It is important to understand just how much planning is linked to the dominant narrative. After the “end” of slavery, many independent Black settlements and communities were springing up across the United States, just as Indigenous people continued to be slaughtered and rounded up for reservations. Because Black people were considered the lowest of the low, they had meager resources and endured wage theft with constant exploitation, but they were able to pool resources and form communities with businesses, eventually building up a stock market. While the Reign of White Terror was enraged by Black independence, the development of a Black stock market was the final straw, and Tulsa was burned to the ground. In 1928, the Standard City Planning Enabling Act and the Standard Zoning Enabling Act were established to ensure that the dominant narrative would never be threatened again, followed by the stock market crash of 1929. Since Black history has been trending in correlation to the rise in police brutality, many people have looked at the story of Tulsa and considered that the dominant narrative had cheated itself out of substantial earnings and economic growth. Wealth acquisition is not the same thing as justice, and approaching inequality with an eye for wealth is to decide that the dominant narrative is owed money after creating its own mess.
Diversity, equity and inclusion programs have become very popular in corporate boardrooms and city council chambers, largely because they allow people to incessantly discuss “issues” without taking any real action. “Tools” to address the injustice towards Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Queer (hereafter “BIPOCQ”) have been pushed across the country, and amount to the same message: if people can make money from non-White communities, then the constituents might deserve to be left alone. Consequently, many communities have been struggling to acquire business loans, solicit help from non-profits and advocate for the communities using the proper channels, but BIPOCQ were still the most susceptible to the pandemic, recession, and environmental vulnerability. In truth, the biggest problem with many equity “tools” is that they depend on the real estate, banking, and nonprofit industries working in ways that have never been consistent throughout history while the dominant narrative continues simultaneously to function with all of its control and resources. After all, it was shocking to many people in 2021 to discover that the United Negro College Fund had its first Black chairman.
One of the strongest roadblocks to ever take any action towards justice is the myth of “community engagement,” which occurs on multiple levels of government for limited amounts of time. Justice should never require that the government listen to the people because such a premise implies that constituents have never spoken against injustice or attempted to hold those in power accountable for abuses. All of the negative feedback of expansionism already exists, but the government is designed to believe that instead of hearing “no,” it is entitled to prolong its destruction by finding the most desperate people who are willing to say “yes” to expansion. Throughout the history of the United States, expansionism/colonialism has never produced a consistently positive outcome for BIPOCQ, and anomalies should not be regarded as trends. Inauthentic community engagement implies that the government is never responsible to its constituents, and structural changes to government takes time that ordinary people lack due to the ever-present threats of eviction, hunger, utilities, and all the major bills that people pay every month.
The lies of the real estate industry are not only long-lived, but strong. Despite the multiple revelations that real estate developers are willing to destroy the public without accepting responsibility, people are still lining up to exalt its praises. BIPOCQ spaces are continuously targeted because of the bigoted perception of those communities being “ugly” and “dangerous.” Society in the United States truly believes in its heart of hearts that all BIPOCQ are too stupid to know what to do in their communities, despite there being excessive accounts of people managing just fine without interference. Even the federal government perpetuates the lie that predatory practices deserve protection, while trauma inflicted by those practices deserves condescension; twice the amount of reparations requested was paid to people who stole from the public with fake math. Because Congress stays rich from abusing BIPOCQ communities, no hearings, talks, or appearances will ever result in substantive change from them. In the eyes of the public, it is apparently unamerican to respect that no one deserves to abuse BIPOCQ community infrastructure.
Focusing on economic opportunity when creating equity plans ignores the paradigm that Black and Brown people are used to generate White wealth and “economic growth” empowers those with resources, not the working poor. No model can overcome such thoughts, and counting on private investments to restore a community ensures displacement as people would see houses as “investments,” not homes. “Expanding” development is a gimme for big developers who care nothing about displacement, and focusing on businesses indulges the stereotypes of “model minorities” and respectability when existence should be enough. History has proven that a city can have a strong economy or racial and environmental justice, but not both, and “self determination” is often defined as BIPOCQ recreating the dominant narrative. Most people do not aim for “economic prosperity”–they are told that economic prosperity is the only way to achieve rest, so the main goal of justice needs to be comfort without consumption.
Also, data collection is often eurocentric and promotes the dominant narrative, implying that those unwilling to exploit or be exploited will have low quality lives. When designing equity tools, cities need to consider what types of lifestyles should be supported and why. More importantly, the city needs to observe whom they are counting on to fulfill those lifestyle expectations, and those crafting the equity models need to consider whether the models are based on everyone within a city agreeing with it. An overemphasis on high-end “luxury” goods means that several BIPOCQ communities have been developed to alienate the existing community in favor of newcomers, so justice is not marketability. “Market forces” are fake and tourism in BIPOCQ neighborhoods is racist because new development is often marketed towards “market rate” clientele, who are often White.
No one can offer solutions to the abuse of BIPOCQ communities because all solutions are based on the premise that abusing BIPOCQ is wrong; if no one thinks that, no one will find the solutions meaningful. However, they begin with enacting consequences for public harassment, such as calling the police on people for no reason or assaulting people who are not engaging. No public or private entities should be empowered to treat BIPOCQ communities like a canvas, and if developers are unwilling to provide factual information about housing, they should never get permits. City employees need to disengage with “activist” groups who preserve their “neighborhood character” by offering other neighborhoods as sacrifices. Critically, all cities need to stop offering time and influence to people with money who are not elected and irresponsibly consume. Finally, if cities truly want justice, they need to focus on republicizing public spaces instead of commodifying every square foot. BIPOCQ are not responsible for the mess others made, and should not be demoralized because the systems were designed to work against them.