Neoliberalism, Race and the Redefining of Urban Redevelopment


Neoliberal urban redevelopment is often represented as consensual, socially‐neutral ‘local economic development’ with a positive effect on both a city’s overall economy and its level of racial and ethnic diversity. The purpose of this article is to focus specifically on the key ideological premises of color‐blind racial discourses that help facilitate and provide necessary legitimacy (and ideological cover) for neoliberal urban redevelopment in a mid‐sized US city. Color‐blind racial discourses facilitate the agenda and mandates behind tax abatements, enterprise zones, public–private partnerships and new forms of urban consumption. Despite efforts to the contrary, neoliberal urbanism does not retreat from race — rather, racial dynamics are reconstituted to accommodate processes of capital accumulation and uneven urban development in poor and minority cities. Drawing on the case of Chester, Pennsylvania, this article focuses on how color‐blind racial discourses influence exclusionary urban redevelopment policies and practices, facilitate their implementation and legitimize their outcomes.