Below you’ll find the graphic recording, audio, video, and transcript from “Three Models of Reparative Planning: A Comparative Analysis” presented by Rashad Williams on November 2nd, 2022.
About the presenter
Rashad Williams is an incoming assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. His interdisciplinary research crosses the boundaries of urban planning, urban politics, and the critical philosophy of race to study the urban expressions of the black reparations movement. He has coined the term reparative planning to describe the implementation of redress policies at the urban scale.
About the series
Shareable is partnering with Tufts University on this special series hosted by professor Julian Agyeman (Co-chair of Shareable’s Board) and Cities@Tufts. Initially designed for Tufts students, faculty, and alumni, the colloquium has been opened up to the public with the support of Shareable, and The Kresge Foundation.
Cities@Tufts Lectures explores the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice.
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“Three Models of Reparative Planning: A Comparative Analysis” Transcript
Rashad Williams: [00:00:06] I framed the Minneapolis rebellion and the ensuing political crisis as a political grammatic break. This is a moment where there’s kind of a weakening of the ideological or ideational constraints that would otherwise rule reparations as something that is too far out there, right? Too utopian, unfeasible, those sorts of things. What is the political grammatic break between? It’s between a liberal culture or a liberal individualist framework and a structuralist, or perhaps you might say, materialist way of thinking about racial inequality and racial justice.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:00:42] What is planetary gentrification and its tangible effects? Has institutionalized white supremacy led to isolationist attempts at addressing our climate crisis? And could reparative urban planning be the key to addressing distributive structural injustices? These are just a few of the questions we’re exploring this season on Cities@Tufts Lectures, a free live event and podcast series where we explore the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice. I’m your host, Tom Llewellyn.
[00:01:11] Today on the show, we’re featuring Rashad Williams’s lecture: Three Models of Reparative Planning: A Comparative Analysis. In addition to this audio version, you can watch the video, check out the graphic recording and read the full transcript on Shareable.net. And while you’re there, please take some time to get caught up on all of our past lectures and our ever-expanding library of stories, podcasts, how-to guides, and other resources. And now here’s Professor Julian Agyeman, who will welcome you to the Cities@Tufts Fall Colloquium and introduce today’s speaker.
Julian Agyeman: [00:02:00] Welcome to Cities@Tufts Virtual Colloquium, along with our partner Shareable, the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. I’m Professor Julian Agyeman, and together with my research assistants, Caitlin McLennan and Deandra O’Boyle, we organize the Cities@Tufts as 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 territory.
[00:02:33] Today, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Rashad Williams. Rashad is an assistant professor of race and social justice in public Policy at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Pittsburgh. His interdisciplinary research crosses the boundaries of urban planning, urban politics and the critical philosophy of race to study the urban expressions of the black reparations movement. As an ideational scholar. Dr. Williams research explores the conditions under which egalitarian ideas become implemented into municipal policy. He has coined the term “reparative planning” to describe the implementation of redress policies at the urban scale. He’s also published work in the area of planning theory and housing policy. In 2022, he was honored with the Emerging Scholar Award by the Urban Affairs Association. Rashad’s talk today is “Three Models of Reparative Planning: A Comparative Analysis.” Rashad, a zoom-tastic welcome to the Cities@Tufts colloquium and as usual microphones off, video off and send questions through the chat function. Rashad, the floor is yours.
Rashad Williams: [00:03:42] Thank you so much for having me and thank you for reading that bio and the description of my research and what I’ll be talking about today. I’m primarily going to start with two cases before then, discussing and opening up the floor for a discussion of a third potential way of doing reparative planning. So these two cases that I’m interested in discussing first come out of Minnesota and my dissertation research. And so the title is “Twin Cities: Split Politics, Crisis, Anti-Racism and Reparations.”
[00:04:10] And so I essentially have three goals in mind within this research project. This is centered around the Minneapolis rebellion, the George Floyd protests and sort of what happens after that. So what happens after that as a consequence in some ways of that is that the city of Minneapolis creates a truth and reconciliation commission, which they in other ways and in certain times frame as a reparations program. But the title of it is Truth and Reconciliation. So that’s a municipal sort of reparative planning approach, if you will. Another thing that happens in the sister city, the twin City, is that Saint Paul creates a community reparations commission. And so you have these two programs. And one of the kind of underlying questions is to what extent are they different? And so we’ll get into that in a moment. But how do these two programs come about? How does the Minneapolis rebellion actually provide the opportunity structure for these for these two programs, these two ideas?
[00:05:06] The second goal is, as I’ve said, being that these two sort of seem to want to address the same issues and they seem to want to reach the same goal, what are the underlying social and political theoretical differences between the two programs, if any? Is it simply a term analogical difference between truth and reconciliation as it’s being understood or used here and community reparations? Or is it something more? And then the third goal is what should reparative planning do and be? And that’s where we can get into a discussion of this third case, maybe this third way of thinking about it.
[00:05:42] So for the first goal of understanding how the Minneapolis rebellion opens this space for the creation of these two programs, what I’m primarily interested in is the mobilization of the ideas and the context around the ideas, the enveloping context, the ideational context, if you will, that allows for these ideas to actually have some legitimacy. And these are ideas that otherwise, in most normal contexts would not see the light of day, right? Would not pass a city council — a reparations program. And so what actually about this rebellion — what about the political context, the crisis, actually allows for this to happen? For this, to borrow, Jodi Melamed’s phrase, a sea change in racial epistemology. She’s thinking about this more broadly, we’re speaking about this within the context of urban politics.
