financial crimes visible. The book also includes cases of apps focused on decarceration, especially for people who cannot afford bail money. Promise tracks individuals’ locations before trial or sentencing, thereby reducing the need for bail payments. Although the app may seem “good,” it can easily be used against individuals due to the nature of its continuous surveillance. Both systems allow technology to be abolitionist tools instead of perpetuating racism. However, the “good” apps can always be used in reverse at any moment. Another decarceration app, Appolition avoids Promise’s surveillance problems by crowdfunding donations for bail out money for incarcerated people.

“By deliberately and inventively upsetting the techno status quo in this manner, analysts can better understand and expose the many forms of discrimination embedded in and enabled by technology.” (p. 211) Benjamin closes the book with what society can do to bring justice to technology: disrupt the techno status quo. The current status of technology embeds discrimination. Therefore, disrupting the status quo means to change and question the technology. In the first four chapters, she illustrates how technology has perpetuated Jim Crow laws, and how analysts, artists, and activists need to work to reform these systems. Moreover, new apps, programs, and data require a holistic understanding instead of an ends-justify-themeans approach. She argues that “New Jim Code fixes are a permanent placeholder for bolder change” (p. 174). A solution to one problem may bring more problems to other areas, so the fixes need to be cautiously thought through with a longterm vision that prioritizes justice.

Although Benjamin presents examples, many questions are left without answers. For instance, she states that society needs an abolitionist toolkit for technology. The abolitionist toolkit is not specific and centers data analysts and designers. For technology users, the book does not provide solutions to disrupt the techno status quo, which may frustrate some readers. However, technology is dramatically changing, and these problems do not have one-size-fits-all solutions. Benjamin’s examples are helpful in understanding the New Jim Code, but they are sometimes not described in detail. For example, the book mentions several apps, such as Promise, and their problems without offering enough context. This lack of description may leave readers perplexed. Nonetheless, the book helps to recognize emerging technology problems and bring the conversation to various settings in the public and private sectors. Race After Technology lies at the intersection of many disciplines studies and will be interesting for those who are curious about systemic racism, technology, and cities. Benjamin’s background is in African American Studies, which presents the book with a clear racial justice lens. Benjamin poses many questions about technology’s influence on today’s societies and enables readers to imagine more equitable cities. The takeaways for readers are that technology users need to think critically, flipping the script for digital platforms and upsetting the techno status quo instead of accepting technology’s default, if they want to change the New Jim Code. In the future, specific solutions for tech users and more detailed examples would be great additions to the book.


The White Problem in Planning

U RBAN O P E RATI NG SYST EMS : Pro d u c i n g t h e Co m p u t at i o n a l C i t y


Ideas of applying computational logics (use of computers to formalize logics or reason) in urban planning are not new: they go as far back as the 1950s, when the Principles of Cybernetics1 were first outlined. Development and widespread diffusion of hardware, software, and data infrastructure in recent decades have made the application of computational logics in urban settings near-ubiquitous, creating a new phenomenon out of an old paradigm. Andrés Luque-Ayala and Simon Marvin’s Urban Operating Systems investigates the origins and state of urban computational logics across seven domains: operationalization, datafication, sensing, mapping, prediction, circulation, and (digital) resistance, each presented as a separate chapter. The book begins by tracing the origins of rationalities that guide the use of computational logics in cities. The authors examine smart cities, digital urbanism, and everything else collectively called “urban operating systems (OS)” in both historical and contemporary contexts. The investigation posits urban OS as a political technology that empowers technological functions and bakes neoliberal ideologies into the governance and physical fabrics of modern-day cities. By analyzing abstract diagrams that model urban systems, the authors trace technologies with military and corporate origins that have been applied in urban applications and continue to shape cities, both physically and meta-physically.

MIT Press, 2020. 296 pages.


