Reflections on the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death

The one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on the progress we have made, as well as the progress we haven’t made, in tackling systemic racism.  A year ago, my company – like many others – spoke out against the brutal murder of Mr. Floyd, and the racist policies that led to his death, as well as the deaths of countless other people of color.  We protested; we did our best to support our Black colleagues; and we pledged to step up our efforts to be an anti-racist company.  While discussions about racism were not new at Toole Design (we established our first DEI Task Force in 2017), there was a new sense of urgency, born out of a deep anger and frustration that decades of work to improve civil rights in the U.S. were not enough to save George Floyd.

Ensuring an Equitable Approach to Rebalancing Streets was published in February 2021.

In the year since, we have done a lot of things as a company to put equity at the center of our work. Internally, we have stepped up our efforts to hire more people of color and to become a company where all our staff can thrive, no matter their background. Externally, we’ve worked to build an even stronger equity framework for all our projects.  A lot of dedicated people who care deeply about these issues helped us make progress towards becoming an anti-racist company.  Our company newsletter next month will tell that story, in hopes that it might provide some inspiration to other companies who want to engage in this work.

Sadly, there are other areas where we have not made progress. For example, we still struggle to get diverse candidates for many of our job postings, particularly when we are recruiting for senior positions. We must do more to build interest in planning, engineering, and landscape architecture professions among people of color starting in high school so we can help nurture a new generation of talent. We need to do better at reaching Black and brown students in community college, universities, and especially HBCU’s. We need to do more to shine the light on racist policies that have shaped our cities and towns in ways that continue to devalue neighborhoods and widen inequities where people of color live.  We need to do these, and many other things.

Most of all, we need to keep our sense of urgency about affecting change.  George Floyd died a year ago. We have many more years of work ahead of us to consign racist policies and actions to the history books, so we can create communities where people of all ages, abilities, identities and backgrounds can thrive. I hope our readers will join us in honoring Mr. Floyd and rededicating ourselves to lasting change, in his memory.

Jennifer Toole

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