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Below is the audio, video, and full transcript from a presentation on November 3, 2021, “Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Impacts of Over-Policing Black Mobility in the U.S.” with Charles T. Brown.
The collective racialized forces of over-policing (i.e., policy, planning, law enforcement/policing, and polity) Black physical mobility in the US has led to adverse social, political, economic, and health outcomes that are intergenerational and widespread. This presentation surgically examines the ways in which our approaches to research, planning, policy, and design can and must be reimagined to achieve greater mobility, health, and safety for Black Americans.
Arrested Mobility is the assertion that Black people and other minorities have been historically and presently denied by legal and illegal authority, the inalienable right to move, to be moved, to simply exist in public space. Unfortunately, this has resulted — and continues to result — in adverse social, political, economic, environmental and health effects that are widespread and intergenerational. But they are preventable, which is why we are here talking about it today. – Charles T. Brown
About the presenter
Charles T. Brown is a “street-level researcher,” “pracademic,” and the founder and principal of Equitable Cities, a minority- and veteran-owned urban planning, public policy, and research firm focused at the intersection of transportation, health, and equity. He is also an adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
Listen to “Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Impacts of Over-Policing Black Mobility in the U.S.“ on the Cities@Tufts Podcast (or on the app of your choice):
“Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Impacts of Over-Policing Black Mobility in the U.S.” Transcript
Julian Agyeman: [00:01:34] Welcome to the Cities@Tufts Colloquium, along with our partners Sharable and the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. I’m Professor Julian Agyeman and together with my research assistants Perri Sheinbaum and Caitlin McLennan, we organize Cities@Tufts, a cross-disciplinary academic initiative which recognizes Tufts University as a leader in urban studies, urban planning and sustainability issues. We’d like to acknowledge that Tufts University’s Medford campus is located on colonized Wampanoag and Massachusetts traditional territory.
[00:02:06] Today, we are delighted to welcome Charles T. Brown. Charles is the founder and principal of Equitable Cities, a minority and veteran-owned urban planning, public policy, and research firm focused at the intersection of transportation, health, and equity. Charles is also an adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bluestein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He’s an award-winning expert in planning and policy and has been interviewed by several notable outlets, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Vice, and Bloomberg City Lab. Charles previously served as a senior researcher with the Allen and Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, where he authored several groundbreaking national and local studies that redefined how experts analyze the role of race and racism in transportation and mobility.
[00:02:59] Charles’s talk today — and I’m fascinated by the title — is “Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Impacts of Over policing Black Mobility in the US.” Charles, a Zoom-tastic welcome to the Cities@Tufts colloquium. As usual, microphones off and send questions through the chat function. Charles, over to you.
Charles T. Brown: [00:03:20] Thank you. Thank you so much, sir. You know how much respect I have for you. So my being here today, at a minimum, is out of the respect for you. So thank you so much for the work that you’ve done and you continue to do around the world. Welcome everyone. As stated, my name is Charles T. Brown. And as always, please say the “T”. Today I would like to discuss with you Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Impacts of Over Policing Black Mobility in the United States.”
[00:03:52] I would like to begin, however, with an embarrassing photograph of me. I figured the earlier I could embarrass myself, the better this presentation will be. But I also share this presentation as a reminder of how I identify. This little guy that you see here in this photograph identifies first as a street level researcher. Given the fact that I strongly believe that many of the answers to our problems are found in the streets among the people. I identify secondly, as a prac-academic, given my unique experience of working inside and outside of academia for over a decade.
[00:04:31] It is important, though, that I let you know where my values come from. I was reared and rural Mississippi in a town of less than 500 people. And since that time I’ve traveled and worked in communities of all sizes, ideologies and cultures across the U.S. — some blue, some red, some green and many confused. In short, in the words of Jay-Z, I have 99 problems, but understanding you isn’t one of them. I live by the African proverb “I am because we are.”
[00:05:06] To begin, I think it’s important that we agree on some foundational definitions of equity and racial equity. Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity, though, acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations, and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups. So what we know about equity, then, is that in its most basic sense, it involves trying to understand, give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives.
[00:05:55] However, when you start to receive pushback on equity is in the reality that equity is the presence of justice and fairness within the procedures, the processes and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. As my Mississippi mother would say, if you’re looking for an inequity when injustice, follow the money. See, this equity work isn’t just a desktop exercise. It requires an understanding of the underlying or root causes of inequalities and oppression within our society. I want to remind you that being proximate to equity doesn’t make you an equity expert.
[00:06:35] Which takes us to racial equity and its importance? Racial equity is about transforming the behaviors, institutions and systems that disproportionately harm people of color.