A case study of New York exemplifies how data flows in urban systems enable the practice of exercising power and control through data, a typical case of datafication (the conversion of urban settings and life into data to be used as feed for decision-making systems). New York city politicians and local tech community come together to creating technological solutions enabled by open data law and open data portal. These solutions materialize data and information when they interact with existing city infrastructures to create creating new forms of interaction between city elements. The authors examine sensors, the devices that create data from urban elements, for their roles as creators of monetary value and enablers of commodification of urban life. The authors review digital mapping as the process of creating an alternative representation of geographies, one that not only represents places in a map but also enables building services and creating economic value on top the representation. Digital


mapping makes spaces with economic value more powerful, creating new lines of divide between places with difference economic values. Authors examine the use of widely available data for predictions such as the time and place crimes are likely to take place using computational logics with a case of predictive analysis platforms in Chicago. That the predictions in practice have served only targeting and spatial disaggregation exposes how data is not neutral and the assumptions of algorithm developers and biases in urban systems are perpetuated by the urban OS. Focusing on Rio de Janeiro’s digital operations center, the book illustrates how urban spaces are repackaged into components that are amenable to digital representation. The repackaging takes center-stage to maintain the flow of information and political debates give way. However, technology at the hands of people, in contrast to technology used for maintaining city functions, enables new forms of civic resistance, as seen in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movement. A theme repeatedly emphasized in the book is the propagation of certain rationalities and ideologies through data and technology throughout urban space and civic life, leading to a reduced presence of political debates and civic action. Expansive diffusion of digital technologies without careful consideration of their impacts on society can, and has, led to harm. Examples of racial bias in prediction systems, economic reimagination of territories of favelas as spaces of consumption, and loss of privacy through surveillance systems all illustrate this risk. Under the façade of neutrality, technologies stemming from defense and corporate institutions—now pervasive in presence—ultimately shape cities in their own image. The

book tells a cautionary tale as it revisits a brief history and narratives surrounding urban computational logics over time and their present and potential future impacts, warning us of creating “a city that only makes sense if counted (p211).” The book calls for integration of social interests and multiple knowledge forms, replacing computational logics as the exclusive decision-maker in the future. Casting a wide net on a critical issue through several casestudies, the book provides an overview of history, state of knowledge and real-world examples of aggregate of urban computational logics manifested as urban OS. Ideas and examples covered in the book are not entirely new to those who are vigilant of social and political issues in data systems, except for its focused coverage of their application as urban OS. In fact, some suggested calls to action in the final chapter are already being practiced in different parts of the world. For example, Mapeo - a software used to map indigenous resources, was developed in partnership with indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Mapeo places the issues, knowledge, and perspectives of affected communities at its center, and its technology is merely a tool to empower these communities. An additional chapter focusing on existing implementations like Mapeo would be useful. The book’s major contribution to the domain is applying those issues to urbanism by digging deeper with case studies from cities around the world and adding relevant historical and theoretical background. Trading off depth for a wider scope as adopted by the authors has resulted in a book that can be used as a useful introductory reference material. I can see this book making its way into urban informatics and related syllabi in the coming years.

END NOTES Principles based on understanding the behavior of natural and man-made symptoms through feedback mechanism and information flow within the systems. 1


The White Problem in Planning



Planning for Resiliency in Mississippi and Alabama’s Tornado-Prone “Dixie Alley”: A Case Study of Smithville, MS


Prioritizing Health Equity in Affordable Housing: A Neighborhood Analysis in the Asheville, NC Metropolitan Area


Assessing Forest Cover Outcomes: A Two-part Analysis of Development Outcomes in Huntersville, North Carolina



Partnerships with Transportation Network Companies: A Case Study of First-Last Mile Innovations in Research Triangle Park


Community Fiber Broadband in North Carolina: A Comparative Analysis


A Study of Perceptions: How Planning and Real Estate Students View Each Other


Stormwater Utility Fees: A North Carolina Affordability Analysis


Redeveloping Parking Garages in a Future of Declining Parking Demand


Strengthening Affordable Housing In Urban Neighborhoods - The Role of North Carolina’s QAP in Shaping LIHTC Neighborhood Trends


An Application of the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard™: New Bern, NC


Resilience Building of Public Transportation System: A Proposal of an Indicator Framework


