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2020-2021 Common Book

For the first time in the Department of Urban Design & Planning’s history, we identified a Common Book. This book serves to create a platform for students, faculty, and staff to engage with one another in substantive dialogue regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion from a shared experience. The common book aims to help cultivate a more inclusive culture within our department and provide a model we and others can embody in the future. This year’s Common Book is How to Be an Antiracist, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller by author and historian Ibram X. Kendi.

We hope this book will help further conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion within the Department of Urban Design & Planning as well as offer students, faculty, and staff an additional tool to expand their knowledge of the history of race and racism in the U.S. The Common Book- in tandem with the College of Built Environments Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives– seeks to continue the process of identifying and uprooting racism in society, in our institutions, and in ourselves.

Along with reading the book, we organized several activities around it:

  • Facilitated three student-led book discussions
  • Held an “EDI week” for faculty to expressly address EDI questions and issues in their courses
  • Hosted an alumni panel to hear about their experiences as BIPOC professionals in various planning sectors

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi is a leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America. He is the founding director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University. He is the founding director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. In 2020-2021 he served as the Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University.

In his memoir, Kendi weaves together a combination of ethics, history, law, and science to reshape the conversation about racial justice in America. He helps us rethink our most deeply held implicit beliefs, and challenges us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

Read what our community has to say about the Common Book: 

“Getting people to read this critical material is one thing, but asking people to come together, speak honestly, and personally reflect on experiences with racism and antiracism is an invaluable step that needs to follow. That’s why the EDI Committee has made a commitment to convening students, faculty, staff, and others in the UDP network (i.e. the Professionals Council) to engage with each other and embrace the uncomfort that these conversations bring. Student-led discussions began over Zoom during EDI Week and are planned to occur biweekly through the rest of the school year. We typically select an equity-related article (perhaps something that focuses on an intertwined topic like colonization or intersectionality) and aim to discuss it informally by applying How to Be an Antiracist as a lens. 

Experiences from the small group discussions have been extremely powerful and I think participants appreciate learning from different perspectives that others bring. It’s the least we can do as a university to accept the insidious realities of centuries past and a sure step to making equity, diversity, and inclusion our priority as aspiring planners and designers. All are encouraged to join our discussions; please keep an eye on the Department’s EDI Events Page for future events.” – Tyler Quinn Smith, Master of Urban Planning Candidate at the University of Washington, submitted fall of 2020