[00:06:27] And so along with that, there’s essentially — what I want to lay out here is two ways, two schools of thought on racial inequality. And so if reparations are this kind of radical structuralist kind of perspective or intervention, how do we get there? And so broadly speaking and I’m borrowing this from Charles Mills, the late critical race philosopher, he said there’s a group disability school and a racism school. And so in the group disability school, we have the familiar culprits. We have the biological determinist or just outright racist school of thinking about matters of racial inequality and race. And I think it’s suffices to say that they make nature herself an accomplice in the crime of political inequality. So it’s not a politically, socially enforced inequality. It’s not social relations that produce this inequality, political hierarchies and so forth. It is current geometry or whatever purports to explain it is phrenology, these other sorts of biological determinist, racist notions. So that’s one that we’re all familiar with.
[00:07:29] Then there’s the culturalist school, which we’re also unfortunately probably too familiar with, right? The culture of poverty hypothesis. Notions of cultural inferiority and so forth. And so you’ll see this actually has a long storied history, of course. But in the beginning of the 20th century, as there’s this break emerging between the biological determinist perspective and the culturalist emerging perspective notions of sexual promiscuity, or the instant gratification, or the broken family structures or Blacks poor work ethic, you know, the superiority of European culture, etc. These sorts of notions really start to percolate. And they continue on, of course, through to the Moynihan report, through the neoconservative movement all the way up until today.
[00:08:11] Now, in response to that, another kind of strain that comes through on the racism school side of the equation is a recognition of interpersonal racism. Which mostly we see within the liberal culture of school. Of course, both the structuralist and the liberal cultural perspectives would acknowledge this as a phenomenon. But the degree to which they see it as explanatory of the whole picture of racial inequality and racial domination, that’s where there’s some difference, right? And so I would say that both of these perspectives within the racism schools share what Gunnar Myrdal expressed as — and this is a paraphrasing of what he was getting at with this notion of complex causality, but that the perception of Black inferiority gives rise to the condition and the condition gives rise to the perception.
[00:08:57] And so this, as we’ll get into later, kind of maps up to this philosophical idealism and philosophical materialism debate. But on the one hand, in the liberal cultural school, the solution since racism is kind of understood in interpersonal terms, is enlightenment rationalism, right? And education, you might say some times to some degree today, diversity trainings, those sorts of things which in themselves aren’t bad and are important. But does it actually get to the deeper issues, the material conditions that actually from some paradigms, from some perspectives, actually feed into that interpersonal racism. Those ideological phenomena or illusions, illusory thinking. And so obviously a Marxist — you can tell by the language I’m using — criticism of this would be that it’s a little bit too insular, in terms of how it actually understands the source of the problem.
[00:09:50] And so that would be the liberal cultural school. And then the structure of the school would actually, as the name would imply, have a structural critique. Right. Whether that’s of white supremacy as a sociopolitical system. The work of Charles Mills has forcefully put forward or work coming from and inspired by Cedric Robinson on racial capitalism. And so depending on which of these perspectives you’re in, within the structuralist school, you’ll see a different level of depth to the question of racial inequality, or at least a different way of thinking about racial domination and its connection to capitalism.
[00:10:23] So I want to lay that out and say that within these different schools and the perspectives they’re within, there are moments historically where some of these perspectives are dominant and the others aren’t. And there are moments where it’s unclear which will emerge successfully — which one will now kind of inform racial epistemology, broadly speaking. Social cognition around race.
[00:10:48] And so how do we understand that? So what’s going on? What we’re talking about is ideology. And I want to lay out the two conceptions of ideology, one, a general conception and one a Marxist conception, because these really animate my approach to studying ideas and studying reparations. And so ideology, broadly speaking, referring to widely accepted beliefs, a form of social consciousness, a belief system and beliefs are mental representations within the consciousness of individual social actors that express or imply validity claims or knowledge claims about the way the world is or about what has value. And so for the general conception of ideology, it’s non-evaluative, it’s morally and epistemically neutral, and its purpose is to describe or explain a particular belief system without any kind of necessarily, again, evaluative content to that. And the Marxist conception, we reserve the term ideology for evaluative and critical, the evaluative and critical sense. It’s reserved for negative ideology. So to say that something is ideological is to say that it should be rejected.
[00:11:52] And so let’s go back to the general conception. For the general conception, we’re looking at things like comprehensive political doctrines, conservatism, liberalism, communism, nationalism, etc. The worldview or belief system of a particular community or social group or what have you. For the Marxist conception, we’re looking at things like racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, elitism, etc. — things that actually for many reasons, should be rejected. So let me go into negative ideologies, I’ll call it, so as not to confuse the terms because I’ll come back to this notion of ideology when I speak about reparations more specifically.
[00:12:26] So ideology is generally, good or bad, are beliefs that can be understood as any subset of the beliefs of the members of an historical era, geographical region, society, social strata, or social group that has the following features: A) The beliefs in the subset are widely shared by members in the relevant group and within the group, and sometimes outside of the beliefs are generally known to be widely held. B) The beliefs form or are derived from a prima facie coherent system of thought which can be descriptive and or normative. C) The beliefs are part of or shape the general outlook and self-conception of many in the relevant group. And D) The beliefs have a significant impact on social action and social institutions. And so ideologies are really important because of that last point. Of course, all of the points in terms of self-conception as well, but they have significant impacts on social action and social institutions and reparations, as we’ll see.
[00:13:21] And so what’s an example — here’s that sort of negative ideology. So again, they may be how consciously or unconsciously these beliefs and these belief systems, of course, are made up of individual kind of beliefs, right? So the belief that racial minority group A is less intelligent or as inferior is connected to all sorts of other beliefs about biological determinism or heredity, nature or nurture versus environment, those sorts of things — about the inherent laziness of group A, about their athleticism, perhaps, and their sexual prowess on the other hand, about a referent group, let’s say whites being superior and so forth, right? And so that is ideologies in both good and bad terms.
[00:14:06] And why is this all important? Belief systems, including positive and negative ones, shape social and political action. For example, racial segregation. Moreover, conception precedes perception. Consider how people thought about inequality under feudalism before the concepts of individual rights and freedoms and moral equality and so forth. And so these belief systems are actually powerful, especially when we’re talking about negative ideologies and their ability to, along with material conditions, sustain relations of domination. And so the purpose of an ideology in the negative sense is that it actually helps to sustain those relations of domination. I’ll get more into that in a second.
