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  • Writer's pictureWomen+ in Design PGH

The Color of Law | Part 3

On Friday, September 18th, we hosted the final session of our three-part virtual discussion surrounding The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. We continued a similar format from the first and second sessions with three small groups using Zoom rooms to break down our takeaways from The Color of Law and examine how the reading applies to our work and our community — Pittsburgh. The small groups held 30-minute brainstorming discussions while collaborating through a Miro online whiteboard. In the final 15 minutes, we regrouped to discover common themes and explore ideas of where we go from here with our greater understanding from the book.

Similar to the previous two sessions — and regardless of how much we each of us had read of the book (2020 is hard) — we better understand how the local, state, and federal policies and practices throughout the history of Pittsburgh, specifically related to planning and real estate, have had a profound influence on Pittsburgh neighborhoods as they stand today. The Color of Law has layered on a new perspective of how we inhabit the city and our education (or lack thereof) as designers. In each Breakfast Club small group, we explored the themes of connection between The Color of Law and Pittsburgh, short and long term goals from personal to professional, considering “fixes” that are working and not working, and the actions we can take as designers and citizens.


Highlights from our ideation sessions and conversations are noted below.


What tactics/effects discussed in the The Color of Law have you seen in Pittsburgh?

  • Neighborhoods “destined” to thrive or struggle based on HOLC maps and redlining in the 1930s

  • Access to services

  • Voter suppression

  • The disproportionate impact of COVID

  • Public school and neighborhood segregation

  • Affordable Housing

  • Differential access to health care, hospitals, food security, clean air, public transit

  • Gentrification (in East Liberty and beyond)

  • Highway design and destruction of neighborhoods (North Shore / Northside, Hill District)



What goals (of any scale) have you seen or been a part of? (personal or professional)

  • Educating

  • Uncomfortable conversions with family, friends, and coworkers

  • Reading

  • Discussing

  • Listening

  • Reflecting

    • Voting

    • Volunteering with NOMA PGH’s Project Pipeline

    • Reviewing HR policies at office (recruiting, hiring, performance reviews, dress code)



What “fixes” (of any scale) have you seen or been a part of?

Direct / Indirect

  • Open and frank conversations (like the Breakfast Club chats!)

  • Being open and uncomfortable (to grow and learn)

  • Voting for a more diverse representation

  • Making space for BIPOC voices, participation, and leadership

  • Confronting racism and microagressions

Awareness / Engagement

  • Business posting about support / creating awareness

  • Events to educate on race

  • Support blacked owned businesses

  • Book clubs and seminars

  • Companies providing training

Working / Not Working


  • Honest, uncomfortable conversations

  • Fix gerrymandering

Not Working

  • “Token” BIPOC person on the EDI Committee

  • Just posting about support and not following up with action



What’s next personally and professionally?



  • Reading and listening

  • Volunteering to be a poll worker!

  • Continually recognizing and checking my privilege

  • Identifying, speaking out, and standing up to racism and microagressions


  • Mentorship with diverse organizations

  • Expanding training and intercultural competence

  • Volunteer to help disenfranchised communities, specifically with design services

  • Community outreach collective

  • Expand EDI conversations outside the “safe space” bubble

With the election upon us (TUESDAY!), a recurring theme in our sessions was that your vote — not only for the presidential candidates, but also for local and state representatives — is so critical to identifying insidious, unjust policies and working towards a more equitable future. Let your voice be heard! And regardless of the outcome, the W+iD Breakfast Club will be here to talk, get uncomfortable, and provide a safe space to grow, learn, listen, and strategize how best to take action.

Jo Berchielli, Katie Walsh, + Monica Blasko

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