People eat, breathe, dance, create, work, start families, raise children, love, cry, celebrate and build lives there. It is more than your relaxing destination.By Angely Mercado Tropical parts of the world are in full-blown hurricane season. Homes and businesses all over the Caribbean have been flooded or razed to the ground by tumultuous winds and water. People have been injured and have died. And despite all of it, I continue to see posts about people saying that they’re sad about potential vacations and beach side resorts being ruined. There are valid reasons to be upset when a vacation has been disrupted by a natural disaster. Those who come from far away have to pay even more for a plane ticket, making a lost vacation a financial loss as well. It’s also horrible for anyone who doesn’t have the disposable income to take a yearly vacation outside of their hometown. I’ve had plans cut short due to illness and lack or even loss of money — it feels awful. But some sentiments communicated online have been from people lamenting not being able to visit the Caribbean for future vacations or bemoaning damages done to beaches and resorts that they thought were pretty. It has triggered some arguments amongst a few women’s travel groups that I’m a part of online and posts had to be taken down since they mainly consisted of people saying that it was horrible that the beaches were ruined instead of providing links to where people can donate food and money to help those affected by the disasters.
Puerto Rico is without resources. Meanwhile its colