When we think of inclusion and equality, we are often only scratching the surface of what that really means. One man in Calgary, Canada noticed a brightly colored rainbow bench that on the surface seems to be a statement of inclusion.
But as Isaac Cazuelos reflected on the bench, he noticed something that made him question how inclusive it really is. The bench is broken up with curved handles, breaking up the length of the seating area. This is a tactic used by many cities in an effort to stop homeless people from being able to lay down and sleep.
Cazuelos took to Twitter to share his thoughts and in the process opened up a much needed discussion about what it means to practice equality for all, especially when we include classism into the mix.
When you’re inclusive but still hate the poor. pic.twitter.com/WB1kTuxXkb
— Isaac Azuelos (@isaacazuelos) May 12, 2018
In an interesting twist, the company responsible for the placement of the bench reached out to explain the history and purpose.
The space reached out to me with some more information about the bench. pic.twitter.com/ICg3r2ANro
— Isaac Azuelos (@isaacazuelos) May 13, 2018
The conversation continued, shedding light on how the homeless are often treated.
Here are a few more (less ironic) examples of the same sort of exclusionary design from around my neighbourhood. Most of these are deliberate choices by the city. pic.twitter.com/fqEtbAHI0y
— Isaac Azuelos (@isaacazuelos) May 14, 2018
— Juliana Peters (@julianakpeters) May 14, 2018
Exclusionary design makes me so mad. Let homeless folk sleep on the bench or, better yet, do something about homelessness
— Sara J ✊ (@eggveal) May 14, 2018
— Maggie C (@maggie_colledge) May 14, 2018
yes, it is intentionally deterring design. it refuses to adress a problen and invests in denial.
— ollj (@ollj) May 14, 2018
There was a shocking number of people who not only didn’t care but approved of the designs.
Because a park bench should not be a bed – ever.
— Coulter (@CoulterCoulter) May 14, 2018
Yea I dont share your feelings on this, specially on the underpass. I care for the homeless but this is not the way to help. pic.twitter.com/xLut5LKQk5
— Crypto Yeezus (@AlanArbelaez) May 14, 2018
Having homeless people sleep around all over the place makes it look dumpy
— Josh Dude (@M1ster_Kiwi) May 14, 2018
Yeah, holy shit. Can’t believe they don’t want transients sleeping on their benches. Just like I don’t want my neighbors to have 15 “parts” cars.
— than == then (@DustinHemmele) May 14, 2018
Classism shows up, even in liberal cities such as Boulder, CO.
— BoulderNews (@markgelband) May 13, 2018
— BoulderNews (@markgelband) May 13, 2018
The bench was labeled with a sticker from hostiledesign.org. The non-profit sells stickers that people can buy and label to designs they feel are hostile to certain sections of the public. On their site they describe themselves as:
Hostile designs are designs against humanity. They are made specifically to exclude, harm or otherwise hinder the freedom of a human being. Quite often they aim to remove a certain section of a community from a public space.
This site exists to provide a platform to raise awareness around hostile design, empower you to name and shame those involved in it and create a living archive of hostile design around the globe. Ultimately the idea is that through awareness we can dissolve prejudice, influence planners and city councils and create more inclusive welcoming public space for everyone.
The problem was addressed by people who have experienced first hand what it feels like to be homeless or temporarily displaced.
I've used a park bench as bed before when my phone died and I had no idea where I was. You don't know everyone's story. Stop being judgemental. Solve problems instead.
— Shannon Foster (@SheCanTech) May 14, 2018
I was homeless about a year ago. I'd walk around town all night, because there were a few times that I tried sitting on a bench and a cop would pull up and tell me that I had to leave. Luckily my work didn't mind me sleeping in the break room once we opened.
— Trevor Boot (@Baikeru) May 14, 2018
As the conversation continued, more photos of hostile design came out.
— Peter Hürlimann (@peterhuerlimann) May 14, 2018
— Angie ✨ (@angggram) May 14, 2018
— david (@daeveud) May 14, 2018
H/T: Twitter Moments