The Weekly Stripe – 28.08.20
This week we explore how our built environment shapes our lived experiences. In particular, we focus on how it has systematically suppressed people of colour in the United States over the last 100 years. As we all strive to be actively anti-racist, it is important to understand just how deep the systemic oppression runs through the veins of our society.
For those of you who haven’t yet listened to the New York Time‘s “Nice White Parents” podcast, I would highly recommend all 5 episodes. Producer Channa Joffe-Walt dives deeply into how White Parents control the public school system in New York, creating what are the most segregated districts in America. Episode 2, “I Still Believe in It” focuses on the how a question as seemingly benign as ‘where to build a new school?’ can negatively impact nearby Black communities for generations.
The New York Times recently published an expose on “How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering“. Yes, you read that correctly. Years of racist and segregational policy has left Black communities as much as 10°C hotter in the summer compared to whiter and wealthier areas in the same cities.
In 2016, American Journal of Public Health published a paper eponymously declaring “Urban Blight Remediation as a Cost-Beneficial Solution to Firearm Violence“. The article declares that something as simple as turning abandoned lots into shared community space can significantly lower firearm violence. Not only that, but it does not push the violence somewhere else, it eliminates it. Neglected communities are not neglected because they are violent, they are violent because they are neglected.
As neighbourhoods gentrify, crime seems to increase. The Atlantic’s “The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods” questions this correlation, and presents a theory: more crimes are not being committed, but these places are seeing an influx in wealthy, white citizens calling the police on previously innocuous behaviour.
With this last link, I’m giving a nod to the famous anthropologist Victor Turner and his theory of Communitas. Defined as “an unstructured state in which all members of a community are equal allowing them to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage,” I encourage you all to consider how this relates to the power of the built environment. As you read Turner’s iconic chapter on Liminality and Communitas, consider the ways the built environment has been manipulated in order to deliberately continue to segregate and oppress Black communities rather than foster Communitas.