[00:06:46] And it’s about increasing their access to power, redistributing and providing additional resources and eliminating barriers to opportunity to empower low income communities of color to thrive and reach their full potential. But equity, and the encouragement of racial equity, is not about excluding other marginalized groups. As we understand it, equity impacts intersect and compound with other identities such as gender, sexual orientation, ability and etc. We also acknowledge that there are various dimensions of equity, from ability equity to income equity to total equity down to vertical equity, which takes us down to the importance of a consideration of equity and intersectionality.
[00:07:32] And to highlight this, I invite you to play along with me here as you consider not only others’ various social identities, but your own. And I invite you to answer questions to yourself, such as looking at this beautiful wheel in front of you, this graphic, which identities do you think about most often? Which identities do you think about at least often? Which of your own identities would you like to learn more about? Which of your identities have the strongest effect on how you perceive yourself? And then lastly, which of your identities have the greatest effect on how others perceive you?
[00:08:10] See, I ask these questions because too often the identities that we think about least often are all too often left from our tables, cut out of our decision-making processes, or whose pain and trauma we normalize for the sake of the greater good. See, meaning in my community have stated transportation and planning has been weaponised as a tool of oppression within our society. And to look for the evidence of this weaponization, all you have to do is look to highway robbery that has impacted many Black and Brown and low-income communities across this country from the historic Treme in New Orleans to Hayti, in Durham, North Carolina.
[00:08:57] We also have to look into the impact of transportation-related decisions on climate in our pursuit of climate justice. I was both fortunate and unfortunate to have survived Hurricane Katrina that hit Mississippi in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy that hit New Jersey in 2012. But we also know there’s a strong correlation to traffic violence — and what we know here as it relates to the equity lens, is that those most at risk or older adults, people of color and people walking in low income communities. When we look at the data back many years ago, what we find is that older adults, their relative pedestrian danger for them, for those age 50 and above was more than a third higher than the general population. We also note that between 2008 and 2017, Black and African Americans were 72 percent more likely to have been struck and killed by drivers while walking.
[00:09:54] Which takes us to lower income neighborhoods. People living in neighborhoods where the median household income is 36m,000 or less were killed at a much higher rate than their counterparts. But guess what the reaction was from planners, from engineers and elected officials and others? Many of them said it’s behavior. It’s all about the choices we make. I’m here to disprove this notion that is simply behavior. Because what we know is that race determines place which determines health.
[00:10:30] And to illustrate this point, I want to take you across North America. Let’s start with Peoria, Illinois. If blue represents where the white, non-Hispanic population live, green represents where Black and African-American lives, purple represents where Hispanics live, and my Asian brothers and sisters are represented by the peach and other colors. What do you see in this map? I invite you to use the chat function to play along here.
[00:10:55] But we won’t just stop with this notion of what you see manifesting in Peoria. In fact, it was said locally that someone who lives in a white neighborhood in Peoria will almost never go to a Black neighborhood. And a lot of people in Black neighborhoods won’t get the opportunity to go to an affluent white neighborhood in Peoria. But we won’t just stop there in Illinois. It’s important that we go to Detroit. And if blue represents where white people live in Detroit, green represents Black, purple, Hispanic and Asian brothers and sisters the other colors. What do you see in Detroit? We won’t stop in Detroit, neither. It’s important that we go to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Houston, Texas. If blue represents where white people live, green, Black, purple, Hispanic, what do you see in Houston?
[00:11:46] Well, perhaps some of you still may not see that this is not just episodic. This is the map. So let’s go to Atlanta, the place that really, in many people’s eyes, determined the presidential election. If blue represents what a majority of white people, green, Black, what do you see in Atlanta? But now many of you will see it. What you see is racial, residential segregation. What I’m afraid you’re not seeing, however, is that it is by design — and the transportation system plays a huge role in it, which is what you see here in D.C., and which is what you see here in one of the most progressive cities in America: New York City, New York, at least on paper. Because you also see in New York City the same racial residential segregation as you saw in other parts throughout the country.
[00:12:42] Many usually ask at this point, is there an exception to that rule? The answer is yes. Portland, Oregon. See if blue represents where white people live in Portland, green represents where Black live, Hispanics are represented by purple, Asian by the other colors. What do you see in Portland? You see racial residential segregation. But you also see a state organ that for many, many years denied access to people of color.
[00:13:10] See what we know then is that history, see, doesn’t say goodbye. History says see you later. And that data that I share with you earlier of the traffic violence, even though it was many, many years ago, what we’re finding as of 2019 or 2020 is that the same things are true. People who are racialized minority, low income and seniors in this country are still dying at disproportionate rates than their counterparts. Which takes us to the question, then, how can we create a safe, equitable and inclusive system for all? Well, it begins with an understanding that is not just about behavior.
