Organizations Respond to the Unrest in the Wake of the Killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis

The American Institute of Architects, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The University of Minnesota, and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design are just some of the organizations that have made statements calling for equity, inclusivity, and change.

This page was originally published on Sunday, May 31, 2020, and we have added many more statements since then.

On June 10, 2020 the National Architectural Accreditation Board release the following statement on racial injustice:

Through the disparities of its impact across our communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed critical and long-standing inequities. Among them are access to essential resources: health care, housing, education, economic opportunity, and a fundamental expectation of security and safety in the public realm. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many others, have amplified these pervasive inequities. As our country grapples with the consequences of its enduring legacy of racism, the imperative to effect systemic change demands our individual and collective action.

The National Architectural Accreditation Board is committed to working with the collateral organizations of Architecture to realize meaningful change. The Conditions for Accreditation are the primary means by which the NAAB reviews US-based programs granting professional degrees in architecture. Mindful that architecture education has a direct impact on the environment we live in, NAAB developed with ACSA, AIA, AIAS, NCARB and NOMA the following requirements in the newly adopted 2020 Conditions for Accreditation. We are committed to ensuring that these requirements become more than platitudes. As a structure for continuous improvement, each accredited program must address:

  • The Shared Value of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Architects commit to equity and inclusion in the environments we design, the policies we adopt, the words we speak, the actions we take, and the respectful learning, teaching, and working environments we create. Architects seek fairness, diversity, and social justice in the profession and in society and support a range of pathways for students seeking access to an architecture education.
  • The Program Criteria of Social Equity and Inclusion: How the program furthers and deepens students’ understanding of diverse cultural and social contexts and helps them translate that understanding into built environments that equitably support and include people of different backgrounds, resources, and abilities.
  • The specific targeted actions that the program has taken since the previous NAAB visit to advance diversity and to ensure that a range of voices is represented in its academic units.

As an organization we are working with our collateral partners to broaden the diversity of our board and our visiting teams to ensure that a variety of perspectives are enlisted in shaping NAAB policy and reviewing academic programs. We also recognize that the Board, our staff, and our visiting teams must clearly understand and espouse the NAAB’s values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Focus on this topic as we move forward with implementation of the new Conditions is scheduled for this fall.

We stand with our collateral organizations in a commitment to create a space for dialogue and engagement that will bring about much-needed change. We believe that through the actions of each organization and through our collective actions, we can help to make a meaningful and lasting transformation in accredited education, within our profession, and in our country.

On June 5, 2020, The Architectural League of New York released the following statement from president Paul Lewis, executive director Rosalie Genevro, and the board and staff of The Architectural League:

The murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis—and the murders of Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others—lays bare, yet again, the pervasive and enduring racism that disfigures American society.

Simultaneous with these deaths, systemic racist violence shows itself as part of all of the converging crises of this moment: the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic collapse; climate change; our ongoing “everyday” crises of police brutality, housing insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, radically unequal and unjust education and criminal legal systems, and overarching economic inequality. Each of these sources of oppression in American society has had and is having massively disproportionate impacts on Black and brown Americans.

Every system, every institution in American society, including the discipline of architecture, is implicated. The built environment—our public, private, and civic spaces, and the ways we design, construct, and inhabit them—reifies lopsided power relationships, economic inequality, and thwarted opportunity. Through inadequately examined design, planning, and land-use decisions; through the negligent or malevolent location of infrastructure, “renewal,” and noxious uses in poor and minority neighborhoods; through embodying and failing to challenge the aggrandizement of Whiteness and the depreciation of Blackness and all other cultures in aesthetic, technological, and historical norms and values; through our inadequate commitment to helping provide the human right of adequate shelter and other basic needs, we perpetuate the status quo and the unjust world we have created.

Dismantling and rebuilding these systems and practices—and the very structures of American society—is not the work of a month or a year; it is work that must engage all of us, immediately, continuously, for a lifetime.

We commit The Architectural League to ongoing action for change.

On June 5, 2020, the American Society of Landscape Architects issued the following statement regarding the killing of George Floyd:

Black Lives Matter. Black Communities Matter.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) joins millions of people around the world in mourning the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a police officer.

ASLA recognizes that the brutal systems of slavery and Jim Crowism have dehumanized black people and weakened their communities. We also acknowledge that the planning and design of the built environment, including landscape architecture, has often had a disproportionate adverse impact on black communities. Systemic racism in the built environment has taken many forms, including redlining, urban renewal, and disinvestment. Environmental injustices, including lack of equitable access to clean air and water and greater concentrations of pollution, continue to plague these communities. Further, gentrification and displacement make it impossible for black communities to continue to exist. The landscape architecture profession can play a critical role in reversing these trends.

