Buttigieg and Critical Road Theory

Mayor Pete is being mocked for telling obvious truths.

President Biden’s Secretary of Transportation is getting mocked by prominent voices on the right for suggesting that roads, bridges, and other infrastructure can reflect racial bias. But he’s right.

YahooNews (“Buttigieg responds to Ted Cruz on racism in highway design“):

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told Yahoo News that systemic racism in the design and location of highways in American cities and suburbs continues to adversely affect low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Responding to criticism from conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, regarding comments he made on Monday, Buttigieg said in a Tuesday interview that racism and segregation in road building are not ancient history or a figment of liberals’ imagination, as some on the right contend.

“There are many well-documented examples of this happening, from the ’20s and ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and sometimes we have to be on the lookout for issues that are happening in our time,” he said. “But for me, the issue is not: In what year did somebody create this problem? The issue is: Is that problem affecting people today in 2021?”

The back-and-forth with conservatives started Monday afternoon when Buttigieg said during a White House press briefing, “If a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a Black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach — or it would have been — in New York, was designed too low for it to pass by, that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices.”

The tendency to build highways in neighborhoods with lower incomes or higher proportions of people of color, sometimes acting as de facto racial boundaries, is well established and it is one reason that pollution and illnesses such as asthma are more prevalent in those areas.

The specific example Buttigieg referred to, about underpasses that were too low for buses, comes from the parkways in the Long Island suburbs of New York City. The low underpass design was ordered by government official Robert Moses with the specific intent of keeping out buses bringing low-income city residents to Jones Beach, according to “The Power Broker,” Robert Caro’s legendary biography of Moses.

Some conservative pundits and politicians, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, reacted with incredulity to Buttigieg’s comments. “Is this guy serious? This is what happens when ignorance of facts joins with phony enthusiasm,” Huckabee tweeted. “The roads are racist. We must get rid of roads,” Cruz jabbed at Buttigieg in his own tweet.

At first glance, it appeared that Buttigieg’s critics were either ignorant of the relevant history or pretending to be. However, when it was pointed out to them online that Buttigieg wasn’t imagining a bizarre hypothetical but telling a true story, some responded that it was irrelevant because the underpasses were built in 92 years ago, in 1929.

After arriving in Glasgow on Tuesday for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Buttigieg was interviewed by Yahoo News and asked about that critique.

“If people in 2021 are suffering from a discriminatory policy funded by the federal government, then we have a responsibility to fix it,” he said. “And I remain kind of surprised that this is controversial. I don’t know who it hurts to acknowledge that harm was done and to propose doing something to fix it.”

Whether it’s always worthwhile public policy to reverse long-ago decisions is debatable. It may cost more to undo the harm than it’s worth. Still, the above-linked interactive CityLab feature “What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways” shows that it’s often possible to rectify the situation with a relatively simple, cost-effective solution.

What’s not debatable, though, is that race was often a central consideration in making decisions about where to place critical infrastructure, with the burdens usually disproportionately impacting Black neighborhoods. Further, even in instances where no overt racial bias was in play, the simple fact that the decisionmakers were White meant that the interests of Black citizens weren’t represented, leading to inadvertent harm.

Which, Phillip Bump explains, “[T]his is why it’s useful to talk about historical examples of institutionalized racism.”

The idea that American cities made decisions about transportation that indirectly affected non-White residents negatively is not particularly controversial — nor is the idea that some decisions directly and intentionally targeted them.

Historian Kevin Kruse wrote about the history of using infrastructure as a tool to bolster racist policies for the New York Times in 2019. He described specific decisions to route highways through poor (and heavily non-White) neighborhoods, razing them to the ground. But it didn’t end there.

“While Interstates were regularly used to destroy black neighborhoods, they were also used to keep black and white neighborhoods apart,” Kruse wrote. “Today, major roads and highways serve as stark dividing lines between black and white sections in cities like Buffalo, Hartford, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.”

His article was focused on Atlanta but, as above, it is peppered with other examples from other places. In Detroit, for example, a wall built to keep Black and White residents apart nearly a century ago is still standing.

Kruse’s article was part of the Times’s “1619 Project,” an effort to elevate examples of structural racism that led to a massive backlash on the right and seeded the current effort to demand a teaching of American history that avoids close examination of issues of race. The furor over critical race theory, an intellectual movement whose name has been appropriated to refer to a broad, nebulous pool of educational discussion of issues of race, can be traced back to the political fight over the “1619 Project” that former president Donald Trump amplified in 2020. Trump’s goal was obvious: use the reexamination of American history as a way to stoke the insecurities of White voters who saw questions about historical racism as somehow destabilizing. Now, the fight involves states passing laws preventing educators from teaching critical race theory, and it involves parents attending school board meetings to express anger about what they believe their kids are being taught.

The renewed Buttigieg kerfuffle should serve as a counterweight to that effort. It is not only obviously true that American governmental bodies used infrastructure spending as a way to bolster both directly and indirectly racist policies, but it is an equally obvious truth that such systemic decisions have often been ignored in the teaching of the country’s history. The “1619 Project” was meant to help elevate some of that history and, in doing so, it elevated the debate over its teaching.

That proved irresistible to the political right. But as the example of Moses and Buttigieg demonstrates, opponents of teaching this history keep showing why it needs to be.

Look, there’s a tendency by some on the Left to read race into everything. It can be exhausting and, frankly, counterproductive. But the insistence by most of the Right that racism is a thing that went away half a century ago is more pernicious. We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.

FILED UNDER: Pete Buttigieg, Race and Politics, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    It is ASTONISHING that those on the right are arguing this isn’t a thing. It’s well-documented.

    I cannot remember where I read it, but in one case it was absolutely intentional. A city built a mall, and designed bus lines so that they didn’t route from poor neighborhoods directly to the mall. This was because they wanted to attract shoppers from the white suburbs and didn’t want to make it too easy for people of color to get there. The problem ended up being that they did want employees in those low-wage retail jobs to come from the area. IIRC, this became a news story because a black teenage girl was hit by a car crossing the highway to get to her job from the nearest-possible bus stop.

    Reading race into everything may be “exhausting,” but frankly this country has a lot to answer for and we will not be able to address these issues by tiptoeing around them.

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  2. Jen says:

    I tracked down the story I referenced above.

    Black Teen’s Death Leads to Bus Route Change at Upscale Mall

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    Look, there’s a tendency by some on the Left to read race into everything. It can be exhausting and, frankly, counterproductive. But the insistence by most of the Right that racism is a thing that went away half a century ago is more pernicious. We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.

    No comment, just thought it worth reinforcing.

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  4. JohnMcC says:

    @MarkedMan: Looking at the enclosed quote, I compare our host’s understanding of America with that of the Chief Justice (thinking of Shelby…).

    1
  5. Gavin says:

    @Jen:

    Reading race into everything may be “exhausting,”

    As with everything, the worst thing you can do to a Republican is to describe their actions accurately. [Yes, Robert Moses was a Republican]

    Ben Shapiro likes to say it because in his fantasy world it never gets applied to him : “F* Your Feelings” if you have issues with confronting the reality of US history. [Of course, the key word is “your” because Shapiro and his ilk always fantasize they’re in control]

    The way to actually make anything better is to accept the reality of where you are – your “current state” if you’re looking at any improvement as a project to manage. Are Republicans really trying to assert it’s all a magical coincidence?

    6
  6. Raoul says:

    In the recent past, DC alone has several examples of race being a factor in transportation infrastructure development. Anybody care to guess why Georgetown does not have a Metro? And building the Maryland light rail county connector has been an issue because many in Montgomery county do not want it to reach deep in to PG county. There are other examples but the point here is why are so many in the Conservative party denying the obvious reality.

    5
  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.

    True, but WE CAN get elected by pretending that they don’t need to be solved. But enough, already; the clown car is about to enter the main ring. Sit down!

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  8. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.
    At this point I think it is fair to say that the majority of Republicans know they exist and are happy that they do exist. Systemic racism is a feature to many Republicans, not a bug.

    4
  9. KM says:

    @Jen:
    I’ve visited this mall. The road she would have had to cross is INSANELY busy as it’s right off the Thruway and she would have had to essentially cross an offramp from the I-90 as well as a majority artery of the area. Crossing that in winter or after dark? Insanity.

    In fact, isn’t Buffalo discussing getting rid of another highway that was built cutting through inner city neighborhoods decades ago?

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Look, there’s a tendency by some on the Left to read race into everything.

    And 99 times out of a hundred one doesn’t need to read too deeply to find it.