North Carolina’s Hurricane Matthew CDBG-DR: Problems and Housing Programs



Chapel Hill-Carrboro Freight Train Trail Feasibility Study

Automobile Scoot Over: Studying Urban Usage of Electric Scooters

Dorothea Dix Park Resilience Plan Framework


Small-scale Manufacturing as a Community Redevelopment Tool: A Case Study Approach in Southwest High Point, North Carolina


Transportation Disadvantage among Refugees in the Research Triangle of North Carolina


An Evaluation Framework for Climate Change Criteria in Local Ordinances: Lessons from the Research Triangle


Seaport Public Green: An Analysis of Use & Redesign


Evaluating Zonal Population Allocation in the Triangle Region to Improve Travel Modeling


Developers’ Perspectives on Barriers to Missing Middle Housing Development


Patterns of Industry Agglomeration in North Carolina: 1997 to 2017


Addressing the Problem of Evictions: State- and Municipal-Level Interventions


The Effect of Retiree Migration on Regional Job Quality


Using a Safe System Approach to Identify High-risk Road Segments for Pedestrian-related Crashes in Chapel Hill


Assessing Economic Impacts of Coastal Armoring in Boston, Massachusetts






Manufactured Housing Appreciation in New Hampshire

Curbside Management: Differing Innovative Curb Typologies in North Carolina Cities Airbnb Proliferation: An In-Depth Analysis


The Fiscal Case for Walkability & Density: Mapping Value per Acre in Elon, NC


The Expansion of Urban Growth Boundary and Its Impact on Housing Affordability in the Portland Metropolitan Area, Oregon 101

The White Problem in Planning

Y EA R I N R E VI E W An Update From New East

Each year, in preparation for our “Year in Review” piece, we send out a survey asking members of the department to highlight their accomplishments and the accomplishments of their friends and colleagues. As one student noted, we’ve all accomplished a lot this year despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and physical distancing: not the least of which has been completing a year of learning, teaching, working, research, advocacy, community engagement, and the myriad other activities members of the department are routinely engaged with. In addition to these daily achievements, members of the department have also won awards, completed fellowships, published their work, and started new organizations, and the department itself has added new faculty and staff.


STUDENTS Joungwon Kwon received the Maynard Adams Fellowship for the Public Humanities (2020-2021), which focuses on promoting public engagement with the humanities. Amy Sechrist was selected for an Injury and Violence Prevention Fellowship (2020-2021) with UNC’s Injury Prevention Research Center; she’s used this opportunity to assist in completing her master’s project, which is related to domestic violence housing programs. Pierce Holloway was named a Humanities for the Public Good Graduate Fellow, wherein he focuses on visualizing and analyzing city immigration patterns to inform local policy. Ranger Ruffins and Derrice Haynes received Excellence in Diversity Fellowships from the Department of City and Regional Planning; these fellowships provide funding support for their ongoing academic and professional work. Derrice Haynes, Sarah Brown, Emma Stockton, and Lindsay Oluyede all were appointed to Federal Highway Administration Eisenhower Fellowships, which provide funding support and enable recipients to participate in the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board. Morgan Cooper won an Engaged Scholarship Award for Engaged Partnership from UNC Office of the Provost in recognition of her work on home preservation and repair and aging-in-community in collaboration with local organizations and government agencies. Student organizations also continued to grow this past year. Eve Lettau, Emma Vinella-Brusher, and Doug Bright founded an outreach program called CarolinaBLUE (Building Leaders for Urban Engagement), where students from the department help teach lessons introducing the concepts of city planning to middle schoolers in the community. Master’s students, led by Austin Amandolia, Morgan Cooper, Hallee Haygood, Katie Koffman, Ranger Ruffins, Lauren Turner, Patience Wall, Weiwen Wang, and Mariah Wozniak, have formed a racial equity committee to work with faculty and staff to address issues of racial equity in the department. Lauren Turner, Derrice Haynes, and Rachael Wolff, co-presidents of Plan For All, coordinated a spring speaker series focused on the intersection of planning and race with presentations from program alumni and other planning scholars.

