Friday, April 20, 2007

Environmental Racism

On an unrelated note, if you're not reading Liz's blog, here's a reason to start:
"The truth is, if blacks and Latinos get shot in Compton or Philly or DC, on a daily basis, we are not, for the most part, shocked and outraged. We are not calling for more gun control. We are not questioning why someone didn't notice a troubled kid earlier. Heck, I'll tell you what happens to troubled kids in low-income areas. They drop out or are pushed out of school by teachers that don't want to deal with them. And if that troubled kid gets shot, well, that's life in the hood, right? The unsaid message is that that kid brought it on themselves. You know, they were probably involved in drugs or gangs and that's the way it goes. If only they'd stayed in school...and worked harder than they did, right?"
Check out the most recent post to get the proper context.
In a recent post, entitled ' "To Serve and Protect"... and Profile ', I recounted a recent experience when I was on the receiving-end of racism from government officials - police officers, to be precise. I truly believe that I wouldn't have been pulled over had I been a gray-haired, old, white man, instead of a bald, younger, Black man. But, it's a long story, so I won't get into it, again, here.

Well, while catching up on my NPR podcasts, I came across the story of a Black woman who seems to have also been on the receiving-end of racism from government officials. The story began with the host explaining that her guest, Sheila Holt-Orsted, had suffered through ravaging effects of cancer, as it touched and claimed several members of her family.

I immediately began thinking about how doctors ask about a patient's family history while determining the patient's risk of cancer and other diseases. I imagined that "the cancer gene" was particularly powerful and prevalent in Ms. Holt-Orsted's family and how sad and scary that must be for her and her loved-ones.

As it turned out, the apparent prevailing factor in cancerous onslaught upon her family was actually the toxic dumping that took place about 56 feet* from her family's 100+ acre property. The guest believes that those toxins seeped into her family's well water - the same water they used for drinking, bathing, and cooking over 20 years or so.

According to the guest, her family continued to believe the water was safe because the government stepped in, tested the water, and told them it was safe, despite the fact that its toxicity level was five times the EPA limits. The guest and her lawyer went on to say that the white families in the area were told about the unsafe conditions as soon as the government found out about them - in some cases, in as little as 48 hours.

If I understood the story, certain laws make the EPA "unsuable." So, it seems Ms. Holt-Orsted can't sue the government, for what happened to her family, but she can sue what's left of the company that did the dumping. Unfortunately, it has been sold, divided, resold, etc. in the subsequent decades - not to mention having filed for bankruptcy.

Ms. Holt-Orsted realizes that no monetary award or settlement will bring her family back, but she's pursuing this action because she believes it is the right thing to do.

Sadly, she's been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The NPR "News and Notes" story can be found on their site: click here.

* - ...or maybe it was 56 yards, but either way... y'know?!


Miz JJ said...

That story reminds me of reading Black Women's Lives: Stories of Pain and Power by Kristal Brent Zook. She documents cases like that where black women are fighting large corporations that are poisoning their families. It makes me so angry to read that the EPA did not care about those people. Great, informative post.

DJ Black Adam said...

That is tragic, but I am convinced that those with power and money don't really give a crap about those without it.

Once one accepts this presupposition, one can adjust ones actions and lives accordingly (by basically NOT trusting them).

Liz said...

When I read this kind of story, and it seems far too frequent nowadays that I do read or hear about something like this, I inevitably think about what me and my family may have been exposed to over the years. It makes me wonder about the high incidences of cancer, leukemia and lupus in my mother's family. Folks want to say it's because black folks have unhealthy eating habits, but I don't think that's all it is. And, by the way, you are too nice to highlight what I wrote on my blog this morning. Thanks!

Keith said...

Yep, Liz is the real deal!

Lola Gets said...

Environmental racism is very real, and that Tennessee case proves it! One can only imagine what else is going on in other areas inhabited by minorities.