The organization PolitiFact rated “True” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s recent comment that racism is “physically built into some of our highways.”
Buttigieg, who has been the point person for promoting President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.5 trillion “infrastructure” plan, has made “equity” a central theme, often arguing there were racial motivations behind past transportation projects.
“There is racism physically built into some of our highways, and that’s why the jobs plan has specifically committed to reconnect some of the communities that were divided by these dollars,” Buttigieg told The Grio April 6 amid a media blitz.
PolitiFact’s investigation was premised on a tweet from the Young America’s Foundation that ridiculed Buttigieg’s claim, saying, “This is not parody.”
This is not parody. pic.twitter.com/bzbplAnfqO
— YAF (@yaf) April 10, 2021
The fact-checking outfit admitted in its review that Buttigieg’s office assisted the effort when it “provided links to articles on the subject.”
Even in cases where it’s hard to document whether racist thinking explicitly drove highway construction, the existence of divided and weakened neighborhoods in so many cities has been “racist in effect,” said Earl Swift, author of The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways. …
“In hindsight, we correctly understand that a tacit racism was a part of many of the planners’ decisions,” said Tom Lewis, the author of Divided Highways and a professor of English at Skidmore College. “It was rarely, if ever, overt. Planners had little guidance other than to create a safe highway at the least possible cost.”
But he added: “The effects on the underrepresented, especially Blacks and Latinos, were devastating.”
PolitiFact rated Buttigieg’s statement as “True,” concluding, “In city after city, highways of the Interstate era and before have prompted the demolition or fragmentation of Black neighborhoods,” and cited historians who claimed “to a combination of racism, lower acquisition costs for real estate, and weaker political muscle to oppose the projects” were to blame.