[00:14:43] The other reason this is important is because normative questions like reparations, as pointed out above, hinge not merely on clashes of values, but also on rival factual claims, both with respect to specific incidents and events and with respect to determining and constraining social structures, and particularly when challenges are coming from the perspective of radical political theory. For example, Marxism, feminism, critical race theory, it may well be the case that most or all of the work in claims about injustice is being done by the divergent factual picture put forward rather than different values. And that’s a quote from Charles Mills on sort of why normative questions are important, but why ideation is important as well, but also coming from a materialist perspective, why it’s important to properly conceive of this.
[00:15:29] So there are three properties of ideologies in the Marxist sense — negative ideologies. And so when is a belief, ideological and worthy of ideology critique? 1) it has the epistemic property, which means it is cognitively defective, illusory — the belief is premised on falsehoods, misrepresentations, distortions, ill-conceived, conceptual frameworks, etc.. And so the reason it’s not outright just that it’s a false belief is that sometimes it’s actually how a way of understanding a problem is set up — the kind of conceptual framework. And so if we were to look at crime from a particular unit or level of analysis, the neighborhood, and we were to focus on individuals’ behaviors, we might actually have a distorted sense of what’s actually happening in that neighborhood and what is actually causing crime. We might not actually understand the relationships or the relational kind of situation between this neighborhood, which is disadvantaged on any number of kind of metrics, versus another that is advantaged and the exploitation that might exist between them or the fact that these people live precariously or these other sorts of things. And so you could factually speak to what you observe as crime, but you could still be thinking about this and explaining this in terms that are illusory. And so that’s why it’s not just necessarily premised on falsehoods, but also misrepresentations, distortions, ill-conceived conceptual frameworks and so on.
[00:16:55] And so, if this were the only property, however of ideologies, it would. Failed to explain why people stubbornly resist giving up negative ideologies in the face of rational criticism. Something more must be going on. And so I’m sure we’re all familiar with the kind of situation where you try to convince someone that something which is actually sexist is sexist or is racist and what have you. And they cling to the belief anyway, even with the best evidence refuting the belief. And so why? And so that’s because ideologies also have this genetic property. So each of these properties is individually necessary and jointly sufficient for an ideological critique.
[00:17:34] So the genetic property says that the belief is held with a false consciousness, which means that non-cognitive, often class-structured motives induce its broad acceptance. And so, as Engels would say, ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness, the real motive force is impelling him, remain unknown to him, otherwise, it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence, he imagines false or seeming motive forces. And I just want to put this in Shelby’s terms to where he says to hold a belief with a false consciousness is to hold it while being ignorant of or self-deceived about the real motives for why one holds it. The individual who suffers from a false consciousness would like to believe that she accepts a given belief system solely because of the epistemic considerations in favor of it. But as a matter of fact, she accepts it primarily because of the influence of noncognitive motives that operate as Marx was fond of saying behind her back. That is, without her conscious awareness,
[00:18:35] There’s an incentive to maintain racially exclusive neighborhoods, right? There’s an incentive — and whether it’s actually conscious, held consciously, right? Whether that’s acknowledged or not, much of racial animus is actually bitterest or bolstered by these non-cognitive motives of group advantage. And so that’s where a lot of folks kind of intervene in this space around critical race theory. And around the way that we argue, should be properly understood. And so that’s that.
[00:19:05] And then third, the functional property of ideology. It functions to legitimate social relations of oppression. And so this is why we’re concerned with it. Not simply because it’s false or distorting, not simply because it’s rooted or addressed by these kind of class-structured motives, but because it functions to legitimate social relations of oppression.
[00:19:26] And so to include a quote here from — I believe this is from Tommy Shelby. He’s explaining how this kind of all works together right through this example as it pertains to slavery. So he says because of growing abolitionist opposition, the continued reproduction of slave systems in the new world depended on the wide acceptance of beliefs about the inherent inferiority of people of African descent. To justify the brutality of slave conditions and the systematic coercive exploitation of human labor, slaves were viewed as less than fully autonomous agents lacking in ordinary human, cognitive and moral capacities, naturally indolent and deceitful, inherently childlike and incorrigible. This, in a now familiar rationalization, allowed the slave-holding classes to maintain that Africans and their descendants did not deserve to be accorded the same respect and rights due some white human beings, and therefore that plantation slavery did not run afoul of liberal principles of equality and autonomy. In the aftermath of slavery, legally sanctioned segregation and discrimination against Blacks were supported by the ideological belief that white contact with Blacks, especially sexual contact, would contaminate or pollute the purity of the white race, giving rise to the notorious doctrine of separate but equal.
[00:20:40] And so also what you can see in this example is that ideology is adapt over time, right? But that does not mean that they’re sort of immune to shock. So that means that they can also weaken over time. But whether they weaken, whether they adapt — that presents an opportunity for some kind of change. But who is able to best kind of capture that change? Hopefully it’s on the side of the truth, morally and factually. But as we know, that is not always been the case. And so that’s the ideology — or understanding racism as an ideology.
[00:21:11] Now, what I pose in this project is can anti-racism have these same ideological properties? Can anti-racism that means have the epistemic property? Can it be distorting? Can it have the genetic property, anti-racism being a class structured, being rooted in kind of non-cognitive motives and can it have the functional property of sustaining and legitimating relations of oppression? And specifically liberal anti-racism? Because we do have multiple anti racisms. And so I’m using the work of Jodi Melamed and many others in this space who look at this contention that exists between these two perspectives within the racism school.