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  11. Jen says:

    @KM:

    In fact, isn’t Buffalo discussing getting rid of another highway that was built cutting through inner city neighborhoods decades ago?

    It could well be, I don’t know for certain. I know that Syracuse is in the process of revamping I-81 for the same reason.

  12. Kathy says:

    But the insistence by most of the Right that racism is a thing that went away half a century ago is more pernicious. We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.

    The problem the Right wants to solve is that racism is considered to be racist. They’d rather it were not.

    We’ve seen they’re ok with racism, like it, and want to keep practicing it. they just don’t want to seem racist while being racist, or at least they don’t like being called racist. But they can’t say “We want racism by another, more respectable name,” they deny it even exists.

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  13. Andy says:

    “If people in 2021 are suffering from a discriminatory policy funded by the federal government, then we have a responsibility to fix it,” he said. “And I remain kind of surprised that this is controversial. I don’t know who it hurts to acknowledge that harm was done and to propose doing something to fix it.”

    Buttigieg said that in response to underpasses built almost a century ago. My first question is: Are the racist intentions of these still relevant today? Are there still busloads of minorities who can’t get to the beach because of these underpasses? In other words, if the goal is to “fix” racist infrastructure, then I would think the first step is determining if the infrastructure is racist today. Stating that it was racist almost a century ago is not very relevant in terms of actually making changes.

    And like all things, I’m interested in the details. How does one “fix” this problem?

    I look at my own home city of Denver and like all big cities, does have a long history of plowing major highway and infrastructure projects through poor and minority neighborhoods. But in the case of Denver, that ended a half-century ago. Since that time the city has changed and grown considerably. When I was a kid, most of the black population was in the 5-points neighborhood. Many have since relocated to the suburb of Aurora and 5-points is majority white while retaining a comparatively larger (for Colorado) black population. The median income there is almost $100k/year. It’s really hard to underestimate the demographic changes that have occurred in the city and surrounding suburbs from 50 years ago.

    I-25 and I-70 cut through the Globeville neighborhood in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Back then, it was composed mostly of poor eastern-European immigrants. Since then the area has become majority Hispanic. There is, I think, a case to be made that the highways dividing that old neighborhood are still problematic. Residents do complain of pollution and how certain areas are still isolated by the highways and other geography like the Platte river. And there is a lot of opposition to plans to widen I-70 to account for the huge population increase along the front range.

    But what is the solution to “fix” that problem? I-70 has been there for a generation. The vast majority of residents moved there after the interstates were built 60+ years ago. A couple of resident organizations want the entire interstate torn-up and rerouted further north. But you look at a map and there’s no place to put it without destroying other neighborhoods or taking it way far north past the existing ring highway to connect to – I-25. But then what about the western part of I-70? How do you reconnect to that? There’s simply no room.

    Is this problem even fixable? Is any fix worth the tradeoffs? What does “fix” mean in practice?

    It’s undeniable that the history of infrastructure projects in this country is one that cut through poor and minority communities, often intentionally. But that fact doesn’t give us any great insight into how to “fix” things that occurred a half-century ago or more.

    Warning to other commenters – editing posts (when the option is available) is making my posts disappear completely.

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  14. Jen says:

    @Andy:

    Buttigieg said that in response to underpasses built almost a century ago. My first question is: Are the racist intentions of these still relevant today?

    Yes. The mall I referenced above was built in 1989, so yes, examining all of our transportation infrastructure for this type of embedded racism is important.

    The I-81 link that I included above is from a highway construction project that was built in the late 1950s, and they are now in the process of replacing the crumbling viaduct. The history of why it was built where it was is instructive in what the plans are for the replacement.

    It is absolutely important to take these things into consideration.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    We’ve seen they’re ok with racism, like it, and want to keep practicing it.

    OK with it? GOP pols depend on it.

    3
  16. senyordave says:

    @Andy: My understanding is that Buttigieg is being mocked for stating historical facts. It is not a case of him proposing solutions that his opponents find ridiculous. Ted Cruz is mocking the Sec of Transportation for supposedly talking about “racist roads”. It is easy to dismiss this as Ted Cruz being Ted Cruz, but he is a sitting US senator. The Republican party dismisses historical racism as some sort of liberal fantasy, and that is a problem.

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  17. Beth says:

    I live this history basically every day. I life in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. My family has been here basically since the 1800’s. Partly in the “irish” section and partly in the “Lithuanian” sections. The Dan Ryan Expressway has a dogleg in it specifically so that it would cut between the “White” neighborhoods of Armour Sq and Bridgeport on the west and the “Black” neighborhood on the east. My grandfather, a racist, used to tell me stories about this. A nightmare.

    The irony of this is that in protecting their White enclave on the Southside, the people of my Grandfather’s generation basically killed their own dream. A huge number of families from Bridgeport white flighted themselves to the south suburbs. And the neighborhood started dying. Then a whole mess of people of my parent’s generation left and didn’t come back. The decay continued. The grandkids of my generation did start moving back because the houses are affordable compared to the Northside, but there really isn’t much commercial activity. It kinda doesn’t matter thought since we all have cars and shop elsewhere, but still. Further irony, is now the neighborhood is 51% Asian and 45% yuppies like me with a significant queer community. It’s basically my grandparents nightmare.

    Bronzeville seems to be doing quite well. They seem to have a tidy bit of investment over there.

    5
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Of course racism played a big part in these decisions. Is it politically helpful for Buttigieg to bring it up at this point? No.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    @senyordave: What makes you think I think we should pretend racist infrastructures policy doesn’t exist?

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Is it politically helpful for Buttigieg to bring it up at this point? No.

    Mush better to just ignore history if it makes white people uncomfortable, because… well, you know.

    16
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    Are there still busloads of minorities who can’t get to the beach because of these underpasses?

    Here’s a real, present day reality. Here in Baltimore there is a major community park. In the 1950’s a road was widened and many of the connecting streets were made dead ends on both sides all in an effort to make it harder for Baltimoreans in the adjacent black neighborhood to reach the park. This remains in place today. The street is a busy 3 lanes in each direction with turning lanes at the intersections, and those are far apart. Not the type of street you want young kids or old people crossing.

    There is a group lobbying for some of Baltimore’s share of the infrastructure funds to change this somehow and make it easier to access the park for that neighborhood. This is exactly what B is talking about and exactly what he said. What’s the problem?

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  22. mattbernius says:

    @KM:

    In fact, isn’t Buffalo discussing getting rid of another highway that was built cutting through inner city neighborhoods decades ago?

    I suspect you may be thinking of my adopted hometown of Rochester, NY, which is in the process of slowly filling in its “Inner Loop” which basically carved a moat around the center city, further isolating Black communities and helping fuel white flight from the city.

    @Andy:
    Local context and history always need to be taken into consideration. There may not be a solution in every place. In some places, it might no longer be a problem.

    However, in a lot of places, the intergenerational combination of those decisions (and the related ongoing impacts of pollution from cars–both prior to the removal of lead from gasoline and even currently with higher incidents of asthma ), plus redlining, plus over-policing… etc should be taken into serious consideration when trying to allocate funds to help stabilize those communities.

    One would also hope that those compounding, intergenerational factors should also give pause to the folks who think the various problems of those communities stem primarily from “cultural issues” within said communities.

    We should also use an understanding that infrastructure projects have racist impacts (intentionally or not) to guide future infrastructure decisions (and hopefully not repeat these same mistakes again).

    11
  23. inhumans99 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    On this point, I feel you are wrong, and Dr. Joyner even tried to pre-empt this type of post by declaring “We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.”

    Honestly, I get the feeling that if Dr. Joyner wanted to take a dig at Buttigieg for stating something that could be used as a cudgel against liberal progressives by those on the right, that he would. That he ends the post with the above quote pretty much delivers the point he was trying to get across to those of us who are reading his post.

    Also, I too read about the mall incident and how it was beyond onerous and dangerous for the low income workers to get to the mall to work, and to get there in a reasonable time frame to and from work. So yes, unfortunately fairly modern examples abound of infrastructure that is designed to make it difficult for one class of individuals vs another to go about their day to day activities.

    6
  24. Joe says:

    @Andy: You say,

    My first question is: Are the racist intentions of these still relevant today?

    But the Buttigieg quote you quote addresses that:

    “If people in 2021 are suffering from a discriminatory policy funded by the federal government, then we have a responsibility to fix it,”

    He is literally asking whether what was racially intended in the past has an impact currently. I agree that the current impact is a far more practical way of prioritizing what you can fix.

