This guest blog is a foreword written by Charles T. Brown, MPA, CPD, Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor at Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. Register here for our September 8th webinar for a conversation with Angie Schmitt, author of “Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America”. Follow Charles on Twitter: @ctbrown1911
As one of the nation’s leading voices and thought leaders in transportation equity, I have devoted my entire career to creating equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities. In doing so, I have been methodical and intentional in the use of my power, my pen, and privilege to highlight and humanize the disparities and injustices faced by historically disadvantaged population groups in the United States.
As a racialized black planner and street-level researcher, I am often called upon by many in the industry to offer ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in North America. Although most of the brainstorming focuses on the normative experiences of the general population, I am deliberate in encouraging additional analyses across varying and intersecting social identities such as income, race, ethnicity, ability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.
At the nexus of this unwavering fight for justice and truth-telling is the genesis of my appreciation and admiration for my dear sister Angie Schmitt. I have always known my sister Angie, racialized as white, to commit herself to speaking courageously and unapologetically through multiple platforms about the inequities and injustices facing pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users along America’s roadways. In this dynamic new book, Right of Way, she uses her vigor and thirst for justice to challenge the status quo and traditional norms and narratives. From spatial inequality and inequities, to systemic and institutional racism, to thematic and episodic news framing to climate change and autonomous vehicles, she sheds LED light on the epidemic of traffic violence in the United States and across the globe. In doing so, she eloquently balances the “fierce urgency of now” with the supreme importance of humanizing every victim in every story in the book. She also graciously and unselfishly uses her purpose, power, and privilege to do as the great Dr. Cornel West once said: “You must let suffering speak if you want to hear the truth.”
I am most often asked by well-meaning persons, usually racialized white persons, “What can I/we do as allies to aid in the eradication of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in low-income and minority communities across America?” My short answer usually stresses the importance of intentionality, empathy, and the courage to act expeditiously. Henceforth, I will add to my list, “Follow Angie.”