Thesis Introduction: Part 2

A Revolution Is Needed in the Urban Planning Industry, Much like the One Occurring in the Criminal Justice Industry

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old Black man, was handcuffed over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill, roughed up, and murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. His neck was knelt on for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, constricting his ability to breath until he became motionless and then pulseless. As Floyd died, other officers helped restrain the rest of his body, while another stood by watching. The moment further sparked a revolution that has been building for our entire lives and highlighting the problems of an industry in deep need of a restart and reimagining process, as many call to defund police departments across the nation. 

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Thesis Introduction: Part 1

Strong Personal Purpose and Conviction to Changing the Systemic Injustices that Urban Planning has Placed upon Black American Communities

Gunshots rang out just outside my home, startling a group of boys that had gathered for my 12 year old birthday party. Without panic or a second thought, I quickly moved further away from the windows, ducking down to assume the position taught to me by my parents. It was “drive-by drill” time. This was a drill that I was accustomed to, growing up in Denver’s, historically Black, but now gentrified, Five Points Neighborhood. However, during my drill movements, I noticed that something was wrong with my friends. Fear gripped their bodies and froze them into place. I wondered what in the world they were doing and why they weren’t getting down.

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Literature Review: Part 3 – Black Planners are the Bridge to Systemic Change

Black Authors are Pushing the Industry Forward with New Ways of Reporting from Different Perspectives

As the profession continues to grapple with the realities of the past and the whiteness of the present, there are some Black authors that are making their marks on the industry. These authors, urban planners, sociologists, and activists have had positive impacts on the built environment through providing a unique perspective that should be deeply valued in advancing equity through the practice. While Ta-Nehisi Coates, mentioned earlier, represents the cutting edge of the premier Black author, many came before him. This next section will detail literature that develops the viewpoint of Black authors and their contribution to the urban planning industry.

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Literature Review: Part 2 – Influential Urban Planning Literature Lacks Revolutionary Rhetoric

The Most Influential Urban Planning Literature Has Been Indirect in Assuming the Responsibility of Restoring Equity for Black Communities and Sharing the Need to Change the Process

The profession of urban planning has struggled to fully grasp the transgressions of its sins, which is reflected upon diving into the most influential writings of the industry. This may be fueled by white guilt and an inability to empathize with Black and Brown people, as the industry is predominantly white (81%) and male (60%) (Owens). It could also be that the 20 most influential planning books are written by white authors, with only two of the 20 written by women, as ranked by Planetizen, an online planning news website. Furthermore, one of the books in the top 20 is written by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., the segregationist mentioned earlier (“Top 20 Urban Planning Books (Of All Time)”). In order to truly change the dynamics of this industry, an uncomfortable, yet necessary reckoning must occur. Urban planning has danced around the issues of inequity that it has created, while celebrating the works of the past.

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Literature Review: Part 1 – The Overtly Racist Practices of the Urban Planning Industry

The goal of this literature review is to discuss the immensely adverse impacts that urban planning has embedded in Black communities across the United States, while examining the history and current context of the problem, and researching community-led responses.

It’s no secret to the profession that urban planning has had a direct hand in some of the most egregious acts of dividing people to promote inequality. Many books and university programs document the history of segregation, zoning, and government policy and its impacts on poverty and communities of color. Planning scholars and students are now taught to plan equitably, think deeper about creating environments that encourage diversity, and to serve a generally nobler cause.

What hasn’t been explored is how the profession can serve as a restorative practice to the people that it wronged the most. Throughout this review, literature will be analyzed to extract the reasons that practices of the future could and should reach deeper into the intentionality of restoration of the injustices of the past. Through accepting the responsibility of its crimes, understanding the compounding impacts that exist for African Americans today, and providing greater platforms for community-led responses to today’s complexities, the industry of urban planning can be a valuable lever to the reparations that Black communities are owed historically and currently in the United States.

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The quest to finish my master thesis…

Continue reading The quest to finish my master thesis…