[00:13:53] See, people often would say your disease and injury, and ultimately your mortality is tied to your behavior, such as your smoking, your low physical activity, your alcohol and drug use and other behaviors. However, what they fail to acknowledge, and what we’re discovering more and more, is there exists a connection to one’s behavior, to one’s living condition and one’s living conditions, to institutional inequities and one’s institutional inequities, to the social inequities which are much further upstream. This downstream work that we’ve been doing doesn’t paint the accurate picture. We have to clearly understand the social inequities among class, race, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation and their bidirectional relationship with the institutional inequities and their birthing of the living conditions and influence risk behavior, disease and mortality is really what is taking place in society.
[00:14:52] Which means in order for us to do effective work and be effective at centering race and equity in our work, we must have a justice framework. And that justice framework must include things such as distributive justice, procedural justice, interactional justice, representational justice, and my favorite of all: care. See, distributive justice forces as ask the question: who has physical access to that street, to that park, or to that trail? Because we know, and my research has shown, that most of the respondents to a statewide survey in New Jersey, many of whom were Black and Brown, do not feel that their children are safe from traffic when bicycling in their neighborhoods. We also found that less than one in four feel they can safely bicycle to local parks or trails from their home, even though they’re in close proximity to them. What is this telling us? Proximity is not access. There’s a social-political atmosphere that we must take into consideration when we discuss space.
[00:15:53] Which takes us to the importance of procedural justice. Who has influence over the design, the operations and the programming of a particular process? And what we find is that too often minority youth are not included in planning and transportation decision making processes all over America. But there are two often more likely to be overrepresented in the pedestrian crashes and fatalities as adults much later on in life. Which takes us to the importance of interaction and justice. What makes people feel welcomed or unwanted in a space? This is important because we found in the data that African-Americans are two and a half times more likely to be killed by law enforcement. In fact, in some studies, males reported being stopped at a rate seven times that than a female, which gets at the importance again of intersectionality in our work.
[00:16:52] And if that doesn’t make the case, this does. Fatal violence against transgender and gender nonconforming community goes unreported or misreported in transportation and mobility discussions. And as you attend these webinars, these learnings by these beautiful people who will be presenting to you Tufts and elsewhere across the country. Always ask, why don’t we hear more discussion about the transgender and gender-nonconforming community? And how these things are going unreported or misreported in transportation and mobility discussions? We are not doing equity work, we’re not doing justice work if we’re not looking at the fullness of our human experience.
[00:17:36] Which takes us to representational justice. Do people feel that their experience in history is represented in this space? This becomes important because we have to think about how often historical and cultural erasure takes place in communities across this country. Which takes us to care. How do people demonstrate their care and for this space, care for the space and other people in it? Because what I’ve acknowledged or observed in the work that I’ve done around the country is that our systems have been biased against women and do not protect to the degree that they should religious minority groups. So, what can we do or what should we do internally to change this?
[00:18:19] Well, some brief racial equity strategies and recommendations include: adopting anti-racist values and cultures, conducting a racial equity action plan or undergoing one, bringing in racial equity trainings, establishing and monitoring racial equity performance measures, developing an internal equity group as well as an external equity advisory group to hold you accountable. Because in order to institutionalize racial equity, we have to build a racial equity culture within a city, within an institution, within a university and etc. And an equity culture is one that is focused on proactively — not reactively, as we’ve seen in a approach George Floyd world — but proactively counteracting inequities inside and outside of these organizations.
[00:19:14] And while you’re at it, it is important that we focus on infrastructure investments over enforcement. And you may ask why? Because this thing gets deeper. See, our mobility has been arrested, and I’ll explain to you in a second, what is arrested mobility. Before I do so, I want you to understand that the context currently is that there are a plethora of federal, state and local initiatives, plans and programs aimed at increasing physical activity and improving pedestrian and bicycle safety and mobility for Black and Brown people in the U.S. These programs include vision zero, complete streets, open streets, livable streets and safe streets. But many of them, when you look at them through the lens of equity and justice, what you know is that they fall short of removing the barriers to increasing safety and mobility for Black and Brown people and low-income people in this country.
[00:20:20] And the reason for this is that the current descriptions is ahistorical and apolitical, particularly in regards to the history of systemic and institutional racism. The strategies do not highlight the role of state and municipal law enforcement in discouraging and denying physical activity among BIPOC populations. Thirdly, equitable and inclusive access is listed as a foundational element, but too often not explicitly as a desired outcome or goal with any tangible organizational commitments to funding organizations that work with and in Black communities.
[00:20:57] Fourthly, what we find is that there is no mention of the overwhelming data highlighting the magnitude of unconscious bias and the criminalization of Blackness and otherness in America, particularly in light of the current climate. Fifth, we find that the strategies do not specifically discuss the need for institutional changes, particularly around increasing diversity, equity and inclusion internally as well as externally. See, many will say, and they mean well, that these are social determinants of health. But if you’ve studied planning or practiced planning long enough, you know that these are not just social determinants of health. These are political determinants of health.
