Pete Buttigieg: Racism Is 'Physically Built Into' the Nation's Road System

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

While driving around America, have you noticed the racism built — physically — into the road system?

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has.

And he’s speaking out.

Talking to TheGrio, the former presidential candidate asserted a highway in D.C., specifically, was built with bigotry.

He’s heard:

“[I]f you’re in Washington, I’m told that the history of that highway is one that was built at the expense of communities of color in the D.C. area. There are stories, and I think Philadelphia and Pittsburgh [and] in New York, Robert Moses famously saw through the construction of a lot of highways.”

TheGrio provided examples of possible prejudice in the planning:

Biden Transportation Secretary Pete…noted how in some cities there are overpasses that were built low in Black communities as well as racially dividing roadways.

Former Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx agrees — the road system is racist.

“If you think about it, much of this infrastructure was paid for and designed before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

That infrastructure includes roads, airports, schools, power grids…

“That was a time before Black people were at the table,” Anthony told the website.

Per the article, he “highlighted the inherent racism in America’s interstate and highway systems” while head of the department.

The history, Foxx figures, ain’t short:

“There is a long history that has not been fully excavated on the interstate system, our airports and different modes of transportation that in one way or another has divided this country.”

But now the nation’s taking a turn.

As stated by the site:

Equity is now being built into the soon to be updated black-and-white road maps of yesteryear.

That reworking, the outlet asserts, is part of “efforts to correct America’s racist wrongs.”

Joe Biden’s giving it a go via his Justice40 Initiative.

A White House fact sheet, notes the goal.

As listed beneath “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad Executive Order”:

The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.

Washington will fight transportation inequity via government contracting.

From TheGrio:

Buttigieg says former U.S. ambassador Susan Rice, who serves as director of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, is in charge of the plan to begin equally distributing minority contracts.

As stated in the piece, Biden brings “a targeted approach to bring jobs to the historically underserved in addition to literally striking down the road barriers that are dividing communities.”

Pete’s all about it, and the gang’s determined to get minority-owned businesses up to snuff:

“Sometimes you hear folks say, ‘Well, look, we tried to find a Black business to bid on this project, but they just weren’t out there.’ Well, if that’s actually true, we got to take responsibility for why they’re not out there and build more businesses up that maybe exist, but they haven’t been certified.”

Some may have struggled, and the government’s here to help:

“Maybe they haven’t been big enough to get the bonding or go through these hoops to even have a shot. They’re bidding on a federal project. We’ve got to work on all of that.”

Pete notes, “We’ve got to have intention.”

Also at issue: the black unemployment rate.

According to U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, such has historically been affected by racism.

With an Amen to intention, Marty makes it clear:

“[There needs to be] real intention about the investments that are made there, and job training, workforce development, creating opportunities and pathways into the middle class for Black and brown people.”

The prejudice that caused a low rate of employment, Pete says, “wasn’t just an act of neglect,” but a “conscious choice.”

And here’s the biggie from Buttigieg:

“There is racism physically built into some of our highways, and that’s why the jobs plan has specifically committed to reconnect some of the communities that were divided by these dollars.”

Will Pete Buttigieg fix America’s road-oriented racism?

From the sound of things, it’s a mighty big job.

And the former Indiana mayor’s an unusual choice — how many secretaries of transportation…travel by bicycle:

The nation’s twisting highway system is immense.

Hence, so must the systemically racist problem be.

Here’s to hoping — via Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan —  it gets straightened out.

-ALEX

 

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