George Lipsitz, PhD History from the University of Wisconsin, is American Studies Scholar and Professor in the Department of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He studies social movements, urban culture, and inequality. His books include Midnight at the Barrelhouse, Footsteps in the Dark, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, A Life in the Struggle, and Time Passages. He serves as a chairman of the board of directors of the African American Policy Forum and is a member of the board of directors of the Fair Housing Alliance.
This is a great article. It says: people of different races in the U.S. live specifically different lives, operationalized through zoning laws, school district boundaries, police practices, transit system design, to name a few. These holdovers from the country’s history of racially-biased restrictive covenants uphold “the ideal of the pure American space” (15). Lipsitz contends that not all whites intentionally champion the “white spatial imaginary,” nor do all benefit, but still there is legal regulation in support of “the ideal of pure and homogenous space through exclusiveness, exclusivity, and homogeneity” (13). Meanwhile, the black spatial imaginary is a “counter-spatial imaginary based on sociability and augmented use value” (ibid) in which minority communities privilege “solidarities within, between, and across spaces” (10), prioritizing the public good over individual interests. The following, then, are “common responsibilities” (10): environmental protection, efficient transport, affordable housing, public education, and healthcare.
Writing to landscape architects, planners, and all land-use professionals, Lipsitz exhorts we use a two-pronged attack to end this spatial racism and reverse what Thomas Shapiro (2004) characterizes as The Hidden Cost of Being African American. First, a “frontal attack” (14) on all structural mechanisms that deprive people of color from equal opportunities to amass inter-generational wealth and second, preference for a spatial imaginary that prioritizes “use value over exchange value, sociality over selfishness, and inclusion over exclusion” (14). He operationalizes thusly: write/draw the underrepresented into plans, champion the diversification of the field, commit seriously to fair housing legislation, provide legal counsel to communities for redlining reparations, and protect and improve urban public space.