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Anti-Racism Call to Action

George Floyd’s death was not the start of the racism, inequity, and oppression that Black people face every day. It has been happening for over four centuries with the enslavement of twelve million Africans in an endless cycle of oppression created to satisfy the power and wealth cravings of a few – a cycle that continues more than five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. 

Knowing that racism, inequity, and oppression continue and being aware of the systems that perpetuate the divides they cause is no longer enough. As planners, we cannot ignore the fact that Black people are not given the same right to public space. We cannot ignore that we are living on stolen land built up by slave labor. If we want to create spaces and cities that are truly for all, knowledge and awareness is not enough. From redlining to urban renewal to gentrification, planners have played a significant role in creating cities that actively endanger Black communities. Many Black communities were redlined into areas with poor and inadequate housing, limited access to resources, or that were near undesirable or environmentally contaminated land uses. Today, Black communities are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, often due to circumstances beyond their control. However, planners and policy makers have a direct role in addressing these circumstances, such as lead in drinking water, access and support for transportation, a lack of green space, or limited access to healthy foods.

Cities are currently being occupied for and by people who have suffered for too long. As planners, we are called to do the work necessary to address the systemic racism, inequity, and oppression that exist in the places where we work, in addition to the implicit bias in all of us that impacts the decisions we make every day. We must dig into our own deeply rooted beliefs and actively work to change them. It is not the responsibility of Black people, indigenous people, or people of color to fix this problem. For centuries they have been fighting this fight with patience and compassion—but it should not, and cannot, be their job alone. As those who build cities, shape policy, or hold power and privilege to implement change, it is our responsibility to listen, elevate voices, stand as advocates, and most importantly, to act.

As planners, one of our principles is “to serve the public interest;” it is our duty and our ethic code. APA National has further elaborated on this in the Planning for Equity Policy Guide which reflects on the Code of Ethics’ “Principles to Which We Aspire,” and states:

“We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs.”

Beyond that, we have the ability and responsibility to ensure the communities in which we live, work, and play, are equitable and inclusive to all. America’s history is not a history to be erased, but one we are obligated to learn from so we can do better, and help build healthier, safer, and more equitable cities.

The APA Colorado Board of Directors urges all its members to stand in solidarity with Black people, move beyond righteous anger, and actively advocate for dialogue and systemic change that builds the bonds of inclusive communities to ensure a more equitable, just, and prosperous future. We will be providing resources to help you dig deep and do the work. Make sure you’re following us on social media and check back on our website periodically for more details.

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