During Black History Month, we pause to reflect on the more than 400 years of Black history and heritage that has helped to shape America. We spark important conversations about representation, identity and diversity. And we pause to remember the dreamers, doers, innovators, record-breakers and symbols of pride who teach us lessons from the past so that we can carry on their legacy.
Part of that legacy is about realizing a future where everyone - no matter where they live, how much money they make, or who they are - has access to the same opportunities and services.
A core part of that vision is the concept of transportation equity. This, along with continuing to build and support a diverse and inclusive organization, is a personal passion of mine as PennDOT Secretary. Access to safe and reliable transportation is an issue that affects all Americans, regardless of where they live. Public transportation, in particular, connects people to jobs, health care, childcare and schools, grocery stores, housing, and more - particularly those who live in disadvantaged communities.
Yet, race and transportation have long been inextricably linked in the United States, whether it's federally funded highways that plowed through Black and Brown neighborhoods, or segregated streetcars, busses, and trolleys. Our nation's infrastructure investments and policies have not been aligned to thoroughly address systemic racism, impacting generations of people of color.
Sixty-five years ago, Rosa Parks bravely refused to give up her seat on a public bus. The Montgomery bus boycott resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling that made segregation on public buses unconstitutional. While this was a seminal moment in civil rights history, we still have a lot of work to do.
As a transportation agency, PennDOT must continue to work to make transportation safer, accessible and more equitable. We must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations around how we may have – however unintentionally – been complicit in upholding structures that do not serve everyone equitably.
During Black History Month, please join me in honoring the contributions of Black Americans - and continuing the work to realize Rosa Parks' activism to ride with dignity.