California Repairs Task Force Discusses Discriminatory History of Infrastructure

At this week’s State Repairs Task Force meeting, committee members discussed how uneven infrastructure construction has displaced and economically disadvantaged African Americans living in California.

“The pros and cons of our transportation system – from highways to roads, bridges, sidewalks – have been planned, developed, supported, to draw resources from black communities,” said Deborah Archer, President of American Civil Liberties Union. “Resources that were then redeployed and invested for the benefit of predominantly white communities and their residents. “

The task force was convened earlier this year, after the Assembly’s Bill 3121 was passed. The nine-member group has been appointed to set guidelines on how the state can begin to redress African Americans for damage caused by things like housing discrimination. , redlining and construction of infrastructure.

Bruce Appleyard, a city planner and professor at San Diego State University, said some highways have divided black communities. He used Oakland as an example of a city where a freeway was built directly at the center of a historically black neighborhood, and how that caused divestment and fragmentation.

“Major damage has been caused by the development of highways in black neighborhoods that have severed and forcibly torn entire communities apart and pushed them away from adjacent communities,” Appleyard said.

He said the government’s uneven investments in public transportation have also contributed to the disinvestment of black communities.

“Often times, transit funding is applied to the development of expensive rail projects that serve white suburbs and the expense of bus services that serve communities of color,” said Appleyard.

Archer added that access to functioning infrastructure can often exacerbate inequalities in other ways.

“Safe, accessible and reliable infrastructure is disproportionately built in white neighborhoods, connecting these residents with opportunities as black communities continue to suffer from underdevelopment,” said Archer.

The task force also discussed the possibility of asking the state to allocate a portion of the Biden administration’s US bailout funds to repair some of these uneven investments. Part of the administration’s plan specifically noted that racial equity should be centered in the use of funds.

Earlier this year, California received about $ 26 billion in stimulus funds, with an additional $ 16 billion going directly to cities and counties of more than 50,000 people.

Homelessness and gentrification as other effects of discriminatory construction

Members of the task force also heard from experts on racial distribution and the disproportionate impact of homelessness and gentrification on black neighborhoods across the state.

African Americans are much more likely to be homeless than other races in California. In Sacramento in particular, experts who testified said the homeless population was 34% African Americans, compared to just 13% of the county’s total population.

“The overrepresentation of blacks in the homeless population is neither accidental nor accidental”, Brandon Green

Experts also added that blacks were more likely to be renters and pay a larger portion of their income for rent. Many are also more likely to be pushed back to the outskirts of cities, which require longer and more expensive trips to get to their jobs.

“This is clearly driven primarily by the subprime mortgage crisis in which blacks have been foreclosed and displaced in droves,” said Darrell Owens, data policy analyst at California YIMBY, a housing advocacy organization. “It’s something that needs repairs to combat, as it has essentially wiped out much of the black wealth and caused a mass exodus out of state or to more suburban areas. “

Members of the task force say they hope to recommend ways the state can help African Americans in California recoup some of those losses. A formal report from its members will be sent to the state by June of next year.

“At the root of this whole question of whether we should and should receive reparations is the sin and evil that black people have been devalued by this national government, the entire Atlantic slave trade and everywhere we have gone. Amos Brown, vice chairman of the task force, said. “What we are asking for is nothing more than the valuation of our humanity.”

The working group will meet again for further discussions in January.

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