    16
  25. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Look, there’s a tendency by some on the Left to read race into everything. It can be exhausting and, frankly, counterproductive. But the insistence by most of the Right that racism is a thing that went away half a century ago is more pernicious. We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.

    Ouch…that “both-sides” was enough to snap my neck.
    We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist, but Buttigieg pointing out that the problem exists is exhausting.
    No wonder this country is fucked, with this kind of illogic being pervasive.

    7
  26. Gustopher says:

    “If people in 2021 are suffering from a discriminatory policy funded by the federal government, then we have a responsibility to fix it,” he [Buttigieg] said. “And I remain kind of surprised that this is controversial. I don’t know who it hurts to acknowledge that harm was done and to propose doing something to fix it.”

    Imagine if we applied this thought to education funding, or availability of banks or… well, nearly everything in society.

    Comrade Joyner opines:

    Look, there’s a tendency by some on the Left to read race into everything. It can be exhausting and, frankly, counterproductive. But…

    I expect it is even more exhausting for the people who are still suffering from the effects.

    Look, America was built on an Indian Graveyard (I’ve never seen a horror movie refer to a Native American graveyard…] and slavery. We can’t change that. What’s done is done, and the vast, vast majority wasn’t done by us in the present.

    But, the effects of that are still reverberating through society now, creating and reinforcing haves and have-nots. And, for the most part, we benefit from this.

    And that is where we have some guilt, and where we can have some impact. Exasperating or not.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Of course racism played a big part in these decisions. Is it politically helpful for Buttigieg to bring it up at this point? No.

    We are at the point where if our leaders don’t say things that make some white folks uncomfortable, the ring wing news machine will just make it up whole cloth.

    See CRT for an example. (If kids were really being taught that being white was bad — the right wing definition of CRT — we would have countless cell phone videos of teachers doing this, especially after a year of remote education)

    If we’re paying the price for doing the right thing whether we do it or not, we should just do the right thing.

    10
  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Much better to just ignore history if it makes white people uncomfortable, because… well, you know.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not the only alternative unless all things must be binary.

    “We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist.”

    I don’t see how that’s the only alternative. ‘Lecturing’ is not the necessary binary opposite of ‘ignoring.’

    This bill is nominally a bi-partisan triumph. The handful of Republicans backing the bill are under enormous pressure from friendly fire. Not the time to hop on our favorite hobby horse and turn a message of Yay, infrastructure! into Boo, past misdeeds.

    Being right about something does not necessarily mean lecturing incessantly. This is not college, this is politics in the real world where occasionally it might be smart to stifle the urge to teach.

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  28. David S. says:

    “Is this guy serious? This is what happens when ignorance of facts joins with phony enthusiasm,” Huckabee tweeted.

    I like this line. It’s almost self-aware.

    2
  29. John430 says:

    Jeez, Joiner. You sure do like guzzling the Kool Aid! What do you teach at the Marine College? That shooting real bullets at the enemy is racist, too?

    2
  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    If we’re paying the price for doing the right thing whether we do it or not, we should just do the right thing.

    It’s like progressives have no model other than academia. Amazing. We must lecture! And if someone doesn’t like the lecture we must lecture harder! More and more of the same, not because it works, but because we’re right! All Lefty solutions come down to some version of pedantry. If only the world would listen to our lectures, attend a few seminars and work their way through the assigned reading. . .

    To be perfectly brutal about it, the people lecturing are unskilled clods when it comes to changing hearts and minds. Propaganda, er, education beyond the classroom, is better handled by creatives than by academics. Academics have captive audiences, creatives have to work to gain audiences, and we do, because we’re better at it than academics who have all the subtlety and grace of a rhinoceros dancing Swan Lake.

    8
  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @mattbernius:

    We should also use an understanding that infrastructure projects have racist impacts (intentionally or not) to guide future infrastructure decisions (and hopefully not repeat these same mistakes again).

    Absolutely that.

    But retconning the past when we’re paralyzed and incapable of moving forward? Dumb and self-defeating. We’re in a car, on a highway, trying to get from X to Y and making damn slow progress. Which suggests to me that putting the car in reverse so we can go back and deal with stuff we passed 100 miles ago, is dumb.

    It is ridiculous to on the one hand claim that we are in an existential crisis over climate change, facing genuine calamity. . . but also insist we can’t address that future unless we also fix the last 300 years of history. Inability to prioritize. Inability to focus.

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  32. inhumans99 says:

    @John430:
    John, please go back to day-drinking. Everyone else, please carry on.

    4
  33. David S. says:

    @Andy: Five-second research would have led you to stronger conclusions than a parroting of Huckabee and co. from the article. Here, because I think my comment got swallowed from linking too much stuff: https://www.google.com/search?q=denver+urbanism+racism

    That’s what’s in your backyard. Stuff from academia. Stuff local papers. Stuff from NYT, The Guardian. Take your pick of sources.

    3
  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    @John430:
    Yeah, everyone is guzzling the Kool-Aid, but not you, because you’re so smart you see through it all.

    Question: when you look at your life, when you look at your relationships, your accomplishments, when you look at your home, your car, your IRA, your material possessions. . . do you seem like a guy with deep insight and penetrating intellect who is way more on-the-ball than Joyner? Hmm?

    1
  35. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But retconning the past when we’re paralyzed and incapable of moving forward?

    That isn’t retconning the past any more than talking about redlining, the denial of GI Plan benefits to Black WWII vets, or individual events like the Tulsa Race massacre is retconning the past.

    Which suggests to me that putting the car in reverse so we can go back and deal with stuff we passed 100 miles ago, is dumb.

    Unless one comes to realize that we didn’t really pass all that stuff and it’s led to where we are today and much of the reason for the inaction. What if… bear with me here, because I know this sounds wild… the reasons we didn’t make changes in the past are in part the reasons we are having problems making changes now?

    14
  36. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: He’s no Drew, that’s for sure.

    Drew, of course, is a master of industry and finance, a real 21st century whiz kid!

  37. Raoul says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I understand what you are saying about appearing condescending but on the other one should not be continually in a defensive crouch- it is a thin line. In this issue I’m actually glad Buttigieg reminded me about some history and I even learned something new! I have to say building low bridges as to prevent buses for minorities is some level of racism I did not expect.

    9
  38. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s like progressives have no model other than academia. Amazing. We must lecture! And if someone doesn’t like the lecture we must lecture harder! More and more of the same, not because it works, but because we’re right!

    But, the choices aren’t “Buttigieg lectures America” and “Buttigieg shuts up and no one mentions race in a ‘lecturing’ way again” — it’s “lots of people lecture America” and/or “the right wing media machine convinces about half of America that the Black Muslim Socialists in the Democrat Party are teaching white boys that they aren’t worthy of white women”.

    I’d sooner have Buttigieg saying something true that some people don’t want to face than have the arguments and cultural divides be based on complete made up bullshit. Solve the bullshit problem, and we might be at a spot where what Buttigieg says matters.

    7
  39. Joe says:

    I noticed a long time ago that in my home City (100,000+) the several train tracks that cross it have underpasses in the business and predominantly white areas and grade crossings in the historically predominantly black areas. When trains come through, traffic just stops in those neighborhoods while it keeps flowing in other areas.

    I don’t know how “intentional” that was, but I can’t imagine someone didn’t consider what infrastructure investments would be made in “some” neighborhoods compared to what were made in “other” neighborhoods.

    5
  40. Gustopher says:

    @Raoul: People always underestimate the Northern Racist — his colors aren’t as flashy as the Southern Racist, and he doesn’t put on the same dances and displays, but the Northern Racist is well adapted to the harsher climates.

    More like a mocking bird than a cardinal (although both have been known to adopt shocking white plumage from time to time…)

    6
  41. Jen says:

    Missing from this discussion is all of the flack that Buttigieg got for not being responsive enough to problems in the Black community. Irrespective of whether it is useful to be discussing the inherent racism in large chunks of our nation’s transportation policy, it does actually make sense for Buttigieg to be talking about this. At any time.

    5
  42. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    …do you seem like a guy with deep insight and penetrating intellect who is way more on-the-ball than Joyner?

    Criminy…he has even less “on-the-ball” than Jenos.

    1
  43. Mu Yixiao says:

    To tag onto Michael’s line of thought:

    All the issues can be addressed without bringing race into it.

    “We need to address historically bad choices in infrastructure planning to improve community access to our parks, beaches, and businesses. To increase safety, and to move high-traffic routes away from residential neighborhoods–thus reducing the burden on our health-care system.”

