Mapping Prejudice: The Limits and Opportunities of Data for Anti-Racist Planning

Rebecca H. Walker, Kate D. Derickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem, research strategy, and findings: Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis (MN) residents and city officials turned to Mapping Prejudice—a project that mapped every racial covenant in the city and its suburbs—to understand Minneapolis’s deep racial disparities. For this study, we investigated how data on racial covenants, clauses that were used historically to prevent the sale of a property to a person of color, had influenced planning practice in the Twin Cities. In doing so, we considered whether and how engagement with data on structural racism might meaningfully advance anti-racist planning outcomes that enhance the self-development and self-determination of racially marginalized communities. To address this question, we conducted 16 semistructured interviews with 24 planners who have used the data on racial covenants, asking specifically about how racial covenant data shaped planning practice, the planning and policy outcomes that resulted from engaging with racial covenant data, and the characteristics of the racial covenant data that made it influential. This approach assessed planners already interested in addressing racial disparities. Interviews suggest that data on racial covenants were highly influential, leading to a new understanding of structural racism, critical reflection on Whiteness and planning, and a new narrative tool for explaining and addressing racial disparities. Policy outcomes included adopting new housing policies, helping residents remove racial covenants from deeds, and implementing redistributive financial policies. Planners felt these data were important because they could be mapped and visualized and because of their fine geographic scale, narrative qualities, and the process in which they were collected. Takeaway for practice: We draw insights about the kinds of data projects that other planners and researchers might produce to advance and inform anti-racist planning, including data that foreground White privilege, focus on phenomena appropriate for specific geographic and historic contexts, are produced using participatory and transparent processes, and tell a compelling story.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • equity
  • GIS
  • housing
  • land use
  • racial covenants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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