HR 482 & SB 103 - attack on geospatial info, antiracism work, & affordable housing | THE POLITICUS

HR 482 & SB 103 - attack on geospatial info, antiracism work, & affordable housing

We are seeing even more evidence of attacks on efforts from the past to improve the use of information as a means of advancing social justice.  I had passed on to me some information with an urging to distribute it widely through social media.  It came through an email list in which I do not participate, but which was shared with me because of my visibility here and elsewhere.  Please pay careful attention.  It is of a piece of everything else we are seeing from the administration and their allies in the Republican Congress.

Dear Geographers,

We are writing to bring your attention to the US HR 482 and SB 103, which are an attack on the collection, storage, and distribution of geospatial information, antiracism work, and affordable housing (see below). The text of the bill, “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017,” will nullify HUD's 2015 “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” report to "have no force or effect," and does so by eliminating the data to support social change.

In other words, the bill stands at odds with the pursuit of knowledge about human geography, including census data. The bill would prohibit a significant amount of the work we do on race, racism, and fair housing in the US, as well as GIS research more broadly, all of which thwart work towards social justice. A key section reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.

We encourage feedback, wisdom, and action among our respective lists, AAG specialty groups, other collectives and collegial relationships, and the AAG leadership. We ask you to share word about this bill with colleagues in other disciplines and on social media, using the hashtags #datarefuge and #datarescue when doing so to connect this issue to larger issues of public data and public data collection erasure, obfuscation, and elimination. We also encourage US citizens to reach out to your congressional representatives or to organize from afar in solidarity to stop this bill. Full links to the Senate and House bills are below.

Thanks to Euan Hague for bringing this to the CRIT-GEOG list's attention, and for Reed Underwood's response.

Onward together,

Jack Gieseking, Trinity College

Emily Mitchell-Eaton, USCS
Hector Agredano, CUNY Graduate Center

Elizabeth R. Johnson, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

Naomi Adiv, Portland State University

Ryan Burns, University of Calgary

A subsequent email included this information:

Edit: the American Association of Geographers is @theAAG. Also, the AAA, AmerSA, ASocA, AoIR, MLA, AHA, and so on can use encouragement as well!

A subsequent email included the following:

As a reminder, the heart of this bill is not simply some issue of access to data or a discussion of science…. This bill is totally and absolutely racist and anti-poor. If passed, it would further the oppression of minorities by not only ignoring them but completely invisibilizing them. And it is with data and with the knowledge we create from our analysis of it that we can fight for justice. The data are a means to an end. The focus is resisting oppression and violence, and supporting and enacting social justice through the actionable policy...

Also suggest looking at this blog post at the American Association of Geographers from which I quote the following:

... Not only would the creation of new Federal geospatial databases on racial disparities be prohibited, so too would access to existing geospatial information of this sort and the use of Federal funds from agencies such as the National Science Foundation to study such data. As written, this represents a direct attack on the ability of geographers and others to produce actionable and policy relevant research on racial disparities in this country. What then can be done about the threat posed by S.103 and H.R. 482 to geospatial and geographical information and research? The AAG has already drafted and sent a letter of concern to Senator Lee. However, I would suggest more needs be done by our members directly. First, spread the word to geographers, other scholars and the public about the threat posed by S.103 and H.R. 482. Second, take a moment to contact your Federal Senators and representative – easily done via Third, you may want to also contact the Bill’s sponsors with your concerns. Finally, stay aware, informed and communicative of similar threats to geospatial information or geographical research that may arise in the future. We may well be entering an era when not only has the need to create actionable and policy relevant geography never been more pressing, but the fight to preserve our ability to conduct such research never more necessary.


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