GLASGOW, Scotland – Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Yahoo News that systemic racism in the design and location of highways in American cities and suburbs continues to hurt low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Responding to criticism from conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, of the comments he made on Monday, Buttigieg said in an interview Tuesday that racism and segregation in road building is not the case. ancient history or the figment of the imagination of liberals, as some on the right dispute.
“There are many well-documented examples of what’s going on, from the 1920s and 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and sometimes we have to be on the lookout for issues that are happening in our time,” he said. . “But for me, the problem is not: In what year did someone create this problem? The problem is, does this problem affect people today in 2021? “
The back and forth with the Tories began on Monday afternoon when Buttigieg said during a White House press briefing: “If a freeway was built for the purpose of dividing a white neighborhood and a black neighborhood, or if an underpass was built in such a way for most black and Puerto Rican children on a beach – or it would have been – in New York City, was designed too low for it to pass, obviously reflecting the racism that entered into these design choices.
The tendency to build highways in neighborhoods with lower income or higher proportions of people of color, sometimes acting as de facto racial boundaries, is well established and this is one of the reasons why pollution and disease such as asthma are more prevalent in these areas.
The specific example Buttigieg referred to, of underpasses too low for buses, comes from the suburban Long Island walks in New York City. The design of the low underpass was commissioned by government official Robert Moses with the specific intention of preventing buses bringing low-income town residents to Jones Beach, according to “The Power Broker,” the legendary biography of Robert Caro on Moses.
Some conservative pundits and politicians, including the former Governor of Arkansas. Mike Huckabee, reacted in disbelief to Buttigieg’s comments.
“Is this guy serious?” This is what happens when ignorance of the facts is combined with false enthusiasm, ”Huckabee tweeted.
“The roads are racist. We have to get rid of the roads. Cruz stung from Buttigieg in his own tweet.
At first glance, it appeared that Buttigieg’s critics were either ignoring the relevant story or claiming to be. However, when it was reported to them online that Buttigieg was not coming up with a bizarre hypothesis but telling a true story, some responded that this was irrelevant because the underground passages were built 92 years ago, in 1929.
After arriving in Glasgow on Tuesday for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Buttigieg was interviewed by Yahoo News and asked about this criticism.
“If people in 2021 are suffering from a discriminatory policy funded by the federal government, then we have a responsibility to fix it,” he said. “And I’m still a little surprised that this is controversial. I don’t know who it hurts to admit that the damage has been done and to offer to do something to fix it.
Buttigieg was also recently attacked by Tories, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, for taking four weeks of parental leave to care for the twins he and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, have just adopted. Her son, Gus, was hospitalized last week, but he told Yahoo News he is doing well now.
“We have twins at home, they turned our lives upside down, had a real tough time in the hospital, especially with our son, but I’m happy to say he’s doing a lot, a lot better,” Buttigieg said . “He’s at home, has rebounded pretty much completely. So we are relieved and experience this mixture of joy and terror that I am told is parenting throughout the process.
Taking several months of paid parental leave is covered by many governments in the developed world. President Biden has offered to mandate the availability of paid parental leave for U.S. employers, but like most of Biden’s programs, it risks being taken out of the budget bill, known as Build Back Better, due to the unified Republican opposition and the objections of Sen Joe Manchin, DW.Va.
“I am still hopeful that we will catch up with the rest of the world on this,” Buttigieg told Yahoo News.
Buttigieg said the Transport Department would announce new policies on Wednesday to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping and aviation.
“Everyone understands how an electric car works; it is not so clear how to extract carbon from the aviation sector, ”he said. “This is why we need to make sure that we conduct research not only on alternative forms of propulsion, be it electricity, hydrogen, which can pull us out of the fossil fuel era in the long run. term, but also in the shorter term, which is referred to as “sustainable aviation fuels”. These are jet fuels that you can put on an airplane today that are used to using regular jet fuel, but were produced in a different way and have significantly lower life cycle emissions. So we’re going to re-engage in the development and growth of what’s called SAF, sustainable aviation fuels, and this is an example of something that will be much more effective if we do it with international partners. .
Sustainable aviation fuels are made from sources such as cooking oil and food waste. On the electric aircraft front, Washington Governor Jay Inslee boasted at an event in Glasgow on Tuesday that fully electric aircraft are now being built in his home state.
Buttigieg’s arrival in Glasgow follows significant funding for rail, public transport and roads in the infrastructure bill just passed by Congress.
Some environmentalists fear that spending more money on new road construction will undermine the Biden administration’s climate change mitigation goals. But Buttigieg said road funding would be used to help pedestrians and cyclists, not just drivers.
“Part of what we need to do is give people better options, so you don’t have to bring two tons of metal with you every time you walk through town,” Buttigieg said.
“It means having excellent public transport, which we know is lagging behind in our country,” he continued. “This means ensuring that there are safe and quality options for active transportation, which also makes it easier to walk and cycle. Much depends on the design. One thing that I noticed living in different communities in the United States is the exact same distance that in one city you would never think of driving, in another city you would never dream of driving. would never occur to the thought of walking. And that has a lot to do with security, which is why the investments in security in this bill,… I believe, are investments in security and the climate.
But, he added, Americans will always have cars too, which is why the infrastructure bill provided funds for electric vehicle charging stations, while the Build Back Better bill would provide substantial subsidies for the purchase of electric cars.
If Buttigieg succeeds in expanding the deployment of electric vehicles and making roads safer for different types of users, it will certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, whose transportation currently accounts for 29%, the most great part of all sectors of the economy. “Every transport decision is a climate decision,” Buttigieg said.
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