11.S951 / 11.S188
Racial Justice Teach-In For Urban Studies and Planning

This course will take place during the first five weeks of time previously scheduled for Gateway, it is open to all students in DUSP.

Throughout 2020, critical failures of urbanism have been laid bare. Primary among them is the oppression and violence engendered in the United States by slavery and racism and elsewhere in the world by the legacies of colonialism and exclusions based on race, class, religion, and gender. Yet, a longstanding idea about cities is that these are places to bring diverse people together. As disciplines focused on built environments, urban design, planning, and development are uniquely suited to develop innovative practices and critical knowledge to answer this call. At the same time, our disciplines, and DUSP within it, are implicated in the exclusionary institutions, policies, practices, and designs that have led to this current moment. Crises can also bring openness to new, generative ideas and practices. COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement call us to imagine again what is required to build inclusive, thriving, and sustainable cities. A failure to transform ourselves in light of these crises—both structural and acute—places our relevance at risk. 

We propose a five-week teach-in process to prepare the entire DUSP community— faculty, students, and staff—to answer the call of the moment. The teach-in will use a transitional justice framework, which is in general a means to reckon with (often hidden) histories of human rights abuses, understand implications for the present, and identify paths forward to the future. Our work will be animated by the question, “What would planning look like if it were to radically confront its painful past of identity-based violence, exclusions, and oppressions; recalibrate our present practices and knowledges to respond; to envision more just environments?” We will center issues of racial and social justice, multi-racial community, and critical self-reflection as a means to build a better practice. We will think differently about difference, asking ourselves to consider the role and effect of power in driving injustice. We will ground our conversation in diverse and cutting-edge thinking while paying heed to the lessons, traumas, and advances of the past. Throughout, we will have a practical eye on the future.