STAFF AND FACULT Y On the staff and faculty front, Sandra Lazo de la Vega won the Excellence in Graduate Student Services Award in recognition of her tireless work supporting the department’s many graduate students. Dr. Todd BenDor was appointed to Distinguished Professor and named Distinguished Chair of Sustainable Community Design with UNC’s Institute for the Environment, Dr. Nikhil Kaza was appointed to Professor, and Dr. Andrew Whittemore was appointed to Associate Professor. Dr. Mai Nguyen was appointed as a research fellow with the Filene Research Institute’s new Center of Excellence for Community Social Impact, and Dr. Phil Berke was appointed to lead the Center for the Environment’s new Center for Resilient COmmunities and Environment. Dr. Danielle Spurlock graduated as part of the seventh class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars through the Carolina Center for Public Service. The department added new faculty, including Dr. Shakirah Hudani as Adjunct Assistant Professor (primary appointment in African, African American, and Diaspora Studies) and Tyler Mulligan as Adjunct Professor (primary appointment in the School of Government); John Quinterno, Anna Schwab, and John Tallmadge as lecturers; Drs. Abigail Cochran, Jueyu Wang, and Donald Planey as post-doctoral researchers; and, effective July 1, Dr. Donald Planey as Teaching Assistant Professor and Dr. Matt Conway as Assistant Professor.



VO LU M E 4 7 CA LL FO R PAP E RS Carolina Planning Journal is accepting abstracts for papers relating to: PL A N N I N G FO R H E A LT H Y C I T I E S

“The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic, or hospital.” - Dr. Mark Hyman, physician

Planning has been deeply intertwined with the need for healthier urban populations from the very beginning, with early planners such as Ebenezer Howard and Frederick Law Olmsted attempting to balance public health concerns with the economic and social benefits of the urban environment. Decentralization was pivotal, but as Americans fled to suburbs to escape the poor health conditions of the city center, sprawling development patterns decreased physical activity and food access while increasing rates of asthma and traffic fatalities, particularly in marginalized communities. Modern research has revealed that housing, transportation, and green space all have significant impacts on public health outcomes. Continued urbanization and globalization have only underscored the shared goals of these disciplines. With an estimated 70% of the world’s population living in urban areas by 20501, organizations such as the European Union, World Health Organization, and American Planning Association have recognized the key role planners play in improving and protecting the public’s health for generations to come. There is an ongoing need for planners and public health professionals to collaborate and find sustainable, equitable solutions to creating healthier communities to live, work, and play in. We welcome articles that explore the nexus of planning and health from students, professionals, and researchers alike.


United Nations, 2018. United Nations World urbanization prospects: The 2018 revision.



LAND USE Leveraging zoning practices to mitigate community health disparities post-disaster

TRANSPORTATION Identification of intersection design strategies for reducing conflicts between motor vehicles and pedestrians

HOUSING Evaluating the relationship between residential segregation and lead poisoning

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Impact analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses in the U.S.


By August 13, 2021, interested authors should submit a two-page proposal. Proposals should include a title, a description of the proposed topic and its significance, a brief summary of the literature or landscape, and a preliminary list of references (not counted toward the two-page limit). Final papers typically do not exceed 3,000 words. Submit proposals and questions to CarolinaPlanningJournal@gmail.com. By September 17, 2021, Carolina Planning Journal will notify authors regarding their proposals. Drafts of full papers will be due by December, and editors will work with authors on drafts of their papers over the course of the winter. The print version of the Journal will be published in the Spring of 2022. Carolina Planning Journal reserves the right to edit articles accepted for publication, subject to the author’s approval, for length, style, and content considerations

Bridging Planning Theory and Practice Since 1974 105

The White Problem in Planning





Volume 46 / 2021

VOLUME 46 / 2021


Articles inside


pages 101-102


pages 99-100


pages 93-94


pages 95-96


pages 97-98


pages 91-92


pages 79-90


pages 71-78


pages 59-70


pages 25-34


pages 51-58


pages 43-50


pages 11-18


pages 7-9


pages 35-42


page 10


pages 19-24
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