The wrongful murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police has proven a tipping point in the attitudes and actions of many Americans. Protesters around the country have taken to the streets, during an unprecedented pandemic, to demonstrate their commitment to securing for black Americans the basic rights and protections that every person should have. We share in their hurt and anger.
It was nearly seven years ago that Dianne Harris penned a poignant essay for the Society of Architectural Historians titled “Race, Space, and Trayvon Martin.”1 In this essay, Harris describes the way that the structures and ideologies of anti-black racism were made material in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin—how histories of spatial segregation and gated communities came to a head in what was described as a case of a young black man literally “out of place.” Her conclusion that race and space are inextricably linked in deadly ways for many minorities should not come as any surprise to us today. These insights during the (now retrospectively) optimistic Obama years seemed to hold the promise of better things to come. Yet instead of witnessing a decline in violence against black Americans, we find ourselves facing more and more tragedy, sometimes on a daily basis, as cell phone footage and investigative journalism reveal the routine character of anti-black racism in the United States.