What is Redlining?
Redlining maps were introduced in the 1930s and are the basis for how structural racism was designed into cities. Originally a federal policy, the maps determined areas prime for investment and areas where no money would be lent. Those latter areas were outlined in red. This shade was based almost entirely on race and referred to as areas “infiltrated” by “hazardous populations.” While it wasn’t as obvious as “colored only” signs, Redlining was able to shift segregation from visible superstructures to ubiquitous infrastructure.
From October 7 to December 6, 2019, the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and the Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability in the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy hosted the traveling exhibit Undesign the Redline: The Transformation of Race, Place, and Class in America, an explorative, interactive, and visioning framework for addressing systemic challenges of Redlining. This exhibit seeks to answer the fundamental questions about our communities: how did we get here, and what does that mean for where we are going?
Undesign the Redline explores these reframed opportunities from a shared value perspective and grounds discussions about race, wealth, opportunity, and power in an honest context that is not about guilt and blame. This allows everyone to contribute their value to the design and development of projects, partnerships, and decisions that seek to transform communities and move beyond the challenging and often clouded situation of our entangled past.
The exhibit aims to engage staff, partners, and HKS community members in a past-to-present journey of the historical transformation of place, race, and class: grounding in a deeper understanding of the role policies, practices, and investments play in shaping our lived experiences with the built environment. It asks what we can do by coming together to undesign the inequitable systems of our past and present for a better future.