Artifacts of Exclusion
This essay in Harvard Design Magazine looks at the banality of exclusion.
Harvard Design Magazine
Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore
The post-Fair Housing Act era has seen a remarkable proliferation of loopholes and counter policies and practices that effectively neuter anti-discrimination laws with remarkable (and remarkably sinister) creativity. In recent years, white communities have proposed “blood relative ordinances” that require tenants to be related by blood to their landlords, kinship ordinances that require tenants to secure a letter of recommendation from an existing resident, and “exclusionary amenities” that members of a community pay to maintain because the willingness to pay for it is an effective proxy for other desired membership characteristics (for example, race). Racism has proven remarkably resilient.
This essay examines another, more tactical type of post-Fair Housing Act reactionism. While the abovementioned policies aim to fly under the Fair Housing radar, the farmers market, fence, hockey rink, and other artifacts described here try to hide in plain sight. Indeed, these cultural artifacts are all the more sinister for their sheer banality: to the informed they are concrete, physical manifestations of a deep racial divide that speaks to our culture’s pervasive and ongoing negrophobia, but to the average resident of the communities they were built in, they are a part of the naturalized, apolitical suburban landscape.