“We Know What You Need”

The biggest lie that anyone ever tells themselves with confidence is that they know exactly what someone needs without actually engaging with that person. Saying this statement in such a way makes most people firmly deny that they would ever think something so heinous, but I would contend that many people, from the most benevolent to the most insidious, believe that several people want the same thing, stemming from an industrialized mindset. From a socioeconomic perspective, that ideology might resemble thinking that everyone wants to be rich, when most people would simply prefer not to be struggling for a baseline existence. In the built environment, however, municipal governments demonstrate this attitude by coming into BIPOCQ communities and telling them that their way of existing is incorrect, and must conform with “normal neighborhoods.”

The public forgets that so many choices were made for BIPOCQ populations in the United States, from the places where people were allowed to live to the kinds of labor people were allowed to perform. Everyone else believes that we had all the same opportunities and resources because they need to; considering anything else would require deep self reflection, and quarantine has shown us that we all have a problem with that. Most people fail to acknowledge that the built environment is constructed by almost nobody who was elected: city planners approve site plans from developers and private individuals; construction is completed by mostly developers and private individuals–which cities rely on to reduce municipal budgets; and property owners purchase whatever property they can afford. Based on extensive displacement and segregation, almost none of these parties considers the socioecosystem of any of their actions because the most important issue is how much money can be made. Therefore, historically disadvantaged people cannot have the same influence over our communities as outsiders.

Moreover, almost nobody considers the consequences of those choices, and whether people will be able to recover, but the status quo is believed too sacred to change. Segregation was marketed as the “best for all parties,” even though there were several independent BIPOCQ communities and the dominant society felt entitled to extract whatever resources were available. Recently, biologist Danielle Lee started studying animal populations in urban cores, and her research revealed that there was species evolution that occurred as a result of segregation. One of the reasons that I speak of a socioecosystem is because to address environmental justice, we need to see ourselves as part of the global population, including flora and fauna. We are currently living through what many scientists call a mass extinction, so this continued fervor to expand the built environment on farmlands and through forests will destroy not just the cost of living, but whether anyone will be able to see any of those animals they see in all media–or eat anything, including plants.

Finally, way too many people believe that anybody should be able to take over BIPOCQ communities because we have fewer opportunities and resources, and almost nobody fights for us to retain cohesive communities even when we manage to sustain them. Thanks to Lovecraft Country and Watchmen, the United States has been made aware of the Tulsa Massacre–proving that history can be learned outside a classroom–but not enough people have made the connection between the massacres of the past and the displacement of the present. This way, people believe that such monstrous behavior happened in the past, which is why there is such a push to avoid examining the past by a large segment of the population. However, avoiding the truths of history will not change them, and currently in Tennessee, the comptroller is demanding that a small, majority Black town relinquish its charter so that real estate interests can have their way. Hearing about this reminded me of how Juneteenth celebrations in Austin, Texas used to involve numerous Black communities that people rode trains to attend, but has been reduced to a holiday, and people applaud that as progress.

Making decisions for people is another way to say that people are too stupid to think for themselves, and just because people lack control and resources should not mean that people lack autonomy. Racial justice demands that everyone consider it abominable to go to places they do not live in and make demands of people they do not know, especially for something as short-term as money.

*Image taken from MSNBC and WREG

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