[00:21:49] And so why does this matter for municipal reparations? When you look at the discourse around reparations, there are — and not just municipal reparations, right? What does this matter for reparations generally? When you look at the discourse around reparations and the debates around reparations, you’ll find everything — and these are coming from the left as well as reparations being framed as a right-wing conspiracy and reparations being framed as this radical redistributive policy that we should have done forever ago. And so how do you understand what’s going on here? Why are these there radically different ideas about what reparations is, even for folks who are in good faith, committed to justice? And it’s because reparations is actually being conceived of in different terms from a liberal culturalist school or a liberal individualist perspective and sometimes through a structuralist school. Or maybe more often.
[00:22:41] And so you might be able to see where I’m going here, with truth and reconciliation. And depending on what it actually means, how that term is actually being defined in terms of its programmatic content and reparations. So that is sort of an underlying question that animates this project. What is reparations and on what terms is this reparations and reparative planning? And so the second point that I want to make here before continuing is that ideologies weaken and adapt over time. But how can we understand the points of change? And so, as I’ve said, if this has this kind of ideological potential in a liberal city or a liberal twin cities, as we have in Minnesota, where is there the opportunity for divergence and the introduction of a radically anti-racist policy like, let’s say, reparations could be — or reparative planning? And so how do we know? How do we how do we think about the weak points of ideology?
[00:23:36] And for this, I propose that we use critical juncture analysis and now this kind of in some ways, you might think, blends together notions of historical institutionalism as a methodology and sociological institutionalism. But the framework is pretty straightforward, and it’s great to use even in the ideational context. And in fact, many scholars use it in that context as I’ll show. And so with critical juncture analysis, we want to understand change. And we want to understand radical change and the conditions that allow for it.
[00:24:09] And so what Sofer has here, this is his table here that I’ve borrowed, is a chart that shows when change can happen. So you have permissive conditions which represent the opportunity window. And so when there is no permissive condition, but there are productive conditions, let’s say that those are policy entrepreneurs who have an idea and they put it forward. Well, without the permissive context for radical change, they’re probably not going to be able to get anything done that radically deviates from what is already the norm. And so you get incremental change when both are absent, obviously, you have no change and you have the status quo. But when you have a permissive condition, the opportunity window and productive forces, whatever those forces are, whether it’s policy entrepreneurs, whether it’s activists pushing for particular policies or anything of the sort, you have a critical juncture. Meaning that something happens, a radical change is made, and there’s a mechanism of reproduction that allows for it to continue. So that is the new established social pattern, or policy path or policy paradigm. When you have a permissive condition, the opportunity, but no productive conditions, you have a wasted crisis or a missed opportunity.
[00:25:22] And so I use this to think about the George Floyd protest movement as really a moment of crisis where there’s a permissive condition so long as the political crisis — and the political crisis was not just confined to the actual protest movement, the burning of the cities, the outrage at the murder of George Floyd, who had been suffocated for 9 minutes nearly right by a police officer, and the justified outrage of wanting immediate action on the part of government. Because historically, we know from Black Lives Matter when these police murders, these high profile police killings would happen, officials would wait four months, six months, seven months to then declare no indictment, no charges filed and so forth. And so in this case, the outrage was, you’re not going to do that again. We’ve seen it over and over again. And so the outrage was immediate and it did create this political crisis.
[00:26:16] And so why do I understand it in these terms? I think it’s quite obvious. But to kind of add some textual evidence to this and data to support framing it in these terms, I interviewed activists, I interviewed policymakers and so forth and who were involved in getting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission off the ground and the Community Reparations Commission in the respective cities.
[00:26:38] And so in Saint Paul, one of the council members said once George Floyd happened, George Floyd helped us get that resolution for the Community Reparations Commission passed. And I just believe it’s because as city council members, after George Floyd was murdered, we all recognized that we can’t do things the way we’ve been doing them. It literally has George Floyd’s influence. And now I worry we better mean this. An activist that I interviewed from Black Visions, formerly Black Visions Collective, but one of the organizations principally responsible for the Defund the police movement in Minneapolis said elected officials will always act differently if The New York Times and CNN and everybody has out here every week. Literally, there were reporters living in long-term Airbnbs. So I think that shifts the political landscape and shifts the dynamic. And so she spoke with me about the leverage that she and her organization and other organizations were able to have in this moment of political crisis. And then a Minneapolis council member, the one who actually wrote the resolution for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she told me that the TRC vote would not have been unanimous without the protests, not without the global uprising. So that’s the basis for understanding this as a permissive condition at least.
[00:27:50] And so just for some more background context, what actually happens? So in the case of Saint Paul, there’s actually pre-existing activism around the issue of reparations. There was a group of folks who — of local activists who already were pressuring city council to do something, to enact a program — they were inspired by things that they had seen in DC or proposals that they had seen in DC and in Evanston, Illinois — the reparations program there, in Chicago, where there was a reparations program for police brutality because of the John Birch torture ring that existed in the eighties. So they were inspired by these moments and they had been pushing the city council to actually do something. Of course, without the opportunity structure, without the window, nothing was really happening. But they did have a reading group and they did invite the public in to be a part of that reading group. So they were actually doing things to try to get traction on this.
[00:28:44] But then again, the permissive condition occurs and that’s when we see them essentially act as grassroots policy entrepreneurs and they get the city to commit to pursuing reparations. And the way that this is now going to be a norm, hopefully — we still don’t know what this is actually going to end up looking like because this is an ongoing process. But there is a permanent city commission on community reparations.
[00:29:08] So, in the case of Minneapolis, it’s different in that there was no pre-existing prior movement from activists or from the grassroots at all pushing for truth and reconciliation. But when the permissive condition opened the opportunity window, the president at the time, actually the vice president of the city council, said that she thinks it would be a great time to create a truth and reconciliation commission. And there were also some others on the city council who had been working with that. And so there’s some ideas around there about who actually came up with the idea first. But needless to say, this is something that comes from the top down as opposed to the bottom up — this is not necessarily a grassroots program in the case of Minneapolis.
