Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg suggested in a recent interview that racism is apparently “physically built” into certain areas of the U.S. highway system—a statement that sounds as absurd as it really is.
Responding to an allegation from theGrio’s White House correspondent April Ryan, Buttigieg explained the interstate system was “built on a racism system…to keep certain groups in and certain groups out.”
“Yeah, often this wasn’t just an act of neglect. Often this was a conscious choice. There is racism physically built into some of our highways, and that’s why the jobs plan has specifically committed to reconnect some of the communities that were divided by these dollars,” Buttigieg said.
“Well, if you’re in Washington, I’m told that the history of that highway is one that was built at the expense of communities of color in the D.C. area,” Buttigieg said, according theGrio. “There are stories, and I think Philadelphia and Pittsburgh [and] in New York, Robert Moses famously saw through the construction of a lot of highways.”
President Joe Biden gave the go-ahead to his colossal $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday, saying: “We don’t just fix for today. We build for tomorrow.”
“Two hundred years ago, trains weren’t traditional infrastructure either until America made a choice to lay down tracks across the country,” he continued. “Highways weren’t traditional infrastructure until we allowed ourselves to imagine that roads could connect our nation across state lines.”
Phase one of fixing the nation’s infrastructure is not just about some of the obvious: repairing potholes, bridges, roads, airports, schools, creating new power grids, replacing lead pipes and expanding broadband.
There are also efforts to correct America’s racist wrongs.
The outlet reported that the road maps are now going to be transformed from the “black-and-white” roads of yesteryear. “If you think about it, much of this infrastructure was paid for and designed before the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” former Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx shared with theGrio. “That was a time before black people were at the table.”
Buttigieg has made a name for himself in raising the eyebrows of those who are skeptical of Biden’s infrastructure plan. He was ridiculed on social media Friday for expressing an openness to a policy that would foot the bill for President Joe Biden’s mind-blowing infrastructure budget by taxing motorists for each mile they travel.
“So, I think that shows a lot promise,” Buttigieg said regarding a mileage-based tax. “If we believe in that so-called ‘user-pays principle,’ the idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive. The gas tax used to be the obvious way to do that; it’s not anymore.”
“So, a so-called ‘vehicle-miles-traveled tax’ or ‘mileage tax,’ whatever you want to call it, could be a way to do it,” Buttigieg added.
A number of social media users and pundits took shots at Buttigieg for supporting such an idea—which many felt would place a significant burden on the already impoverished.
One Twitter user posted: “When Buttigieg says our highway system is racist or when Portland activists say a tree emblem is racist, the goal isn’t to convince you those specific things are racist. The goal is to terrify you with the idea that anything can be racist which will freeze you with uncertainty.”