    Same solutions, none of the side-show antics that are going on now. Anyone who’s aware of the reasons behind those “historically bad choices” will understand why they’re being corrected. Anyone who doesn’t know the history won’t feel like they’re being lectured. We can still solve the problems even if a large swath of the population is ignorant–it’d probably be a lot easier that way.

    4
  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    Solve the bullshit problem, and we might be at a spot where what Buttigieg says matters.

    You seem to assume that we on the Left have not contributed to the bullshit. We have, and we do. We have uncritically adopted racialist thinking. We’ve abandoned all that, ‘content of their character,’ stuff and reduced every issue to race. Not even sex/gender, by the way, which I think is the bigger problem, the more dangerous problem.

    We’re creating a society where everyone is a tetchy Renaissance prince strutting around and looking for people who bite their thumbs. We’re engaged in a perpetual heretic-hunting expedition, an Orwellian obsession with magically changing reality by changing words. We do stupid fucking things guaranteed to do net damage in the backlash, like renaming schools because Francis Drake (a flaming liberal by the standards of his day) ran slaves. In the 16th century. In England. And Abraham Lincoln, too? WTF?

    And we talk a lot of sheer rot. Remember how if only we elected Bernie Sanders the working folks would ‘see’ that we just want to help them and that would form the basis of a blah blah blah. Remember when we decided that Spanish was all wrong because of gendered pronouns and we had to fix it for them? Remember how we don’t need cops, just social workers? Does anyone recall that the anti-vax movement was initially pushed by Lefties because it causes autism? What about the anti-GMO movement based on zero science and a lot of paranoid bullshit, and how that makes it harder for poor countries to feed themselves or export food? How about when we decided that people should identify not as men or women but as cis-men and cis-women? Or the Left’s obsession with Israel’s misdeeds while studiously ignoring Egypt’s infinitely worse government? How about when we decided free speech was a bad thing? We talk about the Right abandoning its principles? Well, so have we.

    It is mostly the Right talking nonsense, clearly, but it is not exclusive to the Right.

    6
  45. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    We can still solve the problems even if a large swath of the population is ignorant–it’d probably be a lot easier that way.

    I understand what you and Michael are getting at, and to an extent I think I agree. The problem is, I’m not entirely certain that we CAN solve these problems “if a large swath of the population is ignorant.”

    Again, the mall I referenced above was built in 1989.

    That’s what happens when people don’t know what these “historically bad choices” are referencing. Sure, Big Infrastructure Project funded by the feds gets scrutiny and probably has any problems addressed in the planning stage. But a local development? I’m not so sure that this “ignorance is bliss” policy is the best way to go forward.

    I think that’s what bothers me about this argument. Buttigieg brings up a point that is well-documented and notes that we have a chance/opportunity/obligation to address this and conservatives say NO THERE IS NO PROBLEM. They are literally *denying* this is an issue.

    In that context, you can see the issue with not bringing it to the forefront. “Stupid is as stupid does” is not a good policy goal.

    2
  46. JohnMcC says:

    Those huge projects that ‘renewed’ American cities as interstate highways were driven over them, they were called ‘urban renewal’. It was well known back in the 50s and 60s that “urban renewal means negro removal”. No one made a secret of it! It was going to improve the lives of ‘The Negro’ when huge public housing projects opened.

    Geez, people! I remember this stuff and I’m not so….
    wait…. actually I am pretty old. But it wasn’t THAT long ago that moving poor people around was explicit urban policy.

    1
  47. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Jen:

    I understand what you and Michael are getting at, and to an extent I think I agree. The problem is, I’m not entirely certain that we CAN solve these problems “if a large swath of the population is ignorant.”

    Again, the mall I referenced above was built in 1989.

    1) The issue isn’t the mall. It’s the bus routes. Bus routes are not that difficult to change.

    2) The problem doesn’t need to be framed as “black people can’t get to the mall”. I can be framed as “shoppers and workers can’t get to the mall”–which is an issue that Republicans can understand and get behind. It’s bolstering the economy! It’s getting people into jobs!

    Worry about the lecturing after the problem is fixed.

    1
  48. Gustopher says:

    @Mu Yixiao: While we are at it, let’s have a comprehensive public health policy that doesn’t mention germ theory.

    5
  49. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I mentioned the mall, but highlighted the year.

    My point was, these problems are not going away on their own. Relying on people to “get it” is why we’re still seeing this stuff crop up.

    I DNGAF about lecturing. I do want these types of systemic problems to stop, and it’s not going to happen with the wishful thinking that a select few who “get it” will fix things without everyone else noticing.

    It certainly won’t happen if you have a mall developer saying “well, our target market is in THIS area” [waves hands at white suburban clusters], “so that’s where we need the buses.” Everyone at the table who would rather be anywhere other than a planning board meeting for a mall development nods sagely, they vote, and there you have it, more Institutionalized Racism (TM).

    2
  50. mattbernius says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I can be framed as “shoppers and workers can’t get to the mall”–which is an issue that Republicans can understand and get behind. It’s bolstering the economy! It’s getting people into jobs!

    I wish things were this simple. Living in Rochester NY, where this is an ongoing issue, I can tell you that Monroe County Republicans (who ran the county and the regional transportation organization) were not very sympathetic to this argument (at least when it came to funding).

    I also need to point out that everyone was well aware of the racial breakdown of those shoppers and workers who *needed* the bus to get to the mall (versus owning their own cars). It’s something that was often discussed on local call-in talk shows.

    3
  51. Andy says:

    @David S.:

    @Andy: Five-second research would have led you to stronger conclusions than a parroting of Huckabee and co. from the article. Here, because I think my comment got swallowed from linking too much stuff: https://www.google.com/search?q=denver+urbanism+racism

    That’s what’s in your backyard. Stuff from academia. Stuff local papers. Stuff from NYT, The Guardian. Take your pick of sources.

    Dude, I grew up and live here. I know the history. And I’m a professional researcher – 5 seconds on Google is not “research,”

    So don’t make assumptions because I didn’t include all of this area’s complex history in a blog comment and then don’t disingenuously suggest I’m parroting Mike Huckabee. If you want to get pedantic about it, we can go back to the city’s founding which was on an Arapaho winter camping site, which was an illegal settlement considering all the land in this area was promised to the Arapaho and the Cheyenne by treaty seven years before. The first road laid down here was racist as fuck dude. What do you propose to do about it?

    The fact is that most of the bad stuffed that happened in Denver going all the way back to the city’s founding WRT racist transportation projects occurred before I was born. In other words, it’s been the status quo for a really long time. And over that length of time, a lot of stuff has changed.

    I have no problem acknowledging and accounting for this history, and I have no problem considering hand-wavy ideas about “fixing” it. But I stand by the points I made, primarily that the details matter. It’s one thing to say you want to fix racist transportation policy and the effects of such policies that were made a generation or more ago – it’s quite another thing to operationalize that into actual proposals that can actually be accomplished and which also consider all the other relevant factors inherent to any transportation project. That’s something you can’t find in a 5 second Google search.

    5
  52. KM says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been to that mall. Let me tell you it was VERY clear no buses were going there or were intended to stop there from the get-go. Based on it’s design it was meant to be a wealthy suburban mall, a drive-to experience that wasn’t going to be sullied with “public transport”. The shoppers and workers you mention that Repubs would theoretically care are affected? Pfft, the whole point was it was exclusive and those kind of people couldn’t get to it! Now granted it could have been poor people too as Buffalo isn’t that well off but same nonsense, if you had to take the bus to get there you ain’t welcome. The servants – err workers – could cross the busy highway on foot in the snow for all a Repub could care; pull up the snowboots and run before the light turns, wage slave!

    I understand what you and Reynolds are pointing out – nobody likes hearing negative things that could reflect badly on them and it’s better to solve an issue then point out fault. However, if the whole point is exclusion then it behooves us to speak of historical reasons and motives if we’re to stop future instances. This isn’t blaming the great-great-grandson of a slaveowner for familial wrongs, it’s pointing out people 3 decades ago were still of the mindset that inner city poor and minorities are denied access to a location literally on the offramp of a major highway and road on the edge of the city. Easy to get to unless they don’t want you to…..

    5
  53. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Beth:

    Absolutely. I’m not sure that anyone is realistically in the dark about why not a single subway line crosses, or likely ever will, the Westchester County (where I used to live) line and why zoning laws there make multi-family housing essentially impossible to build. NYC Metro is still profoundly (and IMO on net negatively) affected by the legacy of Robert Moses.

