NPR: Biden's New Infrastructure Might Begin To Dismantle Racist Urban Planning

NPR's Ailsa Chang talks with UCLA historian Eric Avila about the impact of Biden's infrastructure plan on racist urban planning.

How urban minority communities devastated by the construction of the interstate highway reclaimed their place through cultural expressionAILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tucked inside President Biden's $2 trillion plan to rebuild and improve America's infrastructure, which he announced this week, is the promise to address the racism baked into decades of urban planning in the U.S. Eric Avila is a professor of history and Chicano studies at UCLA. He has written about how systemic racism shaped America's urban development. He joins us now. Welcome.

ERIC AVILA: Thank you. Great to be here.

CHANG: So Biden's plan includes funding to dismantle highway projects that, when they were built, required tearing down neighborhoods or cleaving through communities of color. Can you just remind us of the time frame that these highway projects were underway and how these highways came about?

AVILA: So a lot of the highways that exist today date back to 1956. That was the year that Congress, under the Eisenhower administration, unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to build a national highway infrastructure. But this was the 1950s, and we think very differently about cities and communities today than we did back in the 1950s.

Q&A at National Public Radio.