University of Oklahoma assistant professor of Regional & City Planning Dr. C. Aujean Lee has partnered with Dr. John Arroyo from the University of Oregon to explore issues of race in COVID-19 government messaging.
The pandemic revealed the problems of ignoring long-term systemic racism in multiple facets: public health, policing, job security, hate crimes, access to services, and other areas. Lee and Arroyo have been analyzing government websites and public statements related to COVID-19 to understand how and when these sites and municipalities talk about race.
Dr. Lee has discovered that government agencies and municipalities have largely ignored racial disparities related to COVID-19. When the government issued statements about discrimination, they used color-blind language.
Planners may not directly address racial disparities because they do not want to reinforce racial differences. However, by ignoring inequities, planners are unable to come up with solutions to improve resident outcomes. This project is part of her ongoing work on how planning can promote anti-racist policies and work to create and sustain more equitable cities.
Dr. Lee hopes that planners in the future will be able to have conversations about race so as to avoid waiting for large public unrest to deal with these consequences.