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Why Tucker Carlson mocked Pete Buttigieg's claim of structural racism being baked into highway construction

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Pete Buttigieg and Tucker Carlson
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (L)/ Fox personality Tucker Carlson (R). Leah Mills/Reuters; Lucas Jackson/Reuters
  • Tucker Carlson mocked Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg on Monday for arguing that some US roadways are racist.

  • "Roads can't be racist ... they are inanimate objects," Carlson said.

  • But policymakers can embed segregation via their design choices, as famously depicted in Robert Caro's "The Power Broker."

The Biden administration wants to make US highways less racist. Tucker Carlson is scoffing at that. The disagreement illustrates what people mean when they say "structural racism," and what some still don't understand.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg raised the issue on Monday, when he touted the benefits of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. "If an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach ... was designed too low for it to pass by, that ... obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices," he said in a press conference.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson dedicated the final minutes of his Monday night show to mocking Buttigieg, saying the transportation secretary was one of the "dumbest people in the world" for claiming that inanimate infrastructure can be racist.

"Roads can't be racist. You can't build racism into a road," Carlson said. "They are inanimate objects. They are not alive. That seems obvious, but apparently, Pete Buttigieg didn't know it. Maybe he did know it, but he was afraid to say it."

The exchange illustrates how the left and right can talk past each other on the issue of structural racism. The left sometimes employs the phrase to describe an impersonal force that results from bureaucratic decisions made decades ago. Carlson chooses not to tackle that head-on, instead reducing the phrase to a punchline.

Buttigieg's example of a racist underpass harkens back to a story from "The Power Broker," a book by multiple Pulitzer-winning author Robert Caro that chronicles the career of New York political giant Robert Moses. The biography famously details how Moses worked to keep Black Americans from visiting Jones Beach on Long Island. His tool: road design.

The politician pushed officials to build certain bridges too low for some buses to pass, according to Caro. By blocking roadways connected to low-income communities, Moses forced buses to take "discouragingly long and arduous" routes to reach the beach. Moses also vetoed a Long Island Rail Road proposal that would've linked Jones Beach to poorer neighborhoods.

The roadways themselves might not be living, racist figures. But the people who established them were, and their decisions succeeded in advancing segregation.

In St. Louis, the four-lane Delmar Boulevard is colloquially known as the Delmar Divide, as it effectively separates predominately white areas from majority-Black neighborhoods, according to analysis from The Washington Post. Similar street-based divides can be seen in Chicago, Tampa, and Kansas City.

Racist city planning doesn't even need to be tangible. In Berkeley, California, residential-zoning laws were created to exclude a dance hall that would've likely brought Black people into a majority-white neighborhood. While the laws were invisible, they created "a foundation of racism in Berkeley," the city's mayor Jesse Arreguin told Insider in September.

Berkeley, in fact, was the earliest city to adopt exclusively single-family zoning in the early 1900s on the explicit grounds that it would exclude Blacks. As mayor, Arreguin has banned single-family zoning.

While some infrastructure cash will go toward addressing such racist planning, it's a tiny fraction of the entire package. Only $1 billion was allocated to the "Reconnecting Communities" program that aims to remove discriminatory infrastructure. That's down from $20 billion in Democrats' initial proposal, and less than 0.1% of the total package.

Still, the program is a promising start to addressing the country's racist legacy, Buttigieg said.

"I don't think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality. And I think we have everything to gain by acknowledging it and then dealing with it," he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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