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reposted from Race Wire

BP Oil Spill Hurts Already Besieged Communities of Color

Julianne Hing

It’s only been two weeks since the April 20 explosion on the BP drilling rig killed 11 workers fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana and triggered an oil spill, but already local environmental justice advocates are saying the impact on communities of color could do more to wipe out the local economy than Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the recession combined.

The oil spill, which BP has taken responsibility for but been unable to bring under control, threatens to cut off local communities from their primary source of food and livelihood “indefinitely,” said Monique Harden, the co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a New Orleans-based environmental justice group.

And now, many fishermen, already out of work since the federal government issued a ten-day ban on commercial and recreational fishing starting last Friday, are signing up for paid volunteer work to help BP with its cleanup efforts. Fishermen with boats are being paid nominal fees to ferry materials to and from shore and load the gigantic plastic containment booms that are supposed to keep oil from spreading further inland.

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the opening ceremonies for the 2010 winter olympics are going down tonight.

a shout out of solidarity with the indigenous peoples resisting the 2010 olympic games taking place on stolen land.

some words from the Native Youth Movement:

No 2010 Olympics on Stolen Native Land on the struggle:

Palestine lends towards developing an ecological politics rooted in the demands of the most oppressed layers of society, notably women and people of color.  the issues of population control and resource scarcity are debated not just in the ecology movement, but also between Palestine solidarity activists and the proponents of Israeli apartheid and occupation.  as the video points out, the forms of resource scarcity — in this case water — which the ruling classes reference are politically and socially fabricated.  in the case of Palestine it’s used as a means to take more land and resources, and continue Israel’s campaign of ethnically cleansing Palestine.

but theories of population control and resource scarcity are attached at the hip.  in the ecology movement, white supremacists make the same arguments about resource scarcity and point to larger birth rates in people of color nations, ignoring the vastly greater production and consumption habits for developed (read mostly white) nations in regards to underdeveloped (read mostly people of color) nations.  these debates came up in the Copenhagen talks as China and India were blamed for the current levels of carbon concentration in the atmosphere.  some of these racists have sought to curb the further development of these people of color nations, while others have advocated restrictive population control measures for women and families of color.

this of course ignores both years of struggle by women to control their own bodies and the social roots of the burgeoning population growth in the Third World.  part of this can be explained by imperial policies of underdevelopment that restrict the availability of birth control techniques and technologies for women to choose.  it should also be noted that imperialism will at times bloc with the most patriarchal and reactionary elements in dominated nations.  the US occupation of Afghanistan is one example.

when it comes to Palestine, Zionists cite fears of being demographically overrun by Palestinians.  their primary concern is maintaining the Jewish character of the state which is threatened by a faster rate of growth of the Palestinian population in contrast to the Jewish occupants of historic Palestine.  the patriarchal and racist history of eugenics is, here too, at the center of these politics.

all this being said, i don’t think the science of population control should be rejected completely.  it just needs to be taken up from an anti-racist and anti-patriarchal perspective, which involves a social explanations of the ecological crisis, and the crafting of demands on the terms of these oppressed peoples.

Detroit-Rebellion-12th-St.-Clairmount-0723671the Great Rebellion of 1967 was a turning point in the city of Detroit.  after years of attacks by the police, and being relegated to the most grueling, lowest paying jobs with no chance of promotion, black and poor white folks revolted, shaking the foundations of the ruling establishment in Detroit.  both before and after the rebellion there were a number of important organizations which were key in cultivating the means and spirit of revolt, such as the Revolutionary Union Movements (RUMs) along with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and the Republic of New Afrika.  but the organizational weaknesses of these groups coupled with the relentless onslaught by the city elite left the people of Detroit open to a new wave of attack that resulted from the collapse of the Black Power movement.  the city, afterwards, would not be the same.

all the wealth that black and white workers had created was looted from the city by the capitalists, and moved out to the suburbs or down to the southern United States.  along with that went the tax base of the city, and forty years later the city is falling apart due to an emaciated infrastructure.  this story is shared by other cities where brown and black folks rose up to take their city back.  Gary, Indiana and Newark, New Jersey are only two more examples.  i’ve heard Detroit described by visitors as resembling a war zone — well that’s what it is; it’s the American Third World.

