Today’s reading was about the different levels on which racism can manifest. The most easily recognizable is usually interpersonal, but structural and institutional racism are both really important. The article talks about understanding historical context as part of understanding the whole picture.
It’s definitely something that comes up in disaster science, because of the environmental racism component, which is both structural and institutional. A finding that will probably stick with me forever is that race is the single most significant indicator of whether you’ll live near toxic waste. Politicians and corporations deliberately sited toxic waste dumps near communities of color, and also, historically, the more outrageous forms of redlining stuck POC near or on land that was “undesirable” – sometimes for being real close to toxic waste. We’re also coming up on the 15th anniversary of Katrina, so take a shot for every time you’ve read something that implied that Black people lived in flood-prone areas on purpose and knowing the risks. And that’s not talking about Isle de Jean Charles and the fact that Louisiana’s first climate change refugees are such in part because the Army Corps of Engineers excluded them from historic flooding and erosion protections.
. . . actually, in this context, let’s talk about Isle de Jean Charles at least in order to clarify that the community who was there was not white. A First Nation without federally recognized status (and thus protections and negotiation status), some members of the community have drawn sharp parallels to the Trail of Tears – the one that sparked the settlement of Isle de Jean Charles in the first place. There are complications now with how the community will relocate, and who and where and by what mechanism and when, and that’s what gets discussed more. But I think the baseline, the one that’s worth reflecting on right now, is that ACE deliberately excluded them as not worth protecting way back in the 1950s. Which is racist.
And this week we’re beyond self-reflection and have action items, which I think is cool. Today’s action item was finding your legislators and following them. I already follow my federal representatives on Twitter, and I’d emailed my state senator, but I went and followed him, too, and found my rep and followed him.