Buttigieg says America’s highways are racist and infrastructure bill will help fix it

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (AP)
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US transport secretary Pete Buttigieg said highway designs in the country were “racist,” and claimed that the new infrastructure bill would help fix it.

Mr Buttigieg was asked about the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress last week during an interaction with reporters on Monday. He was also questioned about his plans to “deconstruct the racism that was built into the roadways.”

This was in reference to his earlier stand that racism was “physically built” into highways.

“I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a black neighbourhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach — or that would have been — in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” Mr Buttigieg responded.

“I don’t think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality,” he added. “And I think we have everything to gain by acknowledging it and then dealing with it, which is why the Reconnecting Communities — that billion dollars — is something we want to get to work right away putting to work.”

When pressed about whether any highways would be removed, he said the approach would vary by community.

“It’s going to vary by community and we have to listen to the community,” Mr Buttigieg said. “Sometimes it really is the case that an overpass went in a certain way that is so harmful that it’s got to come down or maybe be put underground. Other times maybe it’s not that way. Maybe the really important thing is to connect across, to add rather than subtract.”

His comments, however, sparked mixed reactions on social media.

“The roads are racist. We must get rid of roads,” mocked Ted Cruz, a Republican senator, in a tweet. “You see, we Hispanics are very, very tall, and we need rich, woke Dems to raise the bridges for us. Without Pete’s condescending help, there’s no way we can get to the beach…”

“Wild to me how many people laughing at Buttigieg in the replies think he’s making this up and apparently have never heard of Robert Moses. It’s literally one of the most famous examples of deliberately racist highway designs!” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst, wrote.

Many others also referred to Moses, a New York City master builder in the 1950s. Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker highlights Moses’ alleged orders to make bridges low so as to prevent easy travel.

“I read The Power Broker years ago and still get mad at Moses every time I drive through NYC,” one user wrote. “Some of the damage may never be undone. And for those questioning – Moses relentlessly targeted POC. Multiple examples in the book.”

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