    Westchester is a paradox in some ways – generally wealthy, incredibly white, but also deeply blue. You’d expect it to be a bastion of liberalism. When the rubber met the road though, it spent nearly a decade vociferously soft-pedaling and obstructing and outright ignoring a court order targeting its zoning policies until it found a friendly administration under which HUD was willing to make the problem go away. There is no Detroit style concrete wall along the Westchester County line, but if we’re honest there is a wall there all the same.

    5
  54. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: If that is the mall I am thinking of (Irondequoit?), haven’t the problems basically outlived the mall? Now the people maintaining the empty mall can’t get to work…

  55. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Westchester is a paradox in some ways – generally wealthy, incredibly white, but also deeply blue. You’d expect it to be a bastion of liberalism.

    Liberals often want to improve the lives of minorities only so long as they don’t get too close. Some of their best friends are black people, and they are just trying to preserve the character of their neighborhood, and will you think about the property values?

    The right doesn’t have an exclusive claim on racism, or a hatred of the poor.

    9
  56. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jen:

    I’m not even sure that mall was explicitly intended to be racist. Like so many other things, I suspect it boils down more to socioeconomic concerns and those unavoidably transect with race. In other words, I suspect it was more a case of “this is an upscale mall and we’re going to maneuver as much as we can to prevent poor people from being able to get here in the first place” . Of course, that’s going to impact minority populations, since they’re disproportionately poor, but they’ve pretty much excluded all of the poor whites from the mall as well, so is it inherently racist, or just bourgeois exclusionism?

    1
  57. dazedandconfused says:

    @Gustopher:

    Perhaps another way to make Michael’s point would be to mention this remains a deeply racist nation. The R’s get a lot of mileage out of their dog whistles even today, right?

    Buttigieg handed Ted Cruz a whip with which he can flog his chorus into action. Have to pick your battles. Demonstrating to this racist nation that the Ds aren’t ALL about helping black people would be politically smart.

    1
  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen:

    I DNGAF about lecturing. I do want these types of systemic problems to stop, and it’s not going to happen with the wishful thinking that a select few who “get it” will fix things without everyone else noticing. [emphasis added]

    This! Times about a thousand or two.

    8
  59. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    The right doesn’t have an exclusive claim on racism, or a hatred of the poor.

    I won’t necessarily disagree, except to say that it can be perilous to conflate those two as being mutually present motivators. My neighbors were, for example, Iranian (both doctors and two of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege to know), and an AA family lived down the road a bit, so I wouldn’t say that Westchester is necessarily racist. I would, however, say that they’re quite cognizant of, and concerned with maintaining, property values. An assertion along the lines of “when their liberalism conflicts with their economic self-interest, liberalism is going to lose that battle” is pretty much right on target.

    Point being that “we don’t want black folks here” and “we don’t want poor people here” are not necessarily the same animal. It’s important to investigate the distinctions if you ever want to make progress in effecting change.

    6
  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “shoppers and workers can’t get to the mall”

    For the shoppers in our target market, that’s not a problem as they don’t regularly ride public transit now (in fact, many of their neighborhoods don’t even have bus lines), and any worker worth hiring will solve his own transportation problems without depending on the city for help.

    And yes, I’ve heard these arguments. Hell, I even made them when I was younger. And I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and either walked or took the bus most everywhere when I wasn’t with my family.

  61. Monala says:

    @Jen: I think I responded to you back during the 2020 election cycle. You said something about Buttigieg being in a no-win situation, either he ignores racial issues and is criticized for it, or he addresses them and is accused of pandering. I said that he should do the latter regardless of what anyone says, and over time, his sincerity will show.

    I think that’s actually what has happened. At least, I have seen several Black activists in the last few days praising him on Twitter for bringing up this issue.

    3
  62. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Well, from the AP article about the teen’s death:

    For years, the bus could get no closer to Walden Galleria than a stop on the far side of a seven-lane thoroughfare with no sidewalks. Then Cynthia Wiggins, a black teen-ager who worked in the mall’s food court, was run down and killed by a dump truck as she tried to cross the busy highway.

    Soon after the 17-year-old’s death Jan. 2, local transit authorities released documents showing that mall operators wouldn’t allow any bus that ran through Buffalo’s mostly black neighborhoods to be routed across mall property.

    And a white former shoe store owner charged mall owners with blatant efforts to discourage black shoppers.

    [Snip]

    The document said that when NFTA officials were negotiating service before the mall opened in 1989, executives from Syracuse-based Pyramid were receptive to buses from the mostly white suburbs. But when the No. 6 was mentioned, Pyramid insisted it be kept out of the parking lot, the memo said.

    It sure sounds to me like they knew exactly what they were doing. {shrugs}

    4
  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I don’t think the racism was intended either. I think it’s bone deep. It makes perfect sense that a high-end consumer products mall is not going to care that nCLANG can’t get there (and we’re certainly not interested in hiring them to work there–unless we have not other choice). No disconnect or intention required. It’s just natural. (Like taking drug dealers for hard rides.)

  64. Mu Yixiao says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Buttigieg handed Ted Cruz a whip with which he can flog his chorus into action. Have to pick your battles.

    Exactly.

    2
  65. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius:

    I suspect you may be thinking of my adopted hometown of Rochester, NY, which is in the process of slowly filling in its “Inner Loop” which basically carved a moat around the center city, further isolating Black communities and helping fuel white flight from the city.

    While I agree with your general sentiment, the part of the highway Rochester is dealing with was definitely not put in place to divide the city. It is in the bed of the Erie Canal and put there specifically because they wouldn’t have to tear down neighborhoods or buy up existing buildings. They relocated that stretch of the canal south and when I lived there it was just referred to as the Barge Canal.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that other parts of the highway infrastructure in Rochester were racially or status motivated, but 490 isn’t in that category.

  66. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jen:

    What are the socioeconomic demographics of those suburbs besides race? That’s the point I was making (and I think the one that Micheal made as well) – you can’t conflate every single decision or action that somehow impinges on race with being directly motivated by racism. The next step from that conflation is, without fail, to jump into the fire with both feet and begin lecturing anyone and everyone who has questions / concerns or isn’t 100% behind moving heaven and earth to change it about how they’re all flaming racists. It’s counterproductive to your goal and alienates the people you need as allies.

    Westchester is a good example. I’m not sure I ever met anyone there who would have been troubled by the idea of an AA family moving into the neighborhood. Indeed, when one did move into ours, they were welcomed and quickly became a part of “the group’, so to speak. Those same people would, however, burn the building down over the suggestion of apartments or affordable housing being built nearby, and not because those units might be inhabited by minorities. You’re layering an inaccurate assumption (“They hate minorities”) with the more accurate truth (“They have millions invested in their property and they’re not keen on the idea of losing value whether it would improve the world or not”). Shouting “racist” at them and lecturing them about how evil they are shuts them down, and somewhat rightly so. Showing them that the development they’re concerned about can be carried out without killing property values, and showing them examples of where that has been done, does the exact opposite. See the broader point? The left has a style problem, as Micheal eloquently described above.

    6
  67. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “It is ridiculous to on the one hand claim that we are in an existential crisis over climate change, facing genuine calamity. . . but also insist we can’t address that future unless we also fix the last 300 years of history.”

    So basically… this country has fucked over Blacks and other minorities for centuries, but now we face a crisis so we must fuck them over even harder for the common good. We’re sure they’ll understand and allow themselves to be sacrificed again for our good.

    2
  68. Gustopher says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Buttigieg handed Ted Cruz a whip with which he can flog his chorus into action.

    Is there an alternate universe where Ted Cruz shuts up? Because in this one, it doesn’t matter what happens or doesn’t happen, Ted Cruz will flog his chorus with made up shit if he doesn’t have real shit.

    7
  69. wr says:

    @Jen: “Buttigieg brings up a point that is well-documented and notes that we have a chance/opportunity/obligation to address this and conservatives say NO THERE IS NO PROBLEM. They are literally *denying* this is an issue.”

    And MR and Mu chime in, insisting that we all pretend that there was never a problem so that all the problems will be fixed surreptitiously. Except that if there is no problem to fix, then we can continue to pour our money into the rich and white neighborhoods and continue to trash the ones we’ve always trashed.

    8
  70. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    you can’t conflate every single decision or action that somehow impinges on race with being directly motivated by racism.

