City Planning Has A Long, Racist History

Buildings with graffiti
Via Pixabay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
October 8, 2021

Just about every city in the U.S. has communities where our people must contend with violence, lack of access to jobs, blighted housing, and poor health. The worst part? White city planners did this ON PURPOSE to keep our people isolated and impoverished. How did they get away with this?

“Zoning” determines where housing, businesses, and other physical structures are located. While other countries use zoning to ensure healthy citizens, cities in the U.S. used zoning to segregate housing and to ensure that blighted communities were Black communities.

Black communities that had resources and historical significance were also destroyed by the interstate highway system. Highways not only isolated our people in low-income communities, but the noise and pollution from vehicles made sure we suffered higher death rates and other health issues.

Before the 1960s, if there were places our people had valuable land, cities used “eminent domain” to straight-up steal it from our people, most of the time to benefit developers. 

Of course, city planners ensured that our people – who during most of this time didn’t have the right to vote – didn’t get fairly compensated.

Though most American cities were planned to oppress us, we still have opportunities to challenge these racist systems through community organizing, caring for one another, and entering the field of city planning ourselves!

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