June 2, 2020
Dear GSAPP Community,
I write to express my commitment to addressing how racial injustice, bias, and violence course through and underpin our own discipline in visible and invisible ways. The deep pain, anger, and suffering that we have experienced and witnessed this past week is the pain, anger, and suffering of a long history of violent discrimination, disinvestment, and harm toward Black people in this country. To everyone grieving and calling for action in our community—our admired and beloved faculty, students, alumni, and staff—GSAPP stands with you in solidarity.
The recent tragic killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police, of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and far too many others, come on the heels of a pandemic that has devastated communities of color in disproportionate numbers—laying bare the enduring inequities that shape the built world, and life and death in it. Both crises have revealed how the right to breathe is determined unevenly according to race, and how cities, across the US and the world, are at the front lines of these struggles—for justice and accessible housing, for climate action and clean water, for mobility and resilient infrastructures. As architects, planners, preservationists, designers, developers, and educators—dedicated to imagining more livable, more supportive, more equal, more sustainable environments—this is a reminder that we must be persistent in eradicating the prejudice and intolerance that cuts across access to these environments in cities around the world.
We must ask ourselves: Have we done enough to undo the systemic racism that is at the foundation of our disciplines and practices? Have we done enough to register the biases we all carry? While we have strived to be better and to do better, we must persist and be resolute in doing more.
We must stay present in this moment to recognize its specificity, to resist the urge to reduce it to yet another episode of repeated history, and to speak not empty words of change but take in what is being asked of us in this moment of intense racial trauma.
We must listen to what is being demanded in the loudest of gestures and spoken in the softest of silences—for this act of listening is and must be at the foundation of our ongoing work as architects and educators.