We’re Seeing the Devastation of Environmental Racism From Mississippi to Pakistan

Usually, when a Environmental disaster hit the United States, there was media coverage.

If it a flood, we see the same images on our screens: Houses, roads, schools, and cars underwater — once-prosperous neighborhoods washed away. If it’s a fire, stormor tornadoes, the coverage is similar — you talk to locals with tears in their eyes as you stand in front of what used to be their neighborhood and wonder how they’ll rebuild. There is always a temporary outpouring of sympathy and money — if, in fact, the affected communities are all “average Americans.”

Do not have one Black people in America Who doesn’t know that the terms “average American” or “hard-working American” are not too subtle a code for white Americans — people who enjoy automatically rejected sympathy for other people. other.

Thus, whenever an environmental disaster occurs in a black community, rarely a television crew is seen — unless, of course, mocking and admonishing people scoured the stores (as they did during Hurricane Katrina) for supplies so they could survive.

In America, we glorify the rich and we bring down the poor. Don’t believe it?

Look no further than the crisis unfolding in Jackson, Mississippi — or Flint, Michigan, New York City, Baltimore, et al. Densely populated black and brown communities are receiving government orders to boil (or not drink) water at all. What doesn’t monitor those warnings? A debt in water bill payments.

When we hear stories like the tragedy that happened in Jackson, Mississippi — with 80 percent of the population Black, where the whole city no longer has access to clean drinking water, there’s no end to it — there’s a little There was shock and outrage in the nation of conscience, but that faded with the image of ruined buildings and neighborhoods that did not resemble “ordinary Americans.” The assumption is not that those who suffer are also “hard-working Americans,” but that they are lazy, dangerous, or deserving of poverty and shoddy public works—like clean water.


Bottled water cases are handed out at the Mississippi Rapid Response Alliance distribution site on August 31, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson is experiencing a third day without reliable water service after river flooding caused a major treatment facility to fail. Late Tuesday night, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency amid the crisis.

Brad Vest’s photo / Getty Images

The reality is what’s happening in Mississippi isn’t your average environmental disaster. It was the culmination of centuries of racism, neglect and theft.

Jackson is a city of more than 160,000 residents that has faced investment shortages for decades. Last year, the state faced one of its harshest winters, leaving the water idle for nearly a month. latest disaster, like the previous super stormcaused massive flooding, damaged roads and rusty brown water coming out of pipes.

In the most recent infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden has struggled to make a reality, hundreds of millions of dollars have been earmarked for places that look exactly like Jackson, but sadly, state lawmakers must decide where that money is to be invested. Not surprisingly, in a state that was once one of the fiercest battlegrounds for civil rights, basic living conditions for Black taxpayers are not a high priority.

An auditor recently reported that Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, spend 70 million dollars dedicated to the welfare recipients of the speeches of a professional football player, a volleyball complex, a horse ranch and other ludicrous details. While there is currently a criminal investigation, we can be fairly confident that no politician will actually go to jail for this. When this story gets attention quickly, outrage is likely to dissipate quickly – and welfare recipients desperate for relief will be asked to wait a little longer.

That’s how we treat the poor in America. We give the economic status of “hard work” instead of systemic racism, discrimination, theft and lies.


Jamiya Williams, left, watches as her fiance, Terrence Carter, right, pours bleach into the water before washing dishes in response to the water crisis on September 1, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. Water pressure increased in their apartment on Wednesday, however the water is still unsafe to drink.

Brad Vest’s photo / Getty Images

Racist environment is one of the most insidious forms of racism, whereby low-income communities and communities of color are seen as the deadliest in the midst of areas unfit for human existence. These include industrialized areas that are pollution hotspots, chemical runoff from plants, and toxic fumes. What’s worse is that these areas are often in low-lying plains, which means they will be vulnerable to super typhoons (a symptom of climate change). The health consequences Life in and around these areas is devastated and includes increased risk of birth defects, cancer and developmental problems.

Not surprisingly, in a state that was once one of the fiercest battlegrounds for civil rights, basic living conditions for Black taxpayers are not a high priority.

All of this is shameful, but it’s not even the worst part, which is that these decisions are made with the intention of harming the Black and brown community.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (as well as Obama’s Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx) has stated that racism is really baked into the infrastructure in this country.

“If you think about it, much of this infrastructure was paid for and designed before the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Foxx. theGrio. “That was before Negroes were at the table.”

As the Biden administration begins rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, Secretary Buttigieg wants the country to be more just – in contrast to the brutal racism of mid-century Robert Moses. The 20th century built highways and overpasses specifically to keep out blacks. access to New York’s beaches and open spaces.

It was in the 1980s when the term environmental racism originated in a 1983 Research GAO found that 75% of communities living near hazardous waste dumps are predominantly Black. Much research has been done in the years since on the impact of these decisions and how they participate longevity.

Think about this for a moment. Not only do we have a racial gap between rich and poor in America, but also a health gap, which was most recently exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What COVID has done has exacerbated the problems that already plague Black and brown communities. While many people just want to blame the individual when it comes to poverty, the reality is much more complicated. People live where they can afford to live. When you have highways and power plants that are being designed to divide densely populated Black communities or build factories that will pollute the environment under the guise of “creating jobs,” you end up where we are now — with a clear divide not only between rich and poor, and black and white, but also healthy and sick.


Local residents place sandbags to prepare a wall to protect people from flood water in Mehar area after heavy monsoon rains in Dadu district, Sindh province on September 7, 2022. The continent has caused devastating floods across Pakistan since June, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving nearly a third of the country under water, affecting the lives of 33 million people.

Photo by Aamir Qureshi / AFP via Getty Images

Tragically, environmental racism doesn’t just happen in the United States. We are watching it play out on the world stage, specifically in Pakistan. A third of the country is now underwater because of an unprecedented monsoon season that has displaced more than 30 million people and killed thousands. Most Americans are unaware of the heartbreak going on in this predominantly Muslim country, because our mainstream media barely notices it. Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of the world’s carbon emissions, but its people are paying the price for the greed of more industrialized and whiter nations — who don’t even give provide the monetary support this crisis deserves, let alone the attention or sympathy.

From Jackson to Pakistan, it is clear who will pay the price for climate change and relentless capitalism. And it won’t be the people who created this man-made disaster.

As Nina Simone sang beautifully in her 1964 song “Damn Mississippi“:

“All I want is equality, for my sister, my brother, my people and me.”

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