Skip to main content

Even Progressive Cities Are Plagued by Institutionalized Racism: Prevent Discriminatory Impacts through Planning & Data NY Times

[S]ome organizations and mayors have characterized cities as the first line of defense against the Trump administration’s policies. But this glosses over their continued complicity in producing racial inequities that have lasted generations. Redlining and urban renewal, for example, are responsible for today’s racially segregated neighborhoods. And while movements to protect the rights of African-Americans, workers, people with disabilities, immigrants and L.G.B.T.Q. people have their origins in cities across the country, these cities’ current policies — such as those preventing affordable housing from being built in high-opportunity neighborhoods — perpetuate inequities.

Even the most politically progressive cities are plagued by institutionalized racism. . . . Even in sanctuary cities, black residents continue to be relegated to the most polluted and underserved neighborhoods. . . .

That’s why as cities continue to stand up to harmful policies on the national stage, they must also fortify themselves from within, working on two fronts.

First, local leaders must implement policy agendas to advance racial equity. In many cases, this will require a close analysis of data broken down by race, neighborhood and other demographics. . . .

Second, local leaders must reimagine how government serves people. In 2005, Seattle became the first city in the United States to start a citywide initiative to eliminate racial inequities and structural racism. Now all city departments use a racial-equity analysis tool to consider the potential benefits and burdens their programs, policies and budgets place on various communities, and how they may contribute to racial disparities. This has led to hundreds of changes in city operations.

Today, more than 50 city, county and regional governments have joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity national network and have committed to similar initiatives. City governments that have not done so should emulate this approach. . . .

After all, research shows that inequality hinders growth, prosperity and economic mobility, while diversity and inclusion fuel innovation and business success.

Read the full op/ed in the New York Times: To Truly Resist Trumpism, Cities Must Look Within

Equity planning to alleviate disparities is analyzed in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee report, Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity (2017). See pages 6-15 to -16 and Recommendations 6-1 and 7-1. The full report is available, along with highlights and a comic book summary, at

Take Action Comics: The City Project (2017) by Samuel García