I received the following via email from a parking planner in Virginia:
A thought in response to your musings on parking and race –
I don’t believe that parking ordinances or policies such as RPP are racist, but I do believe that they can be used for discriminatory purposes. Residents of primarily white single-family communities can and do seek out permit restrictions to prevent primarily minority residents of nearby multi-family housing from parking on their residential street. Some residents aren’t even cagey about it – they will be clear that they want to prohibit minorities from parking on their street, and they couch it as a health, safety and welfare issue even when there is no evidence of such problems. Of course they don’t always get the requested restrictions, but the racism lies in the residents’ intent. I imagine any parking planner that deals with RPP has received at least one request that they could identify as sought for discriminatory purposes.
I think we should look at these programs for the potential for disparate impact in the ways that residents seek to use the programs rather than consider the program itself inherently racist. RPP near work centers, transit, universities and high schools are implemented to protect the residential character of streets and reserve parking for residents, not for discriminatory purposes. It’s the neighborhood vs. multi-family RPP requests where the intent gets sketchy.
Is it possible we find racism wherever we look. I am certain there are racists in the woodwork, but as noted in my previous blog, is it possible we are imperfect and in attempting to keep our neighborhood ‘pristine’ we sweep up everyone in our net.
We have all types of people who park in front of our home. Some drive Tesla’s and Corvettes, others broken down VW vans that they have to work on daily to keep running. Race aside, I would prefer that broken down cars, filled with trash, not be parked on my street.
Using your example above, it would seem to be OK to keep minorities out who attend a local school, or use the transit station nearby, or work in local shops, but not OK to keep minorities out who live nearby. It is difficult to see the difference. Unless, I’m not keeping minorities out, but keeping cars that don’t belong to people living in my neighborhood out no matter the race of the owner.
We are quick to apply reasons for actions, whether those reasons are valid or not.