Ending Systemic Oppression

“To everyone who is feeling anger, sadness, frustration and grief right now: we see you and we hear you.”
~Calvin Gladney, President and CEO of Smart Growth America

The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are among the most recent in a long history of systemic oppression and violence against Black people in our country. That violence and oppression must stop, and the systems that support them must be dismantled.

A line can be drawn that connects the oppression and violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and the housing and land use policies, programs, and systems in our country. They have led directly to the development, funding, and legal protection of all-white communities, resulting in underserved majority-Black neighborhoods and enabling police systems that over-police and under-protect Black people. They have prevented too many Black people from being able to purchase a home, either for housing stability or for wealth building, and prevented any meaningful desegregation of our schools.*

Everyone deserves to live in a healthy, equitable, and resilient community. As architects and planners, we stand in solidarity with Black communities and commit to being actively antiracist**—which means doing the work to dismantle the racist systems of oppression that have precluded too many BIPOC from that right. In our work, this includes reforming our zoning systems to ensure transparency and objectivity, preventing their continued use as discriminatory tools. As white people who have been beneficiaries of the existing systems, it is our work to do. Yet, it must be done with BIPOC and their needs at the center of that work.

We know we still have much to learn, so we will listen, learn, and ask ourselves “How have we failed and how can we do better?” We will continue to support black-owned businesses and organizations. We will continue to work to diversify our team and foster an environment of support and belonging for them all, including encouraging antiracist dialogue and training.

The events of the past few weeks have reminded us that we have so much work to do, but we remain committed to building truly just, equitable, and inclusive systems and communities.

—Karen, Dan and Stefan


*For those interested in learning more about the role of housing and land use policy in systemic oppression, please read The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Or watch this excellent short video introduction
**As part of our work, we will be reading and discussing Ibram X. Kendi’s Book: How to Be an Antiracist.