[00:21:44] Which takes us to arrested mobility. Arrested Mobility is the assertion that Black people and other minorities have been historically and presently denied by legal and illegal authority the inalienable right to move, to be moved, or to simply exist in public space. Unfortunately, this has resulted and continues to result in adverse social, political, economic, environmental and health effects that are widespread and intergenerational. But they are preventable, which is why we’re here talking about it today.
[00:22:19] See, the arrested mobility framework, as shown here, shows that arrested mobility is the direct manifestation of racism across four distinct realms of racism, from the personal to interpersonal and institutional and the cultural. These collective realms of racism have resulted in the social construct of race, locally and globally, and have thus led to the intentional and oftentimes deliberate targeting and over policing of Black people. This includes their physical mobility, of which there’s a direct relationship, and their social mobility, of which there is an indirect relationship.
[00:23:00] Now, please note that I understand that the direct relationship between the variables shown here are much more complex than displayed. So how are Black people overpoliced? Black people — or over policing — is evident and radically redefined by me to consider three distinct forms that, in the aggregate, work together to arrest the mobility of Black people. The first form — and there is no particular order here — is policy and planning. For instance, racialized zoning and land use practices that have led to racial residential segregation or transportation decisions that have led to disinvestment in many minority low-income communities. The second “P” is policing. Better yet, enforcement, which is at the federal, the state and the local level. The third “P” is rising in popularity as we understand its connection, and that is policy. Better yet, the self deputization of white citizens in America — the “Karens.”
[00:24:12] See these three P’s together arrest the physical mobility of Black and Brown people, and this is evident via all different modalities. Whether one is walking, biking, driving, taking public or private transit, hopping a ride via rideshare or using a micro mobility device such as an e-scooter. Now many are you at this point are skeptical. You’re asking the question: Is there evidence to support arrested mobility across different modes of transportation?
[00:24:48] Well, let’s start with walking. One of the most recent cases of arrested mobility via walking includes the cases of Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging, Trayvon Martin, who was walking, and Mike Brown, who was also walking. Both Ahmaud and Trayvon were killed by self-deputized citizens. Mike Brown by law enforcement. What we find in terms of the data is that an analysis of five years of tickets issued to pedestrians in Jacksonville, Florida, revealed that fifty five percent of the tickets were issued to Black individuals, even though they only make up 29 percent of the population. In that same study, they found that Blacks were three times more likely to receive a ticket than whites. And Residents of the city’s three poorer zip codes were about six times as likely to receive a pedestrian citation as those living in the city’s other more affluent thirty four zip codes. And if you have not heard the name Raquel Nelson, please do me a favor and pause at this moment in Google her.
[00:25:56] But we’re not going to stop just walking and running because in the arrested mobility framework, we also know that it is present within bicycling or cycling. And what we know is that there are a dozen studies and reports of over policing Black mobility via biking in the U.S. I’ve been fortunate to lead work across the country and written a number of articles and reports on this subject. But some of the more notable and recent ones include the topic of Biking While Black in Chicago, which was done by the Chicago Tribune and many other studies in Tampa, Oakland and the one done by the Bicycling Magazine — I think as of last year.
[00:26:38] But what does the data say? Well, the data for bicycling shows that in Tampa, Florida, starting in the southeast between 2003 and 2015, Tampa police issued over 10,000 bicycle tickets. 79 percent of them were issued to Blacks, though only 26 percent of Tampa population identifies as Black. Surprisingly, during the 12 year study period, at least one 142bicycle tickets were issued to kids aged 15 and under, including children as young as three years old.
[00:27:16] Which takes us to Oakland, California, out west. In Oakland, 60 percent of all bicycles stops between 2016 and 2017 included Black cyclists, though the city of Oakland’s population is only 25 percent black. Twice as many tickets were written in majority Black neighborhoods in Chicago than in majority white or Latino neighborhoods. In fact, in one case, it was found at 321 tickets versus only 5 were issued in Austin, a low-income majority Black community. And if you visited Chicago, you know who you’re more likely to see by race and ethnicity on Chicago streets.
[00:28:02] Which takes us to driving. The most recent and notable cases of over policing Black mobility via driving includes the murders of Philando Castile and Sandra Bland. But what does the data show? As it relates to driving, a nationwide quantitative analysis of policing trends and traffic stops show that Black and Hispanic drivers are stopped disproportionately to white drivers. Unsurprisingly, police are less likely to pull over Black drivers after dusk when the race of the driver is less obvious to police.
[00:28:36] Which takes us to Minnesota. There was a state commission study in Minnesota that found that Blacks and Latinos were seven times more likely to be stopped by police in white majority neighborhoods. In fact, in 2016, 47 percent of the arrests in the local St. Anthony Police Department were Black individuals, even though the patrol areas only seven percent Black. As you’re seeing once more, this is not just episodic, this is thematic.