[00:29:55] So with that being said, I framed the Minneapolis rebellion and the ensuing political crisis as a political grammatic break. Similarly, using that kind of framework of Melmed and using here the language of Nancy Fraser, this is a moment where there’s kind of a weakening of the ideological or ideational constraints that would otherwise rule reparations as something that is too far out there, too utopian, unfeasible, those sorts of things. So it’s a political grammatic break and these two ideas are able to emerge in both cities.
[00:30:31] And so the strategies of both cities, just briefly, are as follows: They both passed a resolution. They then created working groups, the Truth Reconciliation Working Group in Minneapolis and the Reparations Legislative Advisory Committee in Saint Paul. So these working groups define the boundaries within which or define the powers of the eventual commissions. The eventual commissions are, as we speak, beginning in both cities. And then the goals of each city’s process are, for Minneapolis, community healing and for Saint Paul community reparations. And so that’s something that’s quite interesting and we’ll and we’ll get into this when we get to the section on the ideological analysis.
[00:31:13] So what is the political grammatic break between? It’s between a liberal culturalist or a liberal individualist framework and a structuralist or perhaps you might say, materialist way of thinking about racial inequality and racial justice. Because to the extent that the descriptive and the normative are attached. And so like I said, I’m using Nancy Fraser’s framework around recognition and redistribution and also her questions around how one can eclipse the other to really anchor this discussion in my writing.
[00:31:46] And so Nancy Fraser in the year 2000 asked this question, she said, why today, after the demise of Soviet-style communism and the acceleration of globalization, do so many conflicts take the idiom of recognition? And then later he says questions of recognition are serving less to supplement, complement and enrich redistributive struggles than to marginalize, eclipse and displace them. And so why is this happening? And I found an answer in Jodi Melamed’s work that I use to also anchor this discussion.
[00:32:14] And so briefly, let me just tell you about the data before I continue. I interviewed 13 participants, the author of the resolution I should read in Saint Paul, the author of the resolution in Minneapolis, an additional city council member in Minneapolis, and then the committee members who are from the community — they’re not publicly elected officials or public administrators or anything, but the community members who were placed on these working groups to establish the CRC and the CRC. So I interviewed seven of those folks and I interviewed activists from Black Visions Collective and the Eastside Freedom Library in Saint Paul. And then for the archival kind of data or the textual analysis and content analysis, digital news media, city council legislative records, city publications around these two programs.
[00:32:59] Okay, so, that brings us up to the ideological analysis. So whereas in part one for goal one, I described the mobilization of St Paul’s and Minneapolis’s reparations and truth and reconciliation programs as single ideas. How did these ideas come about? For part two, I aim to reveal the ideational content of the belief systems, the ideologies to which they belong, the logical, ideational and narrational antecedants to each idea. With a larger complex of beliefs in view, we are able to discern the extent to which either program conforms to Fraser’s politics of recognition or politics of redistribution.
[00:33:35] And so what I’ve up to now kind of discussed this as, roughly, is this liberal culturalist school and the structuralist school, but let’s add some more nuance to that, and let’s use Fraser in her own words to do so. And so Fraser, as she’s thinking about this, says, you know, there are essentially, in modern capitalist modernity two kinds of social ordering. There’s the economic order and there’s the status-cultural order. And these things interpenetrate one another as the double-sided arrow is meant to illustrate in the middle. But for the economic order — in the first case, the economic structure of society constitutes and conditions the social position of classes, broadly defined, through both maldistribution and political juridical subordination.
[00:34:21] So in familiar terms, maldistribution distribution may occur through exploitation, the appropriation of surplus value generated by labor, economic marginalization or exclusion, and deprivation, among other means. Of course it can also happen because the political order, so to speak, if we were to add a third and she discusses this as well, the rights that actually allow capitalists to accumulate and determine what to do with the resources that are collectively generated, those sorts of things. So it’s not just a matter of distribution and redistribution, but it might also be a question of redistribution and revolution. And so she discusses that in this book that I’m drawing from. So the remedy for this problem of mass distribution and political, economic subordination, redistribution, perhaps revolution.
[00:35:07] For the status cultural order, the second case, the status dimension of subordination in this dimension, injustice is not anchored in the economic structure of society per se, but in its status order, where institutionalized patterns of cultural value regulate social interaction, bestowing esteem, respect and prestige to some culturally defined categories of social actors, and this esteem, disrespect and stigma or nonrecognition to others. Here, the injustice of mis-recognition may inhere in that the basement of extant social activities or the fabrication of new social activities through related processes of cultural imposition and domination. And so the remedy here would be recognition or deconstruction.
[00:35:47] And so I want to say before I move on from this slide, that on the economic order, I say the social position of class is broadly defined because Fraser, and I agree, also thinks of race as being firmly a part of the economic order — of course, the status order as well. But what the point of all this is to demonstrate is that when we’re thinking about reparations, we’re really thinking about these two social orderings and repair in these two social orderings along the lines of redistribution or revolution and recognition or deconstruction. And so when we think about it in these terms, we can see how broad or capacious or reparations program could and perhaps should be.
[00:36:28] And so from this discussion of the two social ordering and connecting this to conversations around idealism and materialism, we then have a situation where we have two sets of claims — some are factual, descriptive, historical explanatory claims, and then the second group of claims could be causal/predictive claims. And so we look at the literature on slavery, for example, or racism, there is always this debate between what happened first, right? The discursive kind of minded scholars will say, well, you know, misrepresentation or the status subordination of African people, then kind of created somehow the slave systems of the new world. I actually don’t think that’s a very convincing account. I think the materialist account is much more persuasive, which is along the terms that I laid out earlier when I read this quote from Shelby about the misrecognition of Africans being used to legitimate the system of domination in the form of racial slavery.
