Equity and Inclusion: A Renewed Commitment

As an individual and as owner of my firm, I have a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion. The words that follow are an attempt to explain why and what that means.

I’ve always considered myself a “good” person trying to do right in the world. Certainly no one chooses a career in urban planning for the fame or fortune. There was a moment (perhaps several) where I realized being a “good” person simply wasn’t enough. I’ve been influenced by recent books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond. These books reveal the systemic, historic, and pervasive inequities that have severely impacted our communities and our society. I believe planners and others who work in the built environment have a special responsibility to understand these inequities and to work to combat them.

“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same”

You know those songs on the radio that you don’t even like but somehow know the lyrics anyway? There is a song like that for me with a particular lyric that always sticks in my head, “sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” The song is likely about love but the idea has broad relevance and I often think of it when I think about my commitment to equity and inclusion. This is hard work. Planners in particular probably already feel responsible for solving society’s most difficult issues: housing affordability, climate change, the future of retail, obesity, autonomous vehicles, and how to get the projector to work at a public meeting. To commit to a personal responsibility for equity and inclusion can feel overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is the right thing and now is the time. For me, that means having tough conversations with people (including with myself). I’ve made small moves like changing up who I follow on social media, paying for the journalism from which I benefit, showing up, and donating. I’m intentional about where I’m spending my time and my money. Closer to home, I joined the Chicagoland Equity Network and will attend PolicyLink’s (sold out!) Equity Summit in Chicago next month. For me, committing to this work means:

  • We’ve got to get uncomfortable.
  • We’ve got to try things, be ready to fail, and try again.
  • We’ve got to be intentional with the words we use and the actions we take.

Committing to this work means remembering whom we serve and why we chose to work with communities. It includes what we say on our websites, what we say in public, who we invite to speak on panels, and whom we hire (employees and consultants). It includes creating processes and plans that are truly equitable and inclusive from start to finish.

Let’s commit to this work together.