[00:29:06] Which takes us to public transit. And one of the more notable cases there included the murder of Oscar Grant III, was a 22 year old Black man murdered by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer in Oakland, California. But what does the data say? Well, when we look at New York and Marshall Project analysis of the New York Division of Criminal Justice Service data from 2014, showed that while the number of turnstile arrests have decreased significantly, what has not changed is who gets arrested. Eighty nine percent of those arrested are Black or Hispanic. In fact, when adjusted for subway traffic, the top 10 neighborhoods in New York with the highest number of arrests per subway swipe were all predominantly Black or Hispanic. And there is the case of Adrian Napier, a Black teenager who was tackled by 10 police officers for fare evasion. The fare was only $2.75. Yes, only $2.75.
[00:30:14] This takes us to Portland, Oregon, where in 2017, Blacks were eight times more likely than whites to be charged for certain transit violations in that city. Thankfully, this policy was later decriminalized in 2018. This form of decriminalization is what we’re asking for across all the various modes, which I’ll demonstrated here shortly.
[00:30:40] But before we go there, it takes us to ride sharing. And what we find in ride sharing is that Black travelers waited on average 20 percent longer than white travelers to have their ride accepted or Lyft or Uber X. An even scarier finding is the fact that on average female travelers were driven five percent further than males given the same start and finish location. Do I need to remind you of the importance of intersectionality in our work? Lastly, and I’ve had this happen to me all over America, 55 percent of Blacks who have called for a cab at some point have experienced a refusal by the service to send a cab to their community. But arrested mobility doesn’t stop there. It also happens, of course, even when we’re sleeping or while being a kid and playing in our yards, as was the case of Breonna Taylor and the young prince Tamir Rice.
[00:31:36] But you may be asking at this point, you may say Charles T., we get it. What then are the social, the political, the economic, environmental and health outcomes of arrested mobility? To keep this brief, there are a plethora of them. The most noted ones are that Blacks are 54 percent less likely to be physically active than whites, regardless of neighborhood or individual income level. We find that areas with larger Black populations tend to have lower rates of upward mobility. I stated how arrested mobility arrested the physical mobility, which impacts the upward mobility of Black people. There also Black areas disproportionately associated with food, deserts which are made even worse by a lack of access to transportation options.
[00:32:25] And then lastly, we find the impact of racial residential segregation as segregation discernibly affects educational attainment for Blacks much more than for whites. Then we find that Blacks consistently have less access to important resources and opportunities like health care, supermarkets, education and jobs, and they have less access too to reliable transportation. And when you think about the political consequences of this, you see that this transportation disadvantage makes Black people vulnerable to disenfranchisement efforts like a lower density of polling places, which then exacerbates the lack of representation in government.Perhaps there’s a reason why more people voted when they did not have to drive to or walk to or bike to or take public transit to the polling places in many Black communities around this country.
[00:33:22] Which takes us to item number three. How do we center equity in our transportation decision making processes? It is at this point in the presentation, I invite you to take out your phone to quickly take a picture of the various actions that I’m going to go through because I’ll go through them quickly for time. I’ll touch on racial equity strategies, mobile equity strategies, procedural, language, gender, spatial equity, and then my favorite one of all, common sense.
[00:33:55] Starting with action number one: Commit to equity through the adoption of a racial equity action plan. Action number two: Prioritize investments and maintenance in minority and low-income communities across this country. And when we say infrastructure, I mean specifically bicycle and pedestrian related infrastructure. And don’t just build it. Be sure to maintain it as well, as disinvestment is a policy decision that continues to exacerbate arrested mobility. Action three: Ensure the full and fair participation of racialized minority groups. They have an obligation — you have an obligation to ensure their full and fair participation. You also have an obligation to prevent the denial of the reduction in or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by these groups as well.
[00:34:57] Action four: language equity. To understand how diverse we are, look at the people present here today. It’s imperative that we foster more equitable treatment of diverse languages in the public sphere. Which takes us to action five: Please document and encourage mobility and access for the elderly and persons with disabilities. And we are addressing this for persons with disabilities, please consider persons beyond just those with physical disabilities. It’s imperative, too, that we acknowledge the need to address concern for those with cognitive disabilities as well.
[00:35:35] Which takes us to action six: The importance of engaging with women and female headed households. As well as action seven: foreign born populations to deepen our understanding of their behavior and usage differences. I talked about the male-centric nature of planning and policy work in this country. It’s important that gender becomes a critical piece in terms of how we view our transportation concerns and needs in communities across this country, because too often gender based violence against women in public spaces, as well as trans women in this public space, is too often ignored.