[00:37:34] But let me get let me get back to the claim. So the claims for the fact for the first group, for the factual, descriptive, historical explanatory claims, we can think one) misrecognition cause maldistribution and or political-economic subordination, two) political-economic subordination caused maldistribution or three) maldistribution and/or political-economic subordination caused misrecognition. Just in terms of how we think about this historically. And on the predictive kind of end we have these other claims: four) recognition solves misrecognition. Pretty straightforward. Five) Recognition solves maldistribution and/or political-economic subordination, pretty interesting. And six) redistribution solves maldistribution or political-economic subordination — and/or right. And seven) redistribution solves misrecognition.
[00:38:22] And so I said that the two modes of social ordering are interpenetrating, but, of course, it clearly doesn’t suffice to have a program that’s purely discursive and let’s talk about each other’s feelings and things like that and assume as a liberal individual’s framework would, by the way, that from that we will get along better and people will be moved by rational criticism and so forth. And the reason that that’s naive is because of the things that I mentioned when we talked about ideology. At least if you’re thinking about this in terms of materialist terms — the non-cognitive motives that actually are responsible for belief attachment in those cases. And so I’m pointing this out not to deny that either the status order or the economic order is more important than the other. But to point out that there are different causal relationships that emerge from these different schools of thought in these different perspectives on racial inequality.
[00:39:16] And so let’s take this discussion now to the two programs of Minneapolis in Saint Paul to see if there are any differences between these two programs. And so here are the objectives of of each city with regard to the truth and reconciliation and reparations. So these are straight from the resolutions. So for Minneapolis, the ultimate objective of the reconciliation and transformational racial healing process is to name and address the harms that have perpetuated racial disparities by implementing specific solutions with a prioritized focus on healing with historically Black American descendants of slavery and American Indian/Indigenous communities, recognizing that issues of anti-Blackness and native sovereignty continue to perpetrate harm against all groups. And so we see that they intend to name and address the harms.
[00:40:06] In the case of Saint Paul, it says in the resolution, the Saint Paul Recovery Act Community Reparations Commission shall be empowered to make short, medium and long-term recommendations to specifically address the creation of generational wealth for the American descendants of chattel slavery and to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community and strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in home ownership, health care, education, employment and pay and fairness with criminal justice among the American descendants of chattel slavery. So there’s a more explicit redistributive focus here. But we could assume, for all intents and purposes, that Minneapolis is talking about the same kinds of things that Saint Paul is talking about, because they did say to name and address the harms that have perpetuated racial disparities.
[00:40:51] Another notable difference is that Minneapolis is incorporating in their program the historical and contemporary and present grievances of two political communities and identities, Back American descendants of slavery, right, and American Indian/Indigenous communities. Whereas the Saint Paul model is actually only addressing the political grievances of Black Americans. So that’s a notable difference. But as I said, let’s see if apart from that, there are differences in terms of political theory and social theory.
Rashad Williams: [00:41:25] And so one way to do this through ideological analysis is textual analysis. And so we’ve read those objectives. We can’t really get a clear sense if there is a difference at all. We can’t really reconstruct the ideology or belief system from that. And I say ideology in that case, in both negative or positive terms, let’s say neutral terms. And so let’s read more of the resolution. And so there are many whereas clauses in both resolutions, of course, before they say now, therefore be it resolved, we will do this thing, we will have these commissions.
[00:42:00] And so in Minneapolis, the most important one that I’m plucking out here is that it says whereas racism against African Americans and American Indians has various forms, including historical, individual, internalized interpersonal, institutional, systemic and structural, that has not only continued to this day, but has transformed to ensure the concentration of material power and resources in the hands of white-bodied individuals, etc., etc.. Therefore, let it be resolved that we will have a commission. And for the St Paul whereas clauses, I think these two are most illuminating. It says Whereas the institution of slavery in the United States, beginning in 1619 and continuing through 1863, enriched American industries, commercial and financial corporations, and transform the newly established United States into an international economic power through the oppressive, dehumanizing and torturous system of enslaved Black labor. And, whereas, in the aftermath of slavery, African American citizens of this country continued to face brutal discrimination as evidenced by Jim Crow, forced segregation, mass atrocities in Tulsa and Rosewood, the lynching period and to this day, mass incarceration, etc., etc..Therefore, be it resolved.
[00:43:05] So from these two, we see that they both have an awareness of and a focus on racism at not just an interpersonal, individual level, but also at a structural level. They’re talking about the enrichment of white-bodied individuals here. The role of corporations and the material interests behind racial subjugation and so forth. And so this is not just something like, hey, we think this is just recognition based. It’s just interpersonal in the minds of it, of individual white Americans or that individual white bias in the aggregate is responsible for the disparities that we see. At least that’s what we’re led to believe based on this amount of data that we have. And so we still don’t really have enough to really reconstruct these belief systems. Or at least to tell if they’re at all different, these two programs.
[00:43:58] And so moving from textual analysis to direct inquiry, and I didn’t go through how you do ideological analysis, but you do pay attention to these two things, because of course, words can be misleading and actors can engage in dissimulation and so forth. Rhetoric, empty rhetoric, so forth. So you really have to find a way to basically get to the truth, get to the bare beliefs. And so that’s why we are here now on direct inquiry. So in interviewing the Minneapolis legislator responsible, the author of this Resolution for Truth Reconciliation, I was told people say, what’s the difference between Minneapolis and Saint Paul? In my mind, there’s no difference. You’ve got to tell the truth and then you’ve got to reconcile. There’s no reconciliation without reparation. So to me, reparation is implied. The word reparations is so loaded, I think, in our society that you can just have a more fruitful and productive conversation in my mind, talking about it in terms of reconciliation
[00:44:54] And so it’s no different. It’s just a term analogical difference, right, because the term reparations is too politically contentious. And so from a Minneapolis public administrator who I interviewed who worked with the Race and Equity office, I was told that out of this will come housing change out of this will come reparation out of this will come the dismantling of policies and procedures that continue to harm Indigenous and Black folks. And so. It’s the same thing, apparently. As far as we know.
