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A brief history of how racism shaped interstate highways

President Biden has promised to address racism rooted in historic transportation and city planning in a $ 2 trillion plan to improve US infrastructure.

Biden’s plans include $ 20 billion for a program to “reconnect neighborhoods blocked by historic investments.” White House.. We also aim for “40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investment for disadvantaged communities.”

Planners of the Interstate Highway System, which began to take shape after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, passed several highways directly and sometimes intentionally to the black and brown communities. In some cases, the government brought home by expropriation.

Deborah Archer, a professor of law at New York University and national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says he left a deep psychological scar on his home, church, and school-lost neighborhood.Archer recently wrote For Iowa Law Review How transportation policy affected the development of the black community.

She says the president will face major challenges in trying to correct historical inequality.

“What is not clear is whether and how the money will be distributed in a way that addresses the racial inequality built into our transportation system and infrastructure.” She tells NPR. Morning Edition.

“”I think it’s also important to think about how to shift the culture within the relevant agencies so that the white middle class and wealthy areas continue to be unsupported at the expense of the color community. .. “

Here are the highlights of Archer’s interview with NPR:

Why did the authorities target a thriving and vibrant community? Is it because the person who lived there was black or brown?

Sometimes it is, it was. Highways were being built in the same way that courts across the country broke the traditional means of racism. So, for example, the court withdrew the use of racial zoning to keep blacks in certain communities and whites in other communities. As a result, highway development began when the possibility of integration into housing was imminent. And, very intentionally, highways could be built on the formal boundaries used during racial zoning. From time to time, community members asked highway builders to create a barrier between their community and the invading black community.

As i read Your treatise, I was surprised at how many places this happened. Did you have any successful resistance?

Certainly there was a successful resistance. You can see a good example at Greenwich Village in New York. There was an example of Washington, DC, where the phrase “there is no white man’s road through a black man’s house” came from. It was a rally cry for the DC people who resisted it. There was also a successful effort in New Orleans.

But I think it’s important to point out that the most successful efforts to stop the highway were not focused on racial justice or made to protect the black community. I will. The most successful were those who focused on environmental justice and thus protected the park and its communities.

If this initiative works, how do you think the countries will be different in 5 or 10 years?

For now, we can see that races often explain which communities are benefiting from our transportation system and infrastructure, and which are burdened.

Our transportation system actually brings about ever-increasing racial inequality and discrimination, from highways, roads and bridges to sidewalks and public transport. We make it difficult for blacks and other people of color to access and take advantage of opportunities.

So, at the end of this project, the end of this plan, I hope that in five years, as you say, the race is not a way to explain who will benefit or who will be burdened. It’s not a way to explain who has access or who can’t.

Marc Rivers and Simone Popperl created and edited an audio interview. Farah Eltohamy was created for the web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit https://www.npr.org.

A brief history of how racism shaped interstate highways

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