    Except when the socioeconomic profile of the community and race that you are targeting have such overlap that they are a circle, it doesn’t really matter. You’re trying to mask one with the other. “We aren’t being racist, we’re just excluding all of those people who live in poor neighborhoods”…who all happen to be Black/people of color.

  71. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “The problem doesn’t need to be framed as “black people can’t get to the mall”. I can be framed as “shoppers and workers can’t get to the mall”–which is an issue that Republicans can understand and get behind. It’s bolstering the economy! It’s getting people into jobs!”

    Because the Republicans who set up this system in the first place will never notice that it’s being changed, or that the people they fought to exclude are going to be allowed in. Because apparently Republicans are such morons that as long as you don’t explicitly explain that you are undoing their racists plans, they’ll never notice and everyone will be happy!

    1
  72. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92: And regardless of whether the motivation is primarily racism or classism, wouldn’t it make a hell of a lot of sense to look to poor whites as Allie’s rather than enemies to be lectured at. Michael is right about this one. Care more about getting things done than getting people to hail the liberals as all that is good in the world.

    3
  73. wr says:

    @dazedandconfused: “Buttigieg handed Ted Cruz a whip with which he can flog his chorus into action.”

    Among the “whips” Ted Cruz has used have been Dr. Seuss and Big Bird. If you spend all your time worrying about how Cruz — or any of his ilk — is going to twist your words and their meanings to rile up his base, you will never say a word.

    5
  74. Mu Yixiao says:

    @wr:

    And MR and Mu chime in, insisting that we all pretend that there was never a problem so that all the problems will be fixed surreptitiously.

    You’re not listening.

    We’re saying yes, there’s a problem. The problem needs to be fixed. So let’s focus on fixing the problems and not lecturing people about them.

    We’re talking about infrastructure–roads, bridges, etc. Fix the damn things, and fix them in a way that reduces or eliminates the historic social-based issues that are behind them. You can do that without spending all this time on “Hey. Let me tell you about the racist history of this road.”–and the inevitable farce that follows.

    TL;DR: Positive actions, not words.

    4
  75. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Unless one comes to realize that we didn’t really pass all that stuff and it’s led to where we are today and much of the reason for the inaction. What if… bear with me here, because I know this sounds wild… the reasons we didn’t make changes in the past are in part the reasons we are having problems making changes now?

    What evidence is there that the problems now are the same as the problems then?

    One can’t know if these historic problems still exist today without looking at the details of individual projects that are currently planned or being implemented. And if one wants to ensure that future plans aren’t overtly or unintentionally racist, then the process changes need to first be clearly identified and then made at the state and local level.

    Focusing on historic injustices does none of those things.

    The fact of the matter is that practically all infrastructure projects are created and managed at the state and local level with a combination of state, local, and federal funds. The fed’s primary responsibility is to provide money which always comes with strings attached. Has a set of anti-racism strings been attached to this latest transportation bill? (I don’t know)

    The point being, unless it’s been built into the legislation and/or unless the Department of Transportation has gone through the rule-making process to attach specific strings to federal funds to combat historic or current problems with racist transportation policy and projects, then the debate over Buttigieg’s comments is academic.

    And that’s the problem with the 50k foot view – it’s easy for this to become the latest culture war “debate” for a news cycle, it’s a lot harder to consider what anti-racist infrastructure policy/rules would look like, much less try to implement them.

    2
  76. dazedandconfused says:

    @Gustopher:

    But do we have to help him?

  77. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “We’re talking about infrastructure–roads, bridges, etc. Fix the damn things, and fix them in a way that reduces or eliminates the historic social-based issues that are behind them.”

    And what about the people who built them this way in the first place — and still want them this way? You think this is an artifact of the distant past? When the Braves moved out of downtown Atlanta and to the suburbs just a few years back, Marta was going to build a line out to the new stadium — which would also give the suburbanites an easy commute into the city. Until the suburbs voted it down — because they didn’t want all of “those” people from downtown coming into their pristine suburbs bringing in all their crime and drugs.

    And I’m sure you’ll assure me that this had nothing to do with race, even though the suburbs are overwhelmingly white and Atlanta proper is not.

    But I’ll bet that if someone suggests building this rail line now because of “infrastructure issues,” it will get shot down all over again.

    3
  78. wr says:

    Hey, maybe if Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation without mentioning that slavery was bad — you know, just talking about allotment of resources or something — the South would never have noticed and we could have ended slavery without the Civil War.

    5
  79. Andy says:

    I had never heard of the Moses bridges until today (I’m from the west and don’t know New York transportation history), but it seems the historical facts are in dispute or, at least, a bit more complicated.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/10/robert-moses-saga-racist-parkway-bridges/

  80. Mike says:

    This is actually about Mayor Pete’s future presidential run.

  81. KM says:

    @Andy:

    One can’t know if these historic problems still exist today

    1989 is “historic”. Man, when I did get old?

    32 years ago isn’t today, that is true. However, acting as if it was a bygone era when we’re not sure such attitudes still are present is disingenuous at best. The death took place in 1996 but the buses didn’t start going there till 2005. 2005 – 7 years after she died, 16 years since the mall was built and 16 years from today. In other words, for half it’s existence that “history” was concrete reality.

    The problems still exist. It took me 30 seconds to google. 2005 for the bus line from the city to be allowed on property to drop off riders even when it was known death could result. But hey, they’re poor and black or just poor or just black so who cares? It’s history! We can’t be sure!

    4
  82. Andy says:

    @KM:

    However, acting as if it was a bygone era when we’re not sure such attitudes still are present is disingenuous at best.

    One 32-year old example that seems to be more about bus service than infrastructure projects doesn’t really say anything about what’s happening today. Bad and racist decisions made at one locality three decades ago don’t automatically implicate what’s going on today across a large nation of 320 million people.

    I think the case you cite is very bad. And it should have been and should be addressed. But if one wants to implicate the way infrastructure projects are done generally, across the country, then I need to see the evidence.

    I’m not categorically denying that these sorts of issues may still exist today either on a local, structural, or even endemic level. That very well may be the case! But I’m not going to take your word (or anyone’s word) for it based on decades-old examples. If racism is still a problem in how infrastructure projects are done in the US today, then we need evidence to not only prove that is the case, but also to show the extent and scope of the problem, and give us the information we need to address the problem. Citing historical examples along with a lot of handwaving doesn’t do that.

    1
  83. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I wouldn’t be surprised that other parts of the highway infrastructure in Rochester were racially or status motivated, but 490 isn’t in that category.

    It is in the bed of the Erie Canal and put there specifically because they wouldn’t have to tear down neighborhoods or buy up existing buildings.

    That wasn’t the case. You might be thinking of the subway (which was put in the bed and ran from 1929 to 1959). The canal was relocated in 1920 and then the bed was built upon at street level.

    The creation of the inner loop and 490 in the 50’s and 60’s cut through densely populated parts of the city and split whole neighborhoods. A lot of buildings were destroyed in the process including almost all of the old downtown RIT campus.

  84. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jen:

    And I think you’re trying to conflate one with the other because it services a goal / worldview. Let’s spitball for a moment and see if we can possibly think of a non-racially based motivation for why an upscale mall might want to discourage the poor from visiting. I wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to come up with one.

  85. Gustopher says:

    @dazedandconfused: I don’t know — does racist roads, where a few people learn about Robert Moses help or hurt compared to Socialists are teaching your children to hate their whiteness?

    I’d argue it is better. It’s at least based in reality, so a few people might learn. Northern racism around NYC? You might even get people on the right repeating it, trying to hoist the libtards by their own petards, and people might realize the same thing happens where they live.

    It can’t all be Cruz abandoning his constituents to go to Cancun. He doesn’t do it enough.

  86. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    And I’m sure you’ll assure me that this had nothing to do with race, even though the suburbs are overwhelmingly white and Atlanta proper is not.

    Not for nothing, but Cobb County is almost 30% African-American and nearly 14% Hispanic. Caucasians barely constitute a majority at 55%. If someone sets out expecting to find racism, they will find racism – every single time – whether it’s the primary motivator or not. I’ve come, more and more, to the conclusion that a lot of what passes for racism is instead classism, but gets called racism because the people doing the calling out went looking for (and – shocker – found) racism.

    3
  87. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    does racist roads, where a few people learn about Robert Moses help or hurt compared to Socialists are teaching your children to hate their whiteness?