[00:45:24] Well, then I decided to interview the community members who were appointed to these bodies, the body that was to plan out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is now ongoing. And what one of them told me was pretty interesting because it was so radically different from what I had heard from the public officials. And they said reparations was outside the bounds of our charge. It doesn’t show up in the report or what was ultimately the working group’s guidelines or suggestions for the TRC. I think what the city hopes for is a realistic and detailed historical reckoning. I know there are some City council members who see the TRC as a step toward reparation. If you’re not going to address reparations, then what’s the point? It’s like putting on the pads and the helmet and you’re all geared up and then you don’t even play the game. So a pretty scathing response.
[00:46:13] Another one of the workgroup members I interviewed said right now it feels like a wasted exercise. I think St Paul’s, ironically, they point to the other city — I think the Saint Paul reparations process is going to be very important and valuable. I think that’s going to offer some real glimpses on the importance of why reparations needs to be central to these conversations. And the Minneapolis one, it’s yet to be determined how reparations will play a role. But I think it’s essential that if we’re going to actually address the truths that we discover through this truth process, we need a reparations process and a concept for that. So now we have some different ideas about what’s actually happening. Perhaps it’s not actually the same as I was told. And as we were led to believe.
[00:46:57] And then so I go further into textual analysis and I actually look at what kinds of things have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or at least the Race and equity office that’s overseeing this in Minneapolis — what have they done and what have they kind of signaled, is their way of thinking about this? And so what they’ve done so far is two things. One, they’ve used the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a racial equity statement. And so on a number of other resolutions that the city has passed and other measures that the city has taken, it simply just refers to the city’s commitment to truth and reconciliation. So it says, you know, we’re doing this and this is consistent with our commitment to truth and reconciliation. This is consistent with our commitment to diversity or this is consistent with our commitment to whatever. And so that’s one thing.
[00:47:45] The other thing that the city has done is to implement this critical community conversations program. And it’s quite telling. If we think back to those two social orderings, the economic order and the status order, it’s quite telling where you would slot this and sort of where they’re going with this. And so long story short, there are the familiar kinds of buzzwords that we see today. Let’s see, provide space, you know, deepen learning with their own racialized cultural groups, as well as in large group conversations, dialogue and self-reflection, cross-cultural trust building, bi-directional learning spaces and so forth. And so essentially we’re going to come together and we’re going to talk about this. Whoever is interested in coming together, of course, right? So we’re going to come together and talk about this. And somehow from this kind of program and this approach that the committee members told me that is going on, we arrive at this kind of idea that out of this will come housing change, out of this will come reparations, out of this will come the dismantling of policies and procedures that continue to harm Indigenous and Black folks. So I’ll just leave that there.
[00:48:57] Going back to our claims now. Let’s try to understand what these two approaches, let’s say, to reparative planning, where do they fall with regard to these claims? So we want to understand each city’s theory of change. That is how and by what routes are actors understand racial disparities, economic, political and moral to be surmountable. Knowing that the Minneapolis actors believe the TRC is inconsequential terms no different from Saint Paul CRC in addressing specifically economic racial disparities and giving Minneapolis’s actors discursive means of achieving these same ends, it is logical to conclude that the Minneapolis project is premised on beliefs four and five, so that is recognition solves misrecognition and recognition solves maldistribution.
[00:49:38] And so I wanted to make sure I included all of this. So I just want to give you a sense of what I’ve been writing about so far. So I’m going to just have two paragraphs here that I’ll read for you. There are several ways that recognition might be believed to produce redistribution. Here, we can only provide plausible accounts of our actors beliefs about the causes of relationships between culture and economy. One account might be that the framers of the Minneapolis process, the city by abstraction, believe racism in all forms reflects the aggregation of individual whites racial animus. If this were true, the solution would be to target racist beliefs and actions through anti-racist education and anti-discrimination measures. In other words, through a liberal individualist framework. It is unlikely, however, that this accurately reflects the belief of the city, given its rhetorical commitment to address structural and institutional racism, albeit through racial healing.
[00:50:24] A more likely account is that the city believes that a broad conversation around racism, as one of the interviewees stated, is the prerequisite for a redistributive program and that this conversation can effectively shift through moral suasion, public opinion into more favorable terrain. Still, a third normative rather than causal possibility exists, for it could be the case that the city believes any solution should be derived democratically through communicative rationality, so to speak.
[00:50:52] And so again, the city is aware — or the folks involved in the truth and reconciliation discussion in Minneapolis, including the Race and Equity office, are aware of both dimensions. This is actually something from their presentation, they talk about justice policy and systems on one dimension and reconciliation and relational interpersonal dynamics on the other dimension. But from what we can tell, that’s not the focus, and we have it directly from the committee members.
[00:51:18] So what I want to point out, secondly, with regard to what was just said here, whichever of these three beliefs the city holds, all of them are vulnerable to well-established social theoretical critiques. The idealism of the first belief would have to withstand materialist criticisms, namely from Marxists and critical race materialists on the insufficiency of moral suasion. Meanwhile, the second belief, not unlike the first, seems to presuppose an enlightenment rationalism, which, together with the third belief, views the crisis initiated by the murder of George Floyd as an opportunity for a supposedly causally efficacious moral conversation, for example, knowledge and true telling equals progress. This Enlightenment rationalism would need to confront the findings of historical institutionalists and other scholars of policy change who argue that radical change occurs given the confluence of an opportunity window with a well-established alternative policy idea.
[00:52:10] Assuming racial reparations will constitute a radically divergent or different policy paradigm, one might reasonably ask why such an alternative idea set politically unfavorable during times of normal politics, should be introduced only after the potential closure of an opportunity window. To propose reparations after public pressure for radical change has subsided is politically dubious. And so there’s my response to that. And so that’s the ideological analysis. And you can see from that there are different ways of thinking about reparations and reparative planning and different ways of thinking about anti-racism and those different ways, perspectives on anti-racism really inform the content of reparative planning.