Public spaces have always been a critically important platform for the protest movement and democratic change. They have also become sites of violent confrontation and oppression against the black community. It is important that ASLA and others amplify the black narrative of these spaces.

ASLA stands in solidarity with black communities in the fight against racial injustice and police violence against black people. Moving forward, ASLA will deepen our partnership with the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN) to create a meaningful, sustainable plan of action to help guide the profession in addressing the wants and needs of black communities—no matter how much work and time it takes. Black Lives Matter.

On June 3, the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation released the following statement:

Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation is dedicated to values that address persistent inequities in society with a particular focus on women. We stand in solidarity with all our Black colleagues, both men and women, the entire Black community and with all those who live in fear of racial injustice and discrimination.

We support the search for truth and justice for the acts of violence against people of color by law enforcement. We condemn violence in all its forms, and we understand the structural inequalities that are motivating demonstrations across the country.Gender bias and systemic racism are flaws of the closed heart.

Our devastating isolation and the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on communities of color has created a toxic context of helplessness that begs for systemic redress. We look outward to our community and inward to ourselves to vigorously work together to build a better future for all of us.

On June 3, 2020, the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture released the following statement cosigned by president Rashida Ng, first vice president/president-elect Lynne Dearborn, and executive director Michael Monti:

Our hearts are heavy as we bear witness to lives lost as a result of deep-seated racial inequalities that pervade every sector of life in the United States and around the world.

The ACSA condemns the continual acts of violence against African Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We believe Black Lives Matter. The protests sparked by these events highlight the history of entrenched inequality experienced by people of color and Native/Indigenous people. We acknowledge the role of design in creating and perpetuating differential access to basic public services, including housing, green space, education, and health care, to name a few. We recognize the profession’s history of contributing to inequity through actions but also through inaction. We understand that architectural education has for too long accepted white privilege as the norm, limiting diverse voices and marginalizing the discipline’s impact on society.

We know some of our members have to navigate racism daily, while for others exploring racial issues will be new. ACSA needs to deepen our attention to racial equity. Through the training of our board and staff leaders, we are learning about historical systems of oppression and reflecting on reasons why past efforts to transform architectural education have not been effective enough. We have more to learn and more work to do.

ACSA is committed to making architectural education more accessible, inclusive, and equitable by initiating change through our volunteer committees and programs. From our growing understanding of overt and covert forms of racism and white privilege, we acknowledge the need for a comprehensive review of policies, programs, and procedural norms in ACSA and our member institutions to eradicate long-standing inequities.

Our recent efforts toward equity include presentations and publications related to race and racism, online discussions about equitable pedagogy, and data and research that highlight differential outcomes for women, people of color, and Native/Indigenous people in the discipline and profession. We also recognize that some of our members have been engaged in social-justice-oriented work for many years outside of ACSA.

Moving forward, we will use our forums to increase understanding and empower action. We invite members to join us in forging paths for a more just and equitable future for all people.

On June 2, 2020, The University of Southern California School of Architecture released the following statement from dean Milton S. F. Curry:

We at the USC School of Architecture mourn the tragic, unnecessary, and avoidable loss of another life, that of George Floyd, in the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis last week. We also affirm the power and meaning of thoughtful protest and civil disobedience in service of structural change for the betterment of all of our fellow Americans. We also reflect on the many lives of Black Americans that have been taken by the ravages of slavery and colonialism, abject violence in the form of beatings and lynchings, racial capitalism and exploitation, the overt and calculated criminalization of Black bodies in public and private spaces, and the many forms of racism that pervade virtually every facet of our society.

The Fourteenth Amendment—one of the so-called “Reconstruction Amendments”—outlawed slavery in 1868. Yet, as historian Eric Foner states in The Second Founding, “a state action interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment can be debilitating. It has been used, for example, in rulings that do not allow race to be taken into account in voluntary school desegregation programs, on the grounds that segregation today results not from laws, as in the past, but from ‘private choices’ that produced racially homogenous housing patterns” (The Second Founding, 173). While the Fourteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, through subsequent Supreme Court rulings and established precedent, the Amendment has been rendered irrelevant as a deterrent to racially injurious discrimination from the actions that have come to replace the overt physicality and brutality of chattel slavery, namely other forms of racism that become entrenched in our society’s infrastructures.

Private actions, state actions, and intentionally racially harmful policies. While it is true that unconscious racial bias cannot be made to disappear overnight, an intersectional approach to address the root causes of racism (and other forms of discrimination) will yield the most productive results. The level of entrenched poverty, environmental and health precarity, underinvestment in public education and housing, dearth of public space, and the disconnection from viable sources of fresh food and water—in many urban and inner-city areas with high concentrations of Black Americans—represent a failure of our collective will and a failure of our collective imagination. The university must be an ally of those who seek to imagine new forms of justice, new forms of egalitarian conditions within our cities and metropolitan regions, and new forms of sociality that enable us to build social bonds with complete strangers within a commonly held set of values. The intellectual project of the university is simultaneously a deeply democratic project based on a core intention and determinate aspiration that accessibility for all yields opportunity and upward social mobility.

At the USC School of Architecture, we see architects as citizens with a unique set of skills to enable the co-creation of new knowledge and action, amongst and between students, faculty and communities. Collectively, we too are the guardians of the democratic space and civic imaginations that breathe life into the consciousness of persons of all races, ethnicities, and identities. To the greatest extent possible, we are collectively called upon to develop, curate, enact and learn from the desperately needed structural changes in our society that will banish structural racism to the annals of history—not at some point in the distant future, but within our lifetime. The principles and values that motivate us as practitioners, designers and scholars must be in alignment with how we organize our school, invest in our collective future, and innovate with purpose and intentionality. I am proud of our students, faculty and staff for assisting in executing our strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. But I also want to challenge all of us to think about specific ways in the coming academic year that we can—together—develop syllabi, courses, seminars, and research projects on how to address structural racism in the built environment. I look forward to soliciting ideas in advance of announcing some specific actions that we can undertake as an intellectual community. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] I look forward to inviting you to join the School for one of several discussion forums this summer to talk through our collective ideas for change.

On June 1, 2020, The American Society of Landscape Architects released the following statement from ASLA President Wendy Miller:

“We are all horrified by the events that unfolded over the last several days. I am personally roiling with emotions, watching in real-time the injustices and inequitable treatment of people and communities who are in anguish because of centuries of racial discrimination. As landscape architects, we work to ensure that all persons have the right to equitable access to environmental and community benefits in the places they live, work, and learn. Now is the time for us to work to help ensure that these communities have fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of life.”

On May 31, the leadership of the American Planning Association released the following statement:

The American Planning Association is heartbroken over the brutal, senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week, and the immense pain inflicted on the black community, which continues to suffer from the insidious and blatant effects of structural racism nationwide.

We are also profoundly saddened by the additional burdens being visited on our cities, which are still reeling from the devastating effect of a global pandemic, and concerned for the tens of thousands of planners across the nation who strive daily — despite setbacks and frustrations — to raise the voice of the voiceless.

The impact of Mr. Floyd’s death and other recent grave injustices like it must be viewed in light of the historical trauma inflicted on African American communities, including discrimination wrought by the planning profession itself, which led to structural disadvantages in housing, transportation, education and employment that last to this day.

APA recognizes this reality and is working to center equity in all planning processes in keeping with our mission of creating great communities for all. From our landmark Planning for Equity Policy Guide, to the ethical principles that undergird the professional practice of planning articulated in the AICP Code of Ethics, to the new online public engagement toolkit to ensure that all voices are heard, we’re working to help planners and others recognize and eradicate the bad policy decisions of the past.

Together we can take an active role in rebuilding and transforming communities to create a society that ensures safety, health and prosperity for all its inhabitants. APA will continue to develop and deliver tools, techniques, support and encouragement to planners tirelessly combating all forms of racism and inequity.

Let’s stand in solidarity with communities of color nationwide at this painful time, moving beyond righteous anger and advocating for peaceful dialogue that educates and builds the bonds of great communities for all.

As we continue to grow and evolve in our work towards a more equitable future, we invite you to share your thoughts and feelings with us by email at [email protected]

On May 30, 2020, The American Institute of Architects 2020 president Jane Frederick, FAIA, issued the following statement:

“As Americans, we are mindful of this nation’s dark history of racial inequality. We are appalled by any actions that further threaten the universal respect and human dignity that everyone deserves. As architects, we remain committed to advancing civil rights protections, fair housing policies, and accessibility in the built world to help achieve the more perfect union we all seek. The fact is that architects and AIA, in our more than 160-year history, have not always felt compelled to share our perspectives. But the times we live in, the horrific nature of the events we witness, and the role we see for every member of our society demands that we speak out.”

On May 30, 2020, The National Trust for Historic Preservation released this statement from president Paul Edmondson:

“Like so many others, I have been profoundly dismayed and deeply saddened at what is happening in our country. George Floyd’s horrific and inexcusable death in Minneapolis; the shooting of peaceful protestors in Louisville; the fomenting of violence; destructive outbreaks in cities across the country; and the politicization of what should have been a compassionate response by leaders in our society: I would like to think that America is better than this. It is evident, however, that we have a long way to go to ensure that justice and equity are applied to all Americans.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has made a commitment as an institution to ensure that our own work reflects the equal value of every single American in our history and in our culture. A major reflection of that commitment is the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, created by the National Trust in response to the tragic events in Charlottesville in August of 2017.

We believe that historic preservation can play a critical role in acknowledging and healing the divisions in our nation, by telling the full story of our often-difficult history, by elevating and preserving the enormous and important contributions African Americans have made to our nation, and by carrying that powerful legacy forward through places of truth and reconciliation. We also believe that recognizing the dedication of communities of color to the American experiment through the places we work to save—from Rosenwald schools to the home of Madame C.J. Walker—will help to inspire innovation, investment, and faith in our democracy.

Each of us, in our own communities, businesses, and institutions at all levels, must commit to do all we can to create constructive spaces where justice and peace can flourish—including in those places that reflect our history as Americans. If we are successful, we will find our way to a more unified society, where outbreaks of pain and outrage will become only a thing of the past. We have much work to do in this country to acknowledge and shift a legacy begun hundreds of years ago, but I firmly believe we can find a way to healing and peace by respecting the humanity of every person, and by making that evident in the very fabric of our communities.”

On May 29, 2020, Harvard University Graduate School of Design Dean Sarah M. Whiting released the following letter:

“Congratulations to all, especially our Class of 2020, for finishing out the academic year with the flourish of a truly memorable Commencement yesterday. While this week has been filled with mirth for so many, it has been marred by violence and injustice for others across our country, pain of various forms that directly and indirectly affects countless among us. As we celebrate our GSD community, it is equally imperative that we pause to acknowledge the events of racial violence and degradation that were permitted to take place in this week.

The death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis has resurfaced a national conversation about race in America. His murder, coupled with other racially charged occurrences this week, has reminded us that race textures the American experience. As a community of shared values, the GSD strives to recognize diverse perspectives and experiences, and to create spaces for them and their stories; this is an integral part of our mission as a design school. I asked our graduates yesterday to go out and lead the conversations that unite us as global citizens. This conversation happening right now across the country is one that needs all of our voices, and needs it now.

The GSD teaches students how to shape our world, engaging not only buildings, technologies, infrastructures, landscapes, and spaces, but also what it means for us to live together in the world. The death of Mr. Floyd and the events of this week have been tragic, with implications for every corner of our community and for each of our disciplines. It is important that while we have been forced to reframe what community looks like spatially in the face of COVID-19, we never lose sight of what community should feel like. No element or facet of your design work is too small or too isolated to impact our broader world.

As designers and as citizens of the world, I urge you to recognize and acknowledge the injustices that remain so persistent and so ingrained across our globe, and I ask you always to take the time to consider how the work we do as designers impacts how we live together.

In this moment, and as we move forward, I ask that you recognize and talk with one another about the different experiences, the different forms of pain and of understanding, that people may feel given what we’re seeing in the news and on social media. I recognize that the recent events may cause additional emotional distress and anxiety, and I urge you to be in touch with either Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services or the Harvard Employee Assistance Program if you need assistance.

I so look forward to us all uniting again and continuing our work: educating and inspiring leaders who will create a more resilient, more beautiful, and more just world.”

The Washington Post reports that on May 27, 2020, University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel released to faculty, staff, and students cutting university ties with the Minneapolis Police Department. On May 28, 2020, University of Minnesota graduate school vice provost and dean of graduate education posted the following message of support:

“Earlier this week our city and nation was shaken by the tragic death of yet another unarmed Black man, George Floyd. This has been followed by days of protests by community members who are grieving, including members of our own UMN graduate community. We recognize the pain, fear, anger, and hopelessness many in our UMN community are experiencing right now. The Graduate School and the Graduate School Diversity Office stand firmly in our values of diversity and inclusivity and denounce all forms of bigotry. To all of our Black students, staff, faculty, and community members, we stand with you and with all who stand against anti-Black racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and injustice.

My heart is heavy with the weight of inhumanity and injustice in the killing of George Floyd, and in pain at the senselessness of his death. Although I often question whether social media and ubiquity of cameras are positive influences in society, I think that they just might be one of the tools to effect social change in this country. In the past, many people would have read a newspaper or listened to a television broadcast and might have dismissed the account of this event as fabrication, or an exaggeration. Today that isn’t happening. No one who believes in human rights can view the video of Mr. Floyd’s death and not conclude that his dignity, right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were violated. Social media and videos are forcing people across the country to confront the reality of what it means to be Black in the United States. However, the videos alone are not enough, and sharing them can also cause repeated trauma to affected members of our community.

I stand with President Gabel and all the leaders across Minnesota and our country who quickly called out the injustice in Mr. Floyd’s death, and in our State and Nation. Despite our shared feelings of hopelessness and despair, let’s come together to take action and confront bigotry while striving to create the open and equitable society that we are all entitled to, and to which we are promised in the very foundation of our constitution. As Graduate Dean, I ask that everyone in the graduate education community (faculty, staff and students) think proactively about how we can help the country move forward. Not just today, not just in our professional lives, but throughout our lives. This is my commitment, and the commitment of the Graduate School.”

This post will continue to be updated.

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