Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. is the Director for the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Buffalo and the Project Coordinator for the Perry Choice Neighborhood Initiative. His work has focused on the intersection of urban planning, regional development, and history in both the United States and Cuba. Dr. Taylor also studies the relationship between urban planning, race, and class.
Our conversation focuses on inequality, racism, reconfiguring government institutions, and the physical structure of neighborhoods—several large, tangible issues that have been inadequately discussed or completely ignored by earlier interviewees. American exceptionalism is an early theme that leads into the mental frameworks that distort how we view the world. Dr. Taylor offers some concrete ideas about refocusing policy to foster stronger neighborhoods and ends musing on humanity’s slow march towards the light.
For both Micah and myself, listening to the final edit of Dr. Taylor’s conversation was a good, if unsettling experience: we’re almost half a year into production and this will be the first time race has been seriously discussed. As a result, this conversation has remarkably few explicit connections to the rest of the project because Dr. Taylor has had to build a new wing of the conversation from scratch. We find this embarrassing because it reflects the whiteness of the project back at us, from our choices of interviewees to the priorities of the interviewees themselves. Micah and I have been talking about race and our own perspectives a lot recently and we’re going to dedicate the next interstitial episode to putting some of those thoughts down in audio.
An addendum: Dr. Taylor mentions discriminatory zoning policies initiated by the Nixon administration and carried out by subsequent administrations. For further details, here is a ProPublica article that came out after I published this episode. –A