[00:52:53] So third, what should reparative planning do and be? And here I’m actually writing this paper currently, and it’s about something I’m calling or using the term at least to describe it, because the term exist elsewhere, of course, but critical race materialism. And so if we go back to this kind of structuralist perspective within the racism school, I laid out these two different approaches, path-dependent white supremacy and intrinsically racial capitalism. And so depending on where one falls, depending on one’s larger social philosophy, the implications for reparations are huge, right? And so I’m not going to go into too much of this, but I’ll say that if the goal or if the kind of conceptualization is of path-dependent white supremacy within this perspective, most folks understand the connection between racism or white supremacy and capitalism, to be very obvious, to be functional even, right, prior to the civil rights movement. So prior to 68, let’s say.But then it’s argued that white supremacy after that point attains a relative autonomy, where it’s sort of operating independently to some extent of the economic order or maybe economic order is not the best way to describe it, but of capitalism.
[00:54:08] And so, long story short, is that proponents of this view work toward and theorize the possibility of a nonracial capitalism. And so if that’s the case, the implication for reparations is that corrective justice is sufficient to actually constitute effective reparations. But if you’re on the other view that capitalism is inherently racist or racial in nature, that it requires the diminished kind of personhood or the political subjectivation of particular groups so that they can be expropriated for the process of capital accumulation as theories of racial capitalism hold, then adequate reparations actually has to go beyond corrective justice which is limited. It has to go to distributive justice, which has implications for how we think about distribution of benefits and burdens in society wholesale. Reparations in that case has to be a much broader rather than narrow procedure.
[00:55:05] So the implications for urban planning and reparative planning then get us into this kind of conversation where, well, what if we looked at the housing market as an example of what’s implied by these different approaches, radically antiracist reparative planning approaches, I would say. And so one perspective might not necessarily emphasize the market in and of itself as it presently exists as necessarily bad or inherently bad, but the property differentials at different rates of homeownership or wealth and those sorts of things. And so you redistribute and the rest would sort of work itself out.
[00:55:45] And another perspective might say, no, we have a predatory housing market — that it’s kind of baked into the market, that white spaces are valorized and that Black spaces are stigmatized. And since markets are a social construction and to the extent that whites are driven by their material interest, this is something that cannot be detached. Whites don’t want to live next to Blacks because they perceive it’s bad for the property values or what have you. And it becomes a self-fulfilling, you know, a kind of fait accompli. And even when you do look at Black homeownership, when you look at homes and Black neighborhoods and homes and white neighborhoods and control for what we call the Zillow metrics, neighborhood quality schools and things like that, even when you control for those things and you’re looking at apples to apples, Black homes in those neighborhoods are valued at 23% less, right? Sometimes 50% less because of nothing but the racial signification.
[00:56:47] And so if that’s the case, we have to think much more deeply about what reparative planning will be. Maybe it will be alternative forms of development as some folks say — whether that’s community land trusts or cooperative housing or what have you. And so that’s where I’m at writing this. And I’ll end there so that we can go into Q&A. I hope I didn’t take too long. And I think I did take too long. I’m so sorry.
Julian Agyeman: [00:57:15] Rashad, what a fantastic, I mean — I’m just reading — people want you to contact them. In Berkeley, in San Francisco. The work you’re doing is so fresh and it is so relevant, I think. But we are out of time. Rashaad, can I suggest that people with questions contact Rashad, you can just Google him. It’s University of Pittsburgh. Or Rashad can just throw his email into the chat. But can we give a fantastic Tufts thank you to Rashad Williams, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Rashad Thank you.
Rashad Williams: [00:57:51] Thank you. Thank you.
Julian Agyeman: [00:57:52] And I would like Colloquium will be November the 30th. Professor Yasminah Beebeejaun of University College London will talk about “Whose Diversity? Race, space, and planning” — and particularly interested in this because she’s going to look at differentials between the UK and the US on race and planning. But again, Rashad, thank you and good luck in your tenure at Pittsburgh. Thank you.
Rashad Williams: [00:58:17] Thank you so much.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:58:23] We hope you enjoyed this week’s lecture. You can access the video, transcript, and graphic recordings of Rashad Williams’s presentation on Shareable.net — there’s a direct link in the show notes. As Julian mentioned our next live online event is Wednesday, November 30th, when we’ll feature Julian Yasminah Beebeejaun’s lecture “Whose Diversity? Race, space, and planning.” Please click the link in the episode notes to register for a free ticket. If you can’t be there next week, you could always find the recording right here on the podcast.
[00:58:53] Cities@Tufts Lectures is produced by Tufts University and Sharable with support from the Kresge, Barr, and Shift Foundations. Lectures are moderated by Professor Julian Agyeman and organized in partnership with research assistants Caitlin McLennan and Deandra Boyle. “Light Without Dark” by Cultivate Beats is our theme song, Robert Raymond is our audio editor, Zanetta Jones manages communications, Alison Huff manages operations, Anke Dragnet illustrated the graphic recording, Caitlin MacLennan created the original portrait, and the series is produced and hosted by me, Tom Llewellyn. Please hit subscribe, leave a rating and 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.
Rashad Williams: [00:59:37] When you look at the discourse around reparations and the debates around reparations, you’ll find everything — and these are coming from the left, as well as reparations being framed as a right-wing conspiracy, right, and reparations being framed as this radical redistributive policy that we should have done forever ago. And so how do you understand what’s going on here? Why are there these radically different ideas about what reparations is? Even for folks who are in good faith committed to justice? And it’s because reparations is actually being conceived of in different terms from a liberal culturalist school or a liberal individualist perspective and sometimes through a structuralist school.