[00:36:19] Which takes us to action number eight: It’s important that we evaluate and mitigate the unintended consequences of our improved mobility and access, because what we know is that through this planning in minority communities mature just in time for gentrification to take place. Which takes us to action number nine: Racialized zoning and land use. There are many who believe that if you believe in racism, white supremacy, structural racism and white supremacy, zoning and land use was one of his first tools. So, we must analyze the impact of past and current zoning and land use decisions to undo the racialized zoning and land use practices that have been done across America.
[00:37:07] Which takes us to action ten: It’s imperative that we all safeguard against discriminatory enforcement. If we are to promote any form of enforcement in our efforts to improve safety mobility for all, we must completely safeguard against discriminatory enforcement. While doing so we must continue to challenge and eliminate the scary Black male narrative because unfortunately, too many of our brothers are being jailed, killed or incapacitated as a result of this fear. And while we’re at it, let’s challenge and eliminate the angry black female narrative as well.
[00:37:49] Which takes us to action twelve: It’s imperative, as researchers will tell you, that we collect and analyze this A aggregated data on these Black lives and experiences. Too much is happening, too much decision, whether funding or infrastructure related decisions are being made with insufficient data on Black lives and experiences. Which takes us to action thirteen: The importance for advocating for the penalization of race based 9-1-1 calls. Do I need to say more?
[00:38:21] Which takes us to action fourteen: We must collectively organize efforts to decriminalize jaywalking across this country. Because these jaywalking laws have been used in a pretextual way to target minority and low-income populations, many of whom — or the overwhelming majority of whom — are Black males. Action fifteen: We must organize efforts to decriminalize cycling in low income and BIPOC communities. There is no need to enforce riding on sidewalks. Failures to have proper lights or reflectors, failure to use a ride within available bike lanes, or failure to obey traffic control devices, when we know these are the very communities that lack the infrastructure for them to do so safely. See, it takes a very courageous person to bike in a street that is already deadly. If you provide a sidewalk or if you provide protected bike lanes, excuse me, perhaps people wouldn’t have to ride on sidewalks, but they’re riding on sidewalks out of fear of being killed, which is a fear that many of us share.
[00:39:33] Am my bonus for you before I wrap up here is that it’s about time we challenge what it means to be bicycle friendly or strong town. It’s time we do so because many of the communities that are rewarded for being bicycle friendly or strong, or the very communities that continue to deny access to the very infrastructure programs and initiatives that these communities are rewarded for. See, for every Portland, there is an East Portland. For every Hoboken, New Jersey, there’s a Camden, New Jersey. For every Tampa, Florida, there’s a Jacksonville, Florida. And for every Manhattan, there is a Bronx. And we know for every Chicago, there is a South Side. And so, many of you would say, we understand. We’re in the same boat. I’m here to say, I love you. But no, we’re not in the same boat. We’re in the same storm. And there is a huge difference.
[00:40:34] See, when I go around America speaking to Black people in particular, but the Black, Brown, and low-income people, what I know is that we are tired. We can’t go jogging. We can’t be a 10 year old walking with our grandmother and father. We can’t walk home from the corner store. We can’t have a disabled vehicle. We can’t run. We can’t breathe. We can’t live. See, our mobility has been arrested. And that’s true regardless of our age and regardless of our mode. But I want to thank you again today for having me here. Please stay in touch. I love you all. Thank you.
Julian Agyeman: [00:41:16] Whoa, powerful, powerful stuff. You know, Charles, you and I have talked, and I know this material, but the way you present it, your positionality, where you live — you added a whole new spin for me with some incredibly powerful concepts there. We’ve got quite a few questions here. One thing I just wanted to ask you about. You know, a personal sort of thing, this debate on infrastructure, because, you know, some people say, Oh, we need the physical infrastructure and other people say it’s more about a cultural infrastructure around cycling. Are they necessarily separate, the physical infrastructure and the cultural infrastructure?
Charles T. Brown: [00:41:59] I think by definition, there’s certainly separate. But in terms of needs, we are to consider both. Because for many, just the existence of infrastructure that is not culturally relevant or sensitive would not achieve the goals that we ultimately like to achieve. I think too often we ignore the importance of culture in the work that we do. Which is why I wanted to ensure culture was at the center of this presentation. Which is also why, in 99.9% of my presentations I wear a suit, sometimes a suit and a tie. But for today, I thought it was important for me to just come culture. To represent my fraternity, Brothers of Kappa Alpha Phi Fraternity Inc. around the world. And to show up as myself free of any expectations. So yes, cultural infrastructure is important, as well as just infrastructure in general. I think it all leads to the likelihood of harm being exhibited towards these racialized populations.
Julian Agyeman: [00:43:04] Thanks, Charles. Ok, we’ve got some questions. A very direct question from the White House watch group — that’s not President Biden, that’s our White House. Yeah, although who knows who’s watching us, Charles.
