Hierarchism – A Foundation of Discrimination

Hierarchism – Keen awareness and importance of social hierarchies, such as status, wealth, and power.

Hierarchist – One who gives high priority and importance to social hierarchies.  This may manifest in (1) intense motivation to get to the top, in (2) feeling threatened by and in competition with those perceived as below them, (3) an interest to distinguish themselves from other groups and degrade their standing, and (4) in the envy and reverence of those above them or at the top with whom they identify.


This article introduces the concept of hierarchism as an overarching characteristic that manifests discrimination of all types.  

Today’s society is battling racism, homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy, transphobia, anti-Semitism, police brutality, anti-Muslim, anti-science, anti-press, anti-government, anti-environmentalism, and fascism, to name a few.  These are antisocial ideologies that result in social unrest, individual oppression and harm, and environmental degradation. We find many of these discriminatory ideas perpetuated by the same people.  A racist will commonly also be homophobic and anti-government, for example.  As such, racism may be a phenomenon of a higher order than just enmity toward people of color.  This article suggests that hierarchism is a root characteristic that motivates and energizes all these types of discrimination. 

To be clear, this article is not suggesting that all types of discrimination are a product of hierarchism.  Nor is there any intent to reduce or deflect attention from these individual discriminations and the battles to eliminate them individually.  They each have their own sources, causes, and solutions, and must be addressed accordingly. This article is meant to further deconstruct the root causes of discrimination, colonization, with an antiracist purpose.

Note that this author is a 62-year old white male that has not experienced discrimination, has little expertise in this field beyond reading a few books on the matter, but hopes that this brings value to the antiracist movement.

This concept is also being introduced because it applies to the author’s focal topic of transportation injustice.  Hierarchism applies to our societal and institutional preference for cars over transit, biking, and walking, which currently have a stigma of inferiority. However, this is a topic for another article. 

Continue reading “Hierarchism – A Foundation of Discrimination”

ODOT and the Rose Quarter: Inequitable Policies and Leaders that Continue Them.

In the first week of April, two different committees – one elected (Metro Council) and one appointed (Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC)) — made decisions that will move forward the widening of a 1.5-mile section of I-5 Rose Quarter for nearly $1 billion through a community of color writhing from decades of abuse from city planning. This project is clearly antithetical to the priorities propounded by our city, state, and regional leaders — climate change, Vision Zero (no traffic deaths), and racial justice – the triple threat.

After 60 years of these highway projects, we know what the reasons and results are: $1B to placate the ruling class and business community, at the expense of a community of color, adding car trips and crashes to our streets while not solving congestion, and exhausting funds that could solve these problems rather than exacerbate them.

So, What Went Wrong?

I contend there are 3 major issues here:

  1. Institutional Intransigence: ODOT was developed under systemic racism for white flight, and has systemic racism built into every plan, performance measure, and design standard. It has had decades to build a legislative lobby and a sham public process to grow its authority and revenue without any agenda change.
  2. The Talk and Walk Disparity: We have important people at the state, regional, and local levels that can talk eloquently about equity, climate, and Vision Zero, but then vote against them.
  3. The Inequity Norm: Most of us believe our democratic and public process creates equity, but no; it maintains and exacerbates inequity and privilege. Business-as-usual maintains privilege.

Quotes that align nicely with the above issues:

“We know that as we built unjust social systems and unjust legal systems and unjust freeways and unsafe streets… we can unbuild them.” Rukaiyah Adams, 2019.

“Only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal.” Martin Luther King.

“As we critique the racist power, we show our privilege and inaction by critiquing every effective strategy, ultimately justifying our inaction on the comfortable seat of privilege. “ Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, p 214.

Continue reading “ODOT and the Rose Quarter: Inequitable Policies and Leaders that Continue Them.”

Bad Transportation Planning in a Time of Crisis – Bloomington, IN.

“I want you to panic… I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” Greta Thunberg, Jan 24, 2019

I have been watching the leaders of my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana claim a concern for climate and equity, create GHG inventories, action plans, and transportation plans, and then go on with business-as-usual, or worse, as if just writing the documents was enough. I’m frightened to find that some of the most progressive cities in the U.S. are behaving similarly, like Portland, Eugene, and Los Angeles.

Let’s be honest, our transportation system in the US is an unjust, unsustainable, inequitable system that must change. It is car-centric, it kills 40,000 people annually, it is most cities’ largest GHG producer, it is a massive burden on the poor, and it wrongly prioritizes cars over transit because the ruling class prefers them. Continue reading “Bad Transportation Planning in a Time of Crisis – Bloomington, IN.”

Transportation’s Exclusionary Measure “v/c” (volume/capacity) currently means vehicles/color.

When it became illegal to overtly exclude people of color from purchasing neighborhood homes, the powers-that-be excluded people more subtly using land-use codes and neighborhood covenants like single-family residential zones, minimum lot sizes, and minimum square footage.   In transportation, two extensively-used measures that exclude are v/c (volume/capacity) and LOS (Level-of-Service; derived directly from v/c).

The traffic engineering standard of v/c has been used for decades to describe how well a road can handle its traffic, and to determine when a road needs more lanes. Atlanta StreetAs v (actual traffic volume) approaches c (maximum volume at capacity) and v/c nears the value of 1, the road congests.  The practice is to reduce v/c below a specified maximum value (an “engineering standard”) by increasing the road capacity “c” with added lanes until v/c is below the standard, and will stay below it for the next 20 years. Continue reading “Transportation’s Exclusionary Measure “v/c” (volume/capacity) currently means vehicles/color.”

Midblock Pedestrian Crosswalks – It’s Time for a Sign

It is time.  It is time for pedestrians to have a real, regulatory, and instructive sign of their own at midblock crosswalks that drivers recognize and heed.   A Yield-to-Pedestrians sign.

Midblock crosswalks are often just markings on the pavement, and drivers don’t see them until they are on top of them.


Of course, there are plenty of drivers that are unaware they are required to yield to pedestrians, and some that are simply uninterested in yielding.  Compliance is abysmal, and that is why pedestrians get hit — and both compliance and injuries get worse with higher-speed roads.  Continue reading “Midblock Pedestrian Crosswalks – It’s Time for a Sign”