growing up in Detroit you learn to appreciate the hidden beauty of a city gutted by white supremacy and capitalism.  the resilience of the people there, despite all we’ve endured, is one testament to black civilization and oppressed peoples everywhere.  i have friends from the east coast who say that Detroit and much of the Midwest has its own unique form of scathing charm that is normally attributed to the tough personality types of New York.  to survive in a war zone you gotta be tough.  the working classes of New York live in a city which some of the most brutal capitalists in the world call their home, and everyday they go head-to-head with these capitalists. in Detroit it’s a little different. we were left for dead.  and despite that, and all the odds stacked against us, we remind the bosses, the crackers and the cops that we’re still here.

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one of the things i’ve always loved about the city is how green it can get during the spring and summer.  again, because the city can’t afford to keep the trees up, and because families living in a city with a 33% unemployment rate have more important things to worry about than how high the lawn or the bushes get, wild vegetation has started to take back some of the city.

the photography of James D. Griffioen captures this in a very profound way.  his work evokes a sense of sadness, serenity, and rage all at the same time.  the scope of his work explores the many details of life in Detroit giving us a wider view of the devastation.  he shows us entire neighborhood blocks that don’t have a single house on it, book depositories with brand new text books that are going to waste, and miles of unused factories and store fronts that have been eviscerated and left to rot.

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some friends and i are looking for films to screen at our next organizing event and i just finished watching “Palante Siempre Palante” a documentary by Iris Morales on the rise and fall of the Young Lords.  the Young Lords Organization was mainly a Puerto Rican group in the late 60s/early 70s that spread like a wild fire across the east coast.  they were a part of that generation of people of color who took a militant and international approach to fighting white supremacy and US Empire.

it’s a great documentary that touches on key political questions of the era.  a definite recommendation.  it’s a kind of rare and hard to find, though.  i hope the film makers work on making it more widely available.

black 'n' brown in revolt

black 'n' brown in revolt

the relevance of the Young Lords Organization to the discussion on this blog can be found in the origins and organizing methods of the New York chapter.

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WhitePeopleAreCrazya friend of mine shared this article from the American Prospect on the growth of exurbs in America.  it’s sardonically entitled “refugees of diversity”.

the role of white supremacy is a familiar theme when discussing both the suburbs and exurbs.  i don’t have the numbers, names and dates on hand, but i’m pretty sure the white supremacist relationship between the suburbs and city/urban centers began during the era of Black Revolts in the 60s & 70s; a phenomenon known as white flight.  as black workers and other people of color began demanding higher wages, better working conditions, and in some cases control over the work place, they also began confronting the cops and the other strong arms of white, capitalist society, and as a result white society retreated.

red-lining, then, took on an added dimension.  whereas when traditional Jim Crow ordinances were the standard, the banks could keep black folks and other people of color from getting housing in white neighborhoods.  the destruction of Jim Crow by the Civil Rights movement and Black Power left those crackers with really only local police forces to harass, bully and attack people of color who left the cities and ventured into the suburbs.  at least this is what i remember growing up in Detroit.

again, from what i remember in Detroit, the growth of the exurbs really took off in the mid 90s.  the white supremacist attack on inner-city infrastructure, particularly schools left people of color families with really the only option of moving to the suburbs if they wanted their kids to get a decent education.  this was, of course, the other part of white flight: not only did white people leave, but they took with them all the wealth and capital that gave inner-cities their dynamism.  so now those crackers moved out of the suburbs to the exurbs, initiating another wave of white flight.

this conversation is important for thinking about how white supremacy contributes to ecological destruction by increasing the antagonistic relationship between the city and the country.  in light of the working class character of the Black Revolts, it also raises the centrality of working class, anti-capitalist struggle to the ecology movement.  after this era of revolt, capitalist society was able to restructure itself and continue its attacks on people of color, and environmental destruction.  as the saying goes, it’s either socialism or barbarism.

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