Pantheon supports the Black Lives Matter movement and acknowledges the problem of structural racism. As a magazine that deals with the built environment, we would like to provide a series on the topic of race and space for the education of our readers and ourselves. This is the second of five topics.
The topic of racialised landscapes perfectly aligns with the recent column by Thijs Reitsma about the different experiences of the current Covid-19 crisis depending on people's location and mobility. He illustrated how an urban citizen, who can only make use of public transport, is far more impacted in their sense of freedom - and by extension mental and physical health - than a suburban one with a car. This phenomenon is not limited to the Covid-19 situation; our landscapes are always a "spatial manifestation of structural inequalities that apparent in housing, health and education".1 These inequalities are not racially neutral, and most of us can pinpoint an example of a segregated landscape in the Netherlands too.
The following sources provide different perspectives on the topic of racialised landscapes:
- Harris, Cheryl (1993), Whiteness as property, Harvard Law Review 106(8), pp.1707–1791.
In this essay, Harris argues that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. She illustrates how whiteness evolved from a racial identity into a form or property, which has been protected under American law. Like a luxury car or expensive clothes, it facilitates entry into elite or exclusive spaces. Thereby, giving its owner more access to mobility, comfort and safety than others.
- Teelucksingh, Cheryl (2007), Environmental Racialization: Linking Racialization to the Environment in Canada, Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 12(6), pp.645-661
Teelucksingh makes an interesting link between environmental issues and racial inequality. Through personal accounts from residents, she demonstrates how the processes of industrialisation, immigration and suburbanization have shaped the racialised landscape in the Canadian town of Mid-Scarborough. As a result, immigrants, racial minorities and low-income residents were far more likely to live close to an environmental risk with the danger of getting sick.
- Do the Right Thing (Director: Spike Lee, 1989) [Film]
This classic, but sadly very relevant, American movie showcases the racial tensions in a predominantly black neighbourhood in Brooklyn throughout the course of the hottest day of the year. The movie concludes with a discouraging climax in which police brutality and the valuing of white property over black life play central roles.
- The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Director: Chad Freidrichs, 2011) [Documentary]
The demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis, Missouri, has been known as 'the death of modern architecture'. This documentary shows another side of the coin: arguing how the demise of the project was not due to faulty modernist ideologies, but actually due to social, spatial and racial injustices. Through interviews with former residents, it shows how these processes led to the project's deterioration and its citizens' unemployment and poverty.
Sense of belonging
The colouring of space
The above selection is based on a curriculum by The Barthlett, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment on race in space. As it is in support of the current Black Lives Matter movement, it focuses on the impact of space on black lives. The choice of some articles over others is based on an attempt to show a variety of cases and locations and the availability of sources for students of TU Delft University. Pantheon// wants to hear your thoughts on this article and how we can further contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement.
1. Zewolde, S., Walls A., Sengupta, T., Ortiz, C., Beebeejaun, Y., Burridge, G. and K. Patel (2020), ‘Race’ and Space: What is ‘race’ doing in a nice field like the built environment? London: The Bartlett, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment