Last year, two really great books were added to my Goodreads history book list, that I started in 2014 and have been adding to progressively over the years. Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law” is a book I talk about to anyone who’ll listen, it covers the ways governments and private citizens conspired to create modern housing segregation that persists to this day.
My approach to the debate goes beyond just the political economy conversations, however. I think about the ways designers are complicit in building the “natural” order as the way the world exists, without asking better questions about the whys of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. All of us are limited by constraints, but without making deliberate choices, we’re consigning a future generation to the mistakes we refuse to undo.
The other book, that works well as a companion is Mhersa Baradaran’s The Color of Money, which explores the world of banking in the U.S. and its roots as another system that bears the stains of the past through a bevy of policies and business decisions that caused great economic harm to a specific set of the population – by design.
The methods have gotten more sophisticated and it’s no longer in vogue to deliberately leave people out. Another MLK holiday will pass, with people ignorant about the ways we got here. We can’t devise pathways out of a mess we didn’t create, without understanding the underlying roots of the poisonous roots of the past that impacts the present and the future.