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The killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25, captured on video, may have been the flashpoint in a long line of crimes and injustices against black Americans that awakened the country's consciousness, but James Garrett Jr., AIA, is still waiting for signs of real, structural change. The managing partner and co-founder of the award-winning architecture firm 4RM+ULA and fifth-generation Twin Cities resident is tired of mincing words about the systemic racism that pervades this country.
In this episode, Garrett powerfully details how "Minnesota Nice" has served as subterfuge for white supremacy; how sociodemographics and zoning in the Twin Cities have contributed to burgeoning unrest; the "willful ignorance" of those claiming not to notice racism and the discrimination people of color—namely black Americans—face every day; the potential loss of talented, innovative designers of color in an industry that frequently limits their entry or advancement; and his awareness that he could easily be the next George Floyd.
Garrett is a recipient of the 2019 AIA Young Architects Award and the 2015 AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, an artist, a writer, and an advocate for diversity and inclusion. Garrett also knew Floyd, who was a doorman at one of Garrett's favorite restaurants.
Note: This podcast episode contains a couple unbleeped curse words.
Episode 54: James Garrett Jr. Hopes George Floyd Is the Final Wake-Up Call Architects Need, featuring 4RM+ULA managing partner and founder James Garrett Jr., AIA, is also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, and GooglePlay.
This episode references the 2019 NAACP report "The Twin Cities Economic Inclusion Plan." A link to the report can be found in the June 4 Washington Post op-ed "It’s hard to hear ‘Minnesota Nice’ without undertones of irony and despair," by journalist Michele L. Norris.
Read more about Garrett and his three-step process for design firms to take tangible steps toward equitable and inclusive outcomes and the impact of the Twin Cities riots on 4RM+ULA's own projects in "James Garrett Jr. Lists Actions for Architects, Institutions, and Business Owners to Combat Systemic Racism," by ARCHITECT Mind & Matter columnist Blaine Brownell, AIA.
This conversation also references a June 5 online forum organized by AIA Minnesota titled "Response for Damaged Properties in Minneapolis and St. Paul."
This podcast episode was produced by Wanda Lau and Rob Grauert. This article has been updated since first publication.