    That rather depends on how you define “help”. If you define it as “this will motivate people to get on board and support the change I’m trying to effect”, which realistically has to be the only thing that is actually important in all of this, then no, it doesn’t help at all. It does the opposite of help. Everything isn’t a teach in, and people do not like being lectured / spoken down to.

    so a few people might learn

    I can more or less promise you that they won’t. The people who are going to respond to that were already leaning towards being / in your corner to begin with. They don’t need convincing. The ones who do need it are going to shut down, tune it out, and walk away. People. Do. Not. Like. Being. Lectured.

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  88. KM says:

    @Andy:
    16 years, @Andy. Read the link – it was finally resolved in 2005. They fought it after her death for 7 freaking years to keep the buses off property. To keep poor people and minorities away.
    What’s the statue of limitation on racist behavior that contributes to a death? 5 years? 10?

    A bad example how? Bus scheduling *is* infrastructure as it’s public transport. What’s the point of a bus if it doesn’t go anywhere useful? It is current evidence that even after people asking and struggling and trying so hard to get something as basic as a bus route for *decades*, it’s still an issue in modern America into GWB’s Presidency. You want it to be history because then it can be dismissed and it’s prevalence relegated to “lone wolf” category. This happened only a few months before OTB was founded or is that ancient history? It kept being a problem because the folks who were cited upthread as being cranky they’re lectured to are the same ones who didn’t want those buses to run.

    1
  89. wr says:

    @Andy: Let’s see… It’s Robert Caro, who interviewed people directly involved with the decisions… versus Glen Kessler (!), who cherry picks a handful of rando academics. Yes, there is doubt. Both sides!!!! And Pete Buttigieg is WRONG WRONG WRONG because somewhere out in America there are at least three people who disagree with him!

    1
  90. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Should we never acknowledge systemic racism? Do we wait for @Mu Yixiao‘s Social Justice Ninjas to suddenly appear and fix the symptoms in a whack-a-mole manner?

    Looks like they are backlogged by a few decades, at the very least.

    (And, as I have pointed out several times already in this thread, the baseline isn’t a right-wing that is silent, it is a right-wing creating new racist outrages out of nothing when the previous one gets stale — “CRT is an advanced college level class, and is not taught to third graders” was a poor message, but “Holy Shit, Robert Moses was fucking racist!” really hasn’t been tried… and it’s not like there are many people who love Robert Moses and will feel bad that their hero is being dragged through the mud)

  91. Mimai says:

    I’m confused by how this discussion got started. Was Pete B. deemed to be lecturing people? I watched the video, and he doesn’t seem to be doing that (though I acknowledge that this is a matter of opinion). I haven’t followed this story closely, so perhaps I’ve missed the instances of lecturing.

    That said, I agree that lecturing CAN be counterproductive. Not always though. Hectoring, on the other hand, is almost always counterproductive. Seems an important distinction.

    3
  92. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It is ridiculous to on the one hand claim that we are in an existential crisis over climate change, facing genuine calamity. . . but also insist we can’t address that future unless we also fix the last 300 years of history.

    This is a ridiculous argument, but you know what? We’re not going to do shit about climate change, not if it requires building any consensus with the people who believe it’s a Chinese hoax like covid.

    At this point, were just playing around, making ourselves comfortable, pursuing secondary issues that appeal to us, while waiting to slowly roast or for things to get so bad that people figure out that the Chinese hoax of climate change is a really elaborate hoax that involves actually changing the climate.

    So, yeah, let’s try to help brown people and trans people and the rest. Because do you know what’s going to make the experience of climate change worse? Being poor and discriminated against on top of it. Rich people get air conditioning.

    3
  93. Gustopher says:

    @Mimai: Lecturing is telling people anything they don’t want to hear. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  94. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    And I think you’re trying to conflate one with the other because it services a goal / worldview.

    Don’t do that. I am not trying to force something to fit a narrative.

    Let’s spitball for a moment and see if we can possibly think of a non-racially based motivation for why an upscale mall might want to discourage the poor from visiting.

    Of course there is, but you are familiar with the term disparate impact, I assume? That’s the issue here. It doesn’t really matter if the rationale is to keep *poor* people out. If the net effect is that it keeps Black people out, that’s discriminatory.

    2
  95. mattbernius says:

    @wr & @Andy:
    I had avoided weighing in on the historical accuracy of the claim because it’s complex (and, lets face it, folks get pretty antsy over anything seen as “too academic” here).

    Background on why I’m weighing in: When I was working on my PhD at Cornell, it was partially in the field of Science and Technology Studies, where this has been an ongoing debate. So I’m familiar with the arguments for and against.

    My take (though I’m slightly removed from the literature) is that Peter Shulman is overplaying things a bit when he says it’s “largely debunked.” There’s still a lot of back and forth in the literature over Joerges’ article (itself a response to one by Bruno Latour).

    Additionally, there is also overwhelming evidence that many other of Robert Moses’ decisions were, at best, influenced by not caring about their impact on BIPOC and poor communities or were, at worst, fueled by animus.

    As with most historical accounts, what we end up with is one that is contested and the version most people choose to tell tends to align with their priors.

    2
  96. mattbernius says:

    @Mimai:

    I’m confused by how this discussion got started. Was Pete B. deemed to be lecturing people? I watched the video, and he doesn’t seem to be doing that (though I acknowledge that this is a matter of opinion).

    This. FWIW this has been something that Buttigieg has been talking consistently about for a number of years. And this controversy has come up in the past as well, it just didn’t break as big in the past.

    3
  97. mattbernius says:

    @Gustopher:

    If that is the mall I am thinking of (Irondequoit?), haven’t the problems basically outlived the mall? Now the people maintaining the empty mall can’t get to work…

    Oh, if was only the Irondequoit Mall (RIP). In Rochester, developers built 4 malls all more or less all 20-30 minutes away from the center city (which also featured the first “mall” in the US). There was one for each compass point. And then they wondered why people stopped coming downtown to shop.

    Today, only one of those malls is going really strong, one as you noted is closed, and the other two are limping along (with one being converted into a partial multipurpose/one-stop clinic/recovery /rehab place (with some shops) by one of our two major healthcare providers.

  98. Andy says:

    @wr:

    @Andy: Let’s see… It’s Robert Caro, who interviewed people directly involved with the decisions… versus Glen Kessler (!), who cherry picks a handful of rando academics. Yes, there is doubt. Both sides!!!! And Pete Buttigieg is WRONG WRONG WRONG because somewhere out in America there are at least three people who disagree with him!

    I’m not a historian, plus I’m from the West (and as Jim Morrison said, the West is the Best – I believe you’re a California person, right?) and am not familiar with NY history. So I’m not taking a side here and honestly, I don’t really care about trying to adjudicate the scale of racism of some guy almost 100 years ago. That is the kind of pointless and pedantic debate that causes normie eyes to do 360’s in their skull.

    @KM:

    16 years, @Andy. Read the link – it was finally resolved in 2005.

    Yes, it’s bad! I’m not sure what you want me to say?

    From an analytical POV, I cannot extrapolate from one very bad and unjustifiable situation and conclude that US transportation policy – writ large – is racist in 2021 based on that example. Is that the claim you are making? If so, is that all the evidence you have?

    1
  99. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr: @Gustopher:
    If we’re doomed why the fuck do we care about anything? Why am I recycling? Despair if for the weak.

    @wr:

    And MR and Mu chime in, insisting that we all pretend that there was never a problem so that all the problems will be fixed surreptitiously. Except that if there is no problem to fix, then we can continue to pour our money into the rich and white neighborhoods and continue to trash the ones we’ve always trashed.

    Are you drunk? Or just incapable of debating an issue in good faith?

    3
  100. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    As I mentioned previously, I had not heard about Robert Moses until today. However, I think that I feel pretty comfortable in asserting (in ignorance) that probably 90% or more of white people in the 1920’s (include Moses it seems) were racist against various groups (some of which are now “white”) and that black people were at the bottom of that hierarchy. In short, I’m convinced Moses was a racist.

    But the point I keep returning to is that I do not see how this is relevant to contemporary transportation policy unless all the stuff he built has manage to keep it’s racist nature through a century of demographic and other changes. Let’s assume that the worst characterization of Moses is correct. What relevance does that have today, and what measures – specifically – need to be taken to correct or otherwise address whatever issues this raises?

    To me, this whole thing just seems like another stupid culture war fight. No one cared or mentioned Moses until Buttigieg cited him. And suddenly here we are trying to adjudicate how bad of a man he was based on random Google searches and the opinions of various historians and other figures guided by confirmation bias.

    Meanwhile, in 2021, there is shit that needs to be done.