Charles T. Brown: [00:43:17] I mean, present presented to them before they’re here, good to see you again.
Julian Agyeman: [00:43:23] Question: how many people are needed to get into a color-coded region in your maps. You showed us those maps earlier on. So we’ve got some GIS whiz people here. They want to know. They want to know some answers.
Charles T. Brown: [00:43:36] I love the GIS people. I started my career in GIS and so stick to it. Those maps came from the National Geographic Block By block — I think is called Neighborhood Block By Block maps. I cannot at this point tell you how many people were ever represented in order to determine the most dominant characteristic by race at a Black group. But you can go to National Geographic Block By block to figure out the methodology for that.
Julian Agyeman: [00:44:05] Great, thanks, Charles. Another question from the White House watch Group: does your research take into consideration Airbnbs and vacation rentals?
Charles T. Brown: [00:44:15] Yes, absolutely. But for this particular presentation, I came here looking at it simply through the lens of transportation. In the definition of arrested mobility, you may recall, is a move to be moved or to simply exist in public space. That also means one’s presence within or outside of a residential or commercial setting. I would also say that arrested mobility takes into consideration as well the growth in security cameras such as Ring and other technological advances that I think help to — unfortunately lead to an increase in watching Black and Brown bodies along our roadways.
I can’t think of how many times — because I own a ring camera myself — my ring camera goes off and it’s a notification by my neighbors who stated they see someone, this unfamiliar person in the neighborhood and they’re questioning why they’re there. Almost every time I look to see the video of the person that they’re referring to, probably 80 to 90 percent of the time, it is a Black individual — and most often a Black male. And so when we think about polity and self-deputization of white citizens, these security cameras, in the context of arrested mobility, is leading to even more concern and perhaps even more race-based 9-1-1 calls, which is why I was saying we need to penalize those.
Julian Agyeman: [00:45:47] Thanks, Charles. Whose role is it to undo the systemic issues of inequity and oppression, especially in the context of arrested mobility? Whose role?
Charles T. Brown: [00:45:57] Those who brought about structural racism and discrimination. It is their role to undo it, but it is our role to make sure they do it.
Julian Agyeman: [00:46:06] What take away would you give our students on that point? How can they become part of — and obviously this session with you, Charles is enlightening people. What can they do as they go out into the world, as budding planners and policy makers?
Charles T. Brown: [00:46:22] One thing they can do is to work to increase the awareness of the existence of arrested mobility. Secondly, I’m putting together with the New Urban Mobility Alliance out of D.C., the Arrested Mobility Research Collaborative, where we’re going to undergo a rigorous review of state and municipal codes that restrict the mobility of Black people. Many of the codes that we’ve already identified or those that relate to riding on sidewalks, they need to have a bicycle license or registration, even a bicycle helmet. No, I’m not opposed to bicycle helmet wearers, I just don’t think that one should lose their life due to the over policing of the pretextual stop related to the need for a bicycle helmet.
[00:47:10] As it relates to pedestrian codes and ordinances, we’re decriminalizing jaywalking. We’ve seen that happen on a state level in the state of Virginia. We’ve seen it happen at a municipal level in Kansas City, Missouri. And California was also almost about to decriminalize jaywalking but the governor there vetoed the bill. So, those are efforts you can join nationwide. And then lastly, there is coming the Arrested Mobility podcast, and I would love to work with many of you to continue to bring these stories front and center. But lastly, I would say it doesn’t matter your status in society. You have a voice and you have a pen. Continue to speak about and write about these issues until someone hears you right.
Julian Agyeman: [00:47:55] Great, Charles, thank you. And I know our students are going to be right on that one. Thank you. Edwin Figueroa says with most municipalities continuing to use the three E’s approach (Education, Enforcement and Engineering) to address traffic safety, what alternatives do we, as planners, have to move past it? And then second, can automated enforcement address arrested mobility, or is it just an extension of physical enforcement?
Charles T. Brown: [00:48:20] It can be an extension of physical enforcement, if not distributed in an equitable and unbiased way. It’s imperative that as it relates to automated enforcement, that we don’t just look to the data to determine the locations. Because much of the data is centered in biased policing and enforcement. Instead, what we should do is place automated cameras in an equitable fashion throughout the city, whether there exists these high injury networks or not.
[00:48:51] And then in terms of the ease, I think it’s important that we enforce not simple traffic violations, but traffic violations that we know are much more dangerous and could have a much more dangerous impact on a person’s life or livelihood should they be struck by a car or some other mode. So we should point people to the data to show that this form of enforcement has not led to the reduction in fatalities and injuries that we’ve saw. And thus we should be focusing primarily on infrastructure, both cultural infrastructure as well as general infrastructure.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:29] Great, thanks. Kind of cryptic question if anybody from the White House Watch group wants to explain a bit more. What about transportation via plane post-9 11 as well? Anybody from the White House —
Charles T. Brown: [00:49:42] I get it.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:42] You get it?
