Racism? Here’s what I think…


Racism? Here’s what I think…

With the furor surrounding Black Lives Matter and the tendency to find racism in virtually everything, I find it difficult to write about it. Simply put, I don’t believe that systemic racism nor ‘a racist under every rock’ exist in America today. Are there racists in America? Of course there are. We are human beings and as such are by definition flawed.

However Parking Today will not become like the editorial page of the New York Times where freedom of speech means the speech I believe. We will print both sides.

I agree whole-heartedly that many of the draconian rules parking enforcement has put in place need to be changed and I have written extensively on the subject. 

This all began a few weeks ago when Paul Barter’s blog, Reinventing Parking, ran a piece in which an interviewee posited that neighborhood parking programs, and parking minimums were racist. That followed on with me receiving a thoughtful piece carrying on the same line from consultant Michael Connor. I then asked Tony Jordan of the Parking Reform Network to provide an article from his point of view. He coauthored the article with the folks who were quoted in Paul’s blog. These pieces are found on the previous four pages.

I have written briefly about the issue in my blog and received some comments, pro and con. You are welcome to run them down there. You can find the blog through our web site: parkingtoday.com

Michael Connor writes eloquently about the parking permit programs and how they can discriminate against minorities and the poor. I disagree. They discriminate against everyone who does not live in the area in which the program was set up. That’s what rules do. They discriminate against some individuals or another. If the sign says don’t walk on the grass, then I discriminate against those who want to walk, or sleep on the grass. If I want to keep people who work at a nearby hospital or eat at a nearby restaurant to shop at a retail center nearby from parking in front of my house, then I am discriminating against them. Their skin color or income level has little or nothing to do with it. 

Now, I may be wrong in trying to keep them from parking in front of my house, and may be mistaken that I own the street in front of my home, and even though the Supreme Court says the parking programs are OK, they may, in fact, be such that they cause undue hardships on those living nearby. However, that still isn’t racist. It’s just that I want to protect the streets in my neighborhood and keep folks who don’t live there, not just minorities, from storing their cars there. I think Michael may sell the position that these programs are problematic, but I feel strongly he misses the racist mark. Is there a shred of evidence that current programs, those, say, put in place after 1970, are racist? I don’t think so.

I’m sure that I can take the position that the fire hydrant in front of my house was placed there to protect only white people. After all, the city government in Los Angeles is racist, so therefore it is impossible for the fire department or the public works department to place fire hydrants based on the population, number of residences, or a code that goes to just how long the typical fire hose is. It must have been put there because white people live nearby.

As for parking minimums, which are being removed in cities across the country, I’m sure it’s not possible that they were originally put in place so that people in apartments would have places to park their cars. It doesn’t seem to me that they were necessary to limit minorities living there as Jim Crow laws and redlining were much more effective in ensuring that minorities didn’t move into white neighborhoods. The fact that those laws have been gone for more than half a century seems to have made no difference to this conversation.

If your goal is to find racism, you will. A group of merchants asks the city to install parking meters because they want places for their customers to park. That could immediately be deemed racist because you are charging for parking and after all, minorities cannot afford to pay for the parking. The merchants must only want white male customers to come in and spend their money, even if the merchants themselves are Hispanic, Asian, or Black. 

I agree whole-heartedly that many of the draconian rules parking enforcement has put in place need to be changed and I have written extensively on the subject. However, we should recognize these rules affect everyone, not just minorities. 

I agree with Michael that if there are changes that need to be made, we should make them. I disagree that the reasons for those changes must be to correct a policy that wasn’t racist to begin with. Many rules set down by parking operations in cities have been changed over the past few years after it was pointed out that their complex or unfair nature was unsustainable. Fair enough. Change them, fix them. But for myself, I have left my hair shirt in the closet.

John Van Horn is Editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com or through his blog at www.parkingtoday.com.

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