Response to John Infranca, Differentiating Exclusionary Tendencies
Professor John Infranca’s important article, Differentiating Exclusionary Tendencies, takes on one of the most difficult questions in local politics today. The status quo in every area entrusted to local governments—housing, transportation, schools, policing—practically by definition has disproportionately negative impacts on the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of our society. But efforts to reform the status quo can have unintended consequences that, again almost by definition, will have disproportionately negative impacts on those same people. It is often said that, for this reason, any change to the status quo should “center” around the perspectives of marginalized people, but the very fact of being marginalized makes this extremely difficult. Even the most earnest efforts to involve marginalized communities in public participation processes ends up favoring the most privileged. Making matters worse, those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo may strategically deploy fake concerns about marginalized people to launder their own self-interested opposition to change. In practice, this often means that nothing is done to address the major problems we confront because of concerns, real or manufactured, about making the worst off even worse off.