    3
  101. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    the baseline isn’t a right-wing that is silent, it is a right-wing creating new racist outrages out of nothing when the previous one gets stale

    Of course they do, because they’re a disciplined bunch when it comes to messaging and (here is the salient point) if you keep lobbing slow pitches dead across the plate for them (which the left inexorably does, again and again, without ever learning a thing), they are going to swat them out of the park every. single. time. The left thinks that it’s Lucy; it’s really Charlie Brown.

    If what the left is doing isn’t working (it isn’t) and it’s helping their opposition to boot (it is) , then it might be time for them to to rethink their fk’ing strategy. I kept thinking that they’d eventually wise up and be more concerned with achieving results than in focusing on righteous indignation, but no, here we are, with them still stuck in that traffic circle fueled by their own angst with no way to turn and move on down the road.

    3
  102. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    Additionally, there is also overwhelming evidence that many other of Robert Moses’ decisions were, at best, influenced by not caring about their impact on BIPOC and poor communities or were, at worst, fueled by animus.

    It seems to me that his decisions were likely guided by the same rationale that drove similar decisions across the country – if you want to plow a road (or a bridge, or whatever else) through urban topography, the cheapest and easiest place to do so is through a poor area. The acquisition costs are far cheaper and you are far less likely to irritate anyone with the clout to meaningfully hinder your plans. It’s just easier.

    2
  103. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Ouch…that “both-sides” was enough to snap my neck. We can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist, but Buttigieg pointing out that the problem exists is exhausting.

    Like @Michael Reynolds, I think constantly harping on race is politically unproductive. Further, I think it’s too often a cudgel used to virtue signal on esoteric issues. But Buttigieg is making an entirely defensible point here on an issue that matters: we need to ensure that our future infrastructure policy takes into consideration disparate impact and, where prudent, even remedy past effects.

    6
  104. wr says:

    @Andy: ” That is the kind of pointless and pedantic debate that causes normie eyes to do 360’s in their skull.”

    Isn’t that exactly what blog comments sections were created for?

    1
  105. wr says:

    @Andy: “ut the point I keep returning to is that I do not see how this is relevant to contemporary transportation policy unless all the stuff he built has manage to keep it’s racist nature through a century of demographic and other changes. Let’s assume that the worst characterization of Moses is correct. What relevance does that have today, and what measures – specifically – need to be taken to correct or otherwise address whatever issues this raises?”

    Because the effects are still felt today. There are areas of the city that have very poor subway access — Moses designed the system that way to exclude minority neighborhoods. And while it has been a century, those poorly-served neighborhoods have stayed poorer than neighborhoods with mass transit access. And, yes, stayed minority neighborhoods. Places like Brooklyn or Queens start out poor and ethnic, but they are also convenient to live in and as Manhattan grows too expensive, young strivers move out there to start lives and careers and in doing so lift up the entire area. That never happens in the Bronx, because it’s simply too hard to get to.

    That’s the relevance of what was done 100 years ago.

  106. mattbernius says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    It seems to me that his decisions were likely guided by the same rationale that drove similar decisions across the country – if you want to plow a road (or a bridge, or whatever else) through urban topography, the cheapest and easiest place to do so is through a poor area.

    Looking at this from a purely economic viewpoint is a bit like concentrating on “states rights” as the cause of the civil war. We need to also look at the makeup of *which* poor neighborhoods were most often targeted when there was a choice. And in many cases, they were, and continue to be, BIPOC neighborhoods.

    @wr:

    Because the effects are still felt today. There are areas of the city that have very poor subway access — Moses designed the system that way to exclude minority neighborhoods. And while it has been a century, those poorly-served neighborhoods have stayed poorer than neighborhoods with mass transit access. And, yes, stayed minority neighborhoods.

    And in some cases became even more concentrated minority neighborhoods. Which again have impacts when it comes to air pollution and other things that lead to integenerational issues.

  107. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    Looking at this from a purely economic viewpoint is a bit like concentrating on “states rights” as the cause of the civil war. We need to also look at the makeup of *which* poor neighborhoods were most often targeted when there was a choice. And in many cases, they were, and continue to be, BIPOC neighborhoods.

    Sure, because minorities tend to disproportionately be poor, so if you’re going to target poor neighborhoods for flattening in the name of roads/bridges/parks/whatever, the probability that you’re going to flatten one populated by minorities is comparatively high. That having been said, were they targeted because they’re minorities, or were they targeted simply because they’re poor? I’m betting it’s the latter. You can’t just layer on a motivation based on second and third level effects.

    It does bring up an interesting question though: why is the left so laser focused on whether road builders were racist nearly a hundred years ago instead of asking why minorities are disproportionately poor in the first place? You’re fighting the wrong battle.

    1
  108. john430 says:

    @inhumans99: Lacking anything intelligent to say, you retreat back into idiocy.

  109. John430 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Quit projecting your shortcomings, will you? I respected Dr. Joyner UNTIL he hit the Biden-Kool-Aid. This blog is no longer “Outside the Beltway” and doesn’t have a neutral, intellectual feel anymore. It is more like a DNC-sponsored blowhole.

    BTW: I have served my country, have a good education, enjoyed a career in Hi-Tech sales & marketing, love the kids and grandkids, lived in SFO during the “Summer of Love” era, traveled greatly, and lived more years in the Seattle area than I care to admit, so yes, down here in Texas–life is good.

  110. Zachriel says:

    @HarvardLaw92: It seems to me that his decisions were likely guided by the same rationale that drove similar decisions across the country – if you want to plow a road (or a bridge, or whatever else) through urban topography, the cheapest and easiest place to do so is through a poor area. The acquisition costs are far cheaper and you are far less likely to irritate anyone with the clout to meaningfully hinder your plans. It’s just easier.

    Hence, the term systemic racism. Even when people don’t act racist, there are structures in society which are vestiges of America’s racist past that still strongly influence the present. Minorities have less money and less political clout, so decisions are made by those with power which keep them poor and without a voice. And that’s making the long jump that no one is acting racist.

    (It was just a decade ago that Republicans got caught explicitly using race for redistricting. Now, they do the same thing, but without the explicit part.)

    1
  111. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Zachriel:

    Minorities The poor, irrespective of race have less money and less political clout, so decisions are made by those with power which keep them poor and without a voice.

    That’s an associated effect, not an intended one. If you are going to accuse someone of being a racist, you need to establish an intent directly and knowingly motivated by racism, not second and third order effects of a decision predicated on other factors which might impinge on race. What you are describing would pretty equally disenfranchise poor non-minorities, and it would be pretty disingenuous to tease out a subset of the affected population (while ignoring the rest of it) because it’s the only subsection that appeals to your agenda.

    Like I said above – this is much more a situation of classism than it is racism.

  112. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Being right about something does not necessarily mean lecturing incessantly.

    Between Buttigieg and Reynolds, I only hear one person lecturing. Seriously. Which of his comments quoted above can reasonably be labeled as “lecturing”.

    3
  113. DrDaveT says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    All the issues can be addressed without bringing race into it.

    No, they can’t, any more than gerrymandering can be solved by race-blind algorithms. I can prove this for you mathematically, if you care to read the papers.

    One of the interesting discoveries of the recent explosion in machine learning-based artificial intelligence is that algorithms trained without access to labels on [category X] are much more likely to be significantly biased against [category X] than algorithms that are allowed to know which data points are [category X] and which are not. There are various reasons for this, but the obvious one is that bias against [category X] can’t be tested for if the data aren’t labeled to support that, and so you can’t eliminate the bias during algorithm development.

    Race-blind policies and algorithms invariably perpetuate existing inequities. You can’t fix a flat tire by adopting a policy of not checking tire pressure any more. If you pursue a strategy of “We need to address historically bad choices in infrastructure planning to improve community access to our parks, beaches, and businesses. To increase safety, and to move high-traffic routes away from residential neighborhoods–thus reducing the burden on our health-care system” you will arrive at a solution in which on average everyone is better off, but the same subgroups that are currently discriminated against will still be discriminated against, probably by at least as large a margin as before. Is that the solution you seek?

    2
  114. Zachriel says:

    @HarvardLaw92: That’s an associated effect, not an intended one.

    That’s why it’s called systemic racism. Discrimination is a historic cause of impoverishment and disenfranchisement. Then, seemingly neutral policies further punishes those who have been so impoverished and disenfranchised. This can occur even if not a single person acts in a racist manner. Now, add a dash of lingering racism into the mix. The new highway is more likely to be run through a Black neighborhood than a White neighborhood, even if the same economic class.

    4
  115. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Zachriel:

    Don’t buy it, sorry.