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Place in A Time of Terror and Inequality

Place in A Time of Terror and Inequality by Kristen Jeffers, The Black Urbanist

This post took so long to write. I wrote about two versions of it. Maybe you’ll see them in the next volume of essays. Maybe they’ll be here. Ultimately, it gets down to how place and motion matter in a time of heightened instances of tragedy, terror and oppressive power driven by fear.

How can we say that design is our savior, when in one of the most perfectly designed cities in America, a man who was born in the 1990’s, one of the most progressive time periods in our history for race relations, decided to go to a church and even though he was moved by the friendliness and fellowship of the people. shot them anyway because they were Black and they were a threat to “his” women?

I just took a cross-country road trip to start a great new job, at an organization that’s committed to asking questions and getting answers everyday for design and use equity when it comes to everyday transportation. I brought my family with me mainly because I didn’t want to be alone. What if they couldn’t have come with me? What if I had made an error that was easily correctable in my car, got pulled over and after a series of events, I ended up dead in my cell, seemingly of my own devices?

And for the record, I can’t say what I would do if I went to jail. I am fearful at times and who knows what the shock of the experience would lead me to do if I feel like I’ll never get out alive anyway. But I will try to get out and stay alive as long as I can. Think of me as Olivia Pope in [spoiler alert] the jail last season, the first time she went to jail that is. [/spoiler].

As I look around and take in the sights, sounds and climate of my new metro area, I do find it sad the effects of sprawl very present in the area. Some sprawl has been useful or unavoidable. Bluffs aren’t always your friend. Major stockyards, wartime facilities and even farms need space. However, the huge legacy of Native removal and assimilation, as well as the redlining that kept many Blacks in certain areas, areas that are still underfunded and even abandoned is always a present thing.

The fact that so many of the box stores that used to only be ten minutes away, are now 20-30. Myself and Amazon are about to become friends, because in reality, none of these major chain stores or warehouses have the best records on wages, product quality and treatment of customers. I do have a Costco and Home Depot in walking distance and they’re some of the better ones, for being willing to pay well and have a presence in the inner city.

In spite of all of this that’s weighed heavy on my mind in the past few weeks between posts and moving and such, I still see hope. I love my colleagues and their commitment to making sure everybody can get where they need to go, car or not. “Right” side or “Wrong” side of town. I’m thankful for the many times I’ve been able to board planes, trains or ferries alone and without question. The ability to cross international borders and be seen as role model in my time in the other country. To be able to drive my car long distances, both alone and with company and have been able to escape the worst reaches of the law. And of course, all of my loved ones, friends and fellow foot soldiers in planning and development that I’ve been able to meet and work with over the years.

Even if that all were to change tomorrow, I am grateful for the life that’s been granted to me, the few privileges I have. I will dwell in those and I will continue to work to make sure everyone has the opportunities to be well and live well, no matter how they get where they are going, where they live and what stores are available to them to supply their lives. And of course, no matter skin color or who they choose to make a life with or how they present themselves.

And a postscript: Check out how real estate is done in this Chicagoland town. What if this was a wholesale solution to the problem of real estate segregation, which has undertones in the struggles in many areas to stop both failing schools and police brutality.
Another postscript, this book I was gifted about growth in Kansas City.

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