Charles T. Brown: [00:49:44] Yeah, that’s a great, great question. That’s a great question. Way to go. White House Group. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Brown House, too. I suppose my name is Brown.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:55] They’re usually the noisiest. Brown is the noisiest. Where’s Johnny Shively today?
Charles T. Brown: [00:50:01] And so as it relates to arrested mobility, I did not include planes. I didn’t include boats. And there are other modes, of course, I didn’t include. But it certainly applies there. That’s all I’m saying. It is very much a part of the framework.
Julian Agyeman: [00:50:17] Any more questions for Charles? This is fantastic, Charles. Maybe I can ask you a couple. We — Charles, you me. our other conscious and woke people who are doing this kind of work, we’re finding that there is some pushback, but we are at an open — a much more open window on this now, don’t you think? We have a window for action?
Charles T. Brown: [00:50:43] Yes, we do have a window for action. I think the threat to that window is that symbolic victories is a threat to a real pursuit of justice. I think the co-option of the movement by those who were not working proactively on these issues in a pre-George Floyd world in a way that we were is also a threat because there, in many cases, is not these sort of sincere and genuine attempt to address structural racism in this country. But I do feel extremely optimistic, especially as it relates to students across this world, that now is the right time to raise these issues and discuss these issues and try to address them in a much more direct way. So for that reason, I sleep well every night.
Julian Agyeman: [00:51:40] Great. Question from the Brown House. Thanks for your prompt. They’ve woken up. What role does the media have in exacerbating or reducing some of the issues you talk about, i.e. scary Black man or angry Black woman syndrome stereotype
Charles T. Brown: [00:51:55] Way to represent Brown House — I knew you all were not going to let me down. So in my presentation a few times you heard me say episodic versus thematic. What the news media has done to perpetuate this violence is that they’ve written it a very episodic fashion. They tend to focus on the local issue without tying it to a much more global issue or problem. And because of this, people see this traffic violence, the over policing as on- offs. As opposed to, again, a much more global issue.
[00:52:32] They also have not discussed traffic violence in mainstream media in the ways in which they should have. I’ve been thankful that as of late I’ve been able to go on MSNBC to talk about these issues with the Reverend Al Sharpton, to have a profile in The Washington Post and be quoted in The New York Times. What we need is for that not to just be seasonal. We need this concern that we have about over policing, particularly in mobility and transportation, to be a repeating discussion in our local media.
[00:53:07] And then lastly, we need to take out the biases that exist in writing. Oftentimes, they subscribe to what they hear from law enforcement, which is that the pedestrian or the cyclist was at fault in many of these crashes. They also put in identifiers to signal class and status, for instance. They will say this individual was riding their bicycle next to an apartment complex that was known to be low income, for instance. And so what we need to do is continue to push media to be unbiased in their work and to write in a much more dramatic fashion than an episodic one.
Julian Agyeman: [00:53:47] All right, I want to leave with your thoughts on a quote that I just can’t get out of my head from @DrDesThePlanner — those of you who are Twitter addicts like me will know that Dr. Des is head of the Thrivance Group, and she said, “You want protected bike lanes, I want protected Black children. Let’s link.” What do you think of that charge? I think it’s incredibly powerful.
Charles T. Brown: [00:54:12] What I think of that is that: “I am because we are.” And Dr. Destiny is someone that I truly love and adore. She’s a sister that is fighting for justice, and she’s doing so in a way that we all should acknowledge and we should replicate or duplicate. So let’s link up.
Julian Agyeman: [00:54:34] Charles, on that, what a fantastic talk. I could talk to you for much longer. We need to catch up. Students need to get off to their classes. But again, can we give a UEP round of applause for fantastic talk? Thank you, Charles. Thank you so much. Next week, November the 10th, we have Isabelle Anguelovski and James Connolly, who are talking about “The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe.” Thanks for attending Cities@Tufts Wednesday colloquium. See you soon. Thank you. Bye-bye.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:55:04] We hope you enjoyed this week’s lecture. Cities@Tufts Lectures is produced by Tufts University and Shareable with support from the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. Lectures are moderated by Professor Julian Agyeman and organized in partnership with research assistants Perri Sheinbaum and Caitlin McLennan. “Light Without Dark,” by Cultivate Beats is our theme song. Robert Raymond is our Audio Editor. Zanetta Jones manages communications and editorial. And t series is produced and hosted by me, Tom Llewellyn. Please hit subscribe, leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts and share it with others so this knowledge can reach people outside of our collective bubbles. That’s it for this week’s show. Here’s a final thought:
Charles T. Brown: [00:55:50] In order to institutionalize racial equity, we have to build a racial equity culture within a city, within an institution, within university, and etc.