By Chris Dempsey
The T4MA team is horrified by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. His death -- like the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black men and women due to racism and police brutality -- is a sad reminder of injustice in our society. We all have a responsibility to confront that injustice -- institutionally, with others, and within ourselves.
Last Tuesday evening, I joined the more than 10,000 people who attended a peaceful protest in Franklin Park organized by Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston and Black Lives Matter Boston. It was inspiring to see a diverse crowd come together to speak the names of victims of violence in Massachusetts and around the country and to say together that Black Lives Matter. After three months of staying away from people, the protest was a reminder of the power of people coming together in common cause. That experience -- and conversations with T4MA’s staff, members, and partners -- have led me to reflect on our work at T4MA.
Many of the problems facing our transportation system today in Massachusetts result from racist and discriminatory choices made by past leaders and perpetuated by current ones. For instance, our expansion of highways in the 1940s and 1950s caused displacement and disinvestment in communities that were targeted in racist “redlining” maps of the 1930s. The impacts of those policies remain with us today, residents of these communities subjected to some of the most polluted air in the state. This is just one example of how discriminatory policy lingers and compounds over time. It is futile to try to fix problems in transportation -- or other areas of public policy -- without talking about and working towards racial justice.
In collaboration with community and advocacy partners, the T4MA coalition fights for changes to the status quo that will address these inequities: bus lanes so that Black bus riders won’t continue to sit on the bus 64 hours longer than their white counterparts, reductions in transportation tailpipe emissions that disproportionately impacts people of color, and properly funding Regional Transit Authorities and the MBTA so that people without access to vehicles (disproportionately households of color in Massachusetts and elsewhere) have the same mobility, access, and economic opportunity enjoyed by anyone else.
But there is more that we can do, and more thoughtful ways to approach how we do it. T4MA’s Executive Committee recently ratified a Transportation Justice Statement that shares our definition of transportation justice and states why we think transportation justice is important to our work as a coalition. We have a long way to go and much more work ahead of us.
We want to be a partner with you in bringing transportation justice to the Commonwealth. A number of T4MA’s Members and allies have shared statements, commitments and action for constructive change in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and we include some of their messages here:
- Alternatives for Community and Environment
- Boston Center for Independent Living
- Boston Cyclists Union
- Boston Harbor Now
- Clean Water Action
- Coalition for Social Justice
- Conservation Law Foundation
- Environmental League of Massachusetts
- Kendall Square Association
- League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
- LivableStreets Alliance
- Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations
- Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
- Massachusetts Public Health Association
- MASSPIRG - Emergency Fund for Public Action
- Metropolitan Area Planning Council
- New England Venture Capital Association
Thank you for reading, and for your commitment to the work ahead.