Silence is No Longer Acceptable

This has been such a difficult week.  The news coming out of Minneapolis and St. Paul is heartbreaking.  On top of everything else . . . I don’t have words. But as a team we came together to try to find them. Tamika Butler, Toole Design’s Director of Equity and Inclusion and Director of Planning for California, and members of Toole Design’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force wrote the piece below. As a firm, we stand behind it and with the many people currently struggling to process the events of this week.

Silence is no longer acceptable.

This morning, our country is waking up to images that are being described by some as thugs looting and setting things on fire. That is not what we see. We see streets and public spaces being claimed and used for and by people who have suffered for too long under systems of systemic racism and white supremacy. We see an uprising. We see calls for action. We see people who simply cannot stand by silently wishing for peace when they are all too aware of the absence of justice.

Awareness is no longer enough.

Simply being aware of the insidious ways that racism pervades every aspect of our society—including transportation—and saying that equity is important in the work can no longer move us forward. We can no longer ignore that when black people claim public space they are described as a threat, but other people are described as simply exhibiting their rights. We can no longer ignore that everyone living in this country is inhabiting stolen land that was looted and built up for free by enslaved labor. This is the context of our work and ignoring it means that we cannot create the transportation systems and public spaces that are truly for all people.

It is not the responsibility of black people, indigenous people, or people of color to fix this problem.

At Toole Design, we stand with the communities across the nation who are grieving, angry, and exhausted due to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and the far too long list of black people killed by police. It is especially heartbreaking that police violence against Black and brown communities continues unabated while those communities are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. We also know that many people of color, particularly women of color, have been fighting to change our industry for the better. They do this with patience, compassion, and empathy and as a service to the rest of us—but it should not be their job alone. We must listen, we must elevate voices, we must change.

We understand that we have a role to play in supporting our staff, the communities where we work, and our industry as we move towards justice. White people, who often hold power and privilege to control change and policy, must speak up and must act.

We are creating spaces for our staff to convene and process the impact that racism is having on their lives and their work. Some of those spaces will only be for people of color and specifically for black people. We are encouraging all staff who need it to take paid time off and be with their loved ones. We are encouraging all staff who can support local organizations with donations to express their solidarity. We are encouraging all staff to educate themselves about the role that police play in our communities and to ask for charges to be brought in the George Floyd case. Finally, we are asking all staff to work each day to confront how racism impacts all that we do.

In closing, Tamika Butler recently posted the following questions on her personal blog. We ask all our employees (especially our non-Black staff), colleagues, friends, and family members to consider them:

  1. Do I understand that not being racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist?
  2. Why am I so afraid to be brave enough to confront my power and privilege?
  3. What am I waiting for to de-center whiteness and realize just because I have never experienced it (or seen the research to prove it) doesn’t mean it isn’t real?
  4. What am I doing every single day to force myself to think about racism and white supremacy?
  5. What am I doing every single day to stop the killing of black people?

The time to act is now. We encourage everyone who has taken the time to read this to stop being silent, move past awareness, and realize that we all have a role to play in being anti-racist.

Image by Jenny Salita on Flickr.

Jennifer Toole

President | Owner
Jennifer Toole is the founder and President of Toole Design. She has over 30 years of experience planning and designing...
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