Makenzie Gold Quiros
October 17, 2016
The Racism of Park Benches, Bridges, and Subway Lines
In her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler examines the systemic racism ingrained in the very design of our urban areas. She opens up the paper listing examples of architectural racism in common but essential physical surroundings. Her examples: Robert Moses’ bridges en route to Jones Beach, Atlanta, and Georgia’s subway system (MARTA). Taking a look at Robert Moses, who is known as one of the master builders of New York and the architect of Jones Beach Park, Schindler uncovers the reality of the overpasses designed to be just too short to allow for a regular city bus to pass underneath. When these bridges are strategically placed along the route to Moses’ acclaimed park the population who utilizes these buses, traditionally the economically downtrodden or racially discriminated against, are barred from easy access to it. A similar occurrence takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, where suburban citizens have vehemently voted down any expansion of their MARTA subway line into the suburbs.
Systemic racism isn’t perpetuated only in our physical environment, it is also ingrained deep into the very veins of our judicial system. Another example Schindler employs is a one way street shut down that lead from a poor black neighborhood into a richer, white area that was brought all the way up to the Supreme Court. It was declared in line with the constitution with one dissenting vote: Justice Thurgood Marshall. “The picture that emerges… is one of a white community, disgruntled over sharing its street with Negroes, taking measures to keep out the “undesirable traffic,” Marshall
wrote in his statement, clarifying that the city was acting “heedless to the harm of its Negro citizens,” in his bold 1974 statement. The paper provides an overview of the history of exclusion through law and policies, revealing what a subtle art it is. “The bottom line seems to be,” Schindler writes, “that the Supreme Court has been fairly active and responsive in striking down laws that create “formal racial barriers” …but not so when considering other “less obvious forms of discrimination”- including (to some extent) exclusionary zoning and architectural exclusion.” In other words, our court systems have cut down laws that are openly discriminatory, creating a good face, but doing nothing to halt the flow of discrimination in other areas through more creative means. This has been allowed, Schindler theorizes, through “a long history of norm in support of segregation in the United States.” The United States was founded on slavery and developed with it for years, it was so ingrained into our culture that the idea of ending slavery split the country in two and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Since then the racism and classism of the time hasn’t gone away, it has only become more subtle and harder to pinpoint. The art of architectural exclusion is so subtle that oftentimes people are reluctant to bring an issue to court because of its general ambivalence in the area. It has successfully marginalized the problems of exclusion and made it so that a person or several people would require large amount of funding and legal representation in order to have a successful case, creating an endless and inescapable circle that surrounds entire peoples that are discriminated against.
Schindler acknowledges that she is not the first to see architecture as a form of regulation, things such as benches with armrests that split them into thirds as a deterrent to the homeless are nothing new, but her argument is unique in the fact that it focuses on the factor of exclusion such regulation brings as opposed to its other effects.
Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” Yale Law Journal. Yale Law Journal, Apr. 2015. Accessed September 12, 2016. http://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/architectural-exclusion.
King, Gilbert. “The Awakening of Thurgood Marshall.” The Marshall Project. N.p., 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
“MARTA Guide | Atlanta Transit and Walking Directions.” MARTA Guide. Atlanta, Georgia, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
Your Earlier Comments
Dear Makenzie: Just focus on one section, part I & II, and like the other analysis, give us the main argument. And then exhibit that argument in the body paragraphs. After you get that settled, we’ll get to more of the mechanical stuff.
As we discussed in the office hours, in which you looked over an earlier version of this product, I had become invested in the article as a whole over just Part I or Part II. I feel that I improved on my analysis and summary of the article as well as working on the mechanical areas you asked me to improve on such as having the thesis in the supporting paragraph have a stronger presence in the structure of the opening paragraph where I set up the infrastructure of the paper. The lack of relating images and correct format were fixed as well. I re-wrote this paper not only because I was dissatisfied with the grade, but because I was unsatisfied with the level of work I had put into my original paper.