Race and equity have a fundamental impact on life in urban places. Even when they’re big, hairy, and uncomfortable, these issues are worth discussing and writing about.

With that in mind, here are nine provocative articles for urbanists (or anyone!) on the intersections of race, equity, policy, and life in urban places. 

Photo by Julian Ortiz on Flickr.

Everything on this list is an article (not a book), so the time commitment is relatively short.

In putting together this list, several people told me they disagreed with one of the articles, or that an article made them feel uncomfortable or challenged their long-held assumptions. Including each was intentional on my part, though the viewpoints in the articles don’t always represent my own, or those of Greater Greater Washington.

1. The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic

One of the longer reads on this list, The Case for Reparations is a look at the history of discriminatory housing policies and exploitative markets in America. Despite the title, reparations aren’t totally the point. Instead, Coates uses reparations to show that if we truly confronted the history and realities of racism in the US, it would mean a really big shift in how we live and act today.

If you read only one article on this list, make it The Case for Reparations.

2. Death in Black and White

Michael Eric Dyson - The New York Times

An essay on the dynamics of white privilege and the white viewpoint in the context of modern America published following the shooting deaths of Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile.

3. Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Ghettos

NPR Fresh Air (audio option)

An interview with Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute on the history of residential segregation as explicit and racially-purposeful policy legislated into existence at all levels of government in the US.

4. How your parents affect your chances of buying a home

Emily Badger - Washington Post Wonkblog

A super-easy read by the prolific Emily Badger, formerly of CityLab and now at the Washington Post. Until I was compiling this list, I didn’t realize how extensively Badger has written on these issues - chances are, you’ve probably missed this or another good read from her.

5. I, Racist

John Metta - Those People

A discussion and context on the pervasiveness structural racism in modern America, from urban policies to social systems to culture and beyond that challenges some of our ingrained unconscious beliefs head-on.

6. Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways

German Lopez - Vox

Tools for understanding (or explaining) the conflict between #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter.

7. America’s Insidious Eviction Problem

Gillian B. White - The Atlantic

An on-the-ground look at how the practice of removing tenants from their homes is exacerbating cycles of poverty, especially among minorities and women.

8. Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are not mutually exclusive

Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) - The Hill

A brief explanation of the decades of urban policies and funding that have bolstered militarized civilian policing, and how we got to where we are today.

9. The Role of Highways in American Poverty

Alana Semuels - The Atlantic

A history of the use of federal funds to build highways through most American cities, exploring specifically the economic effects that highways had and continue to have on our cities, especially in relation to people of color.

If you have a topic or article suggestion for a future GGWash reading list, email the author. If you have a suggestion on GGWash’s growing conversation on equity, race, and class, email GGWash.

Tagged: books, race, urbanism

Aimee Custis is a transportation nerd and activist. Her writing represents her own views. When she's not writing about WMATA or curating the GGWash Flickr pool, you’ll find Aimee at home in Dupont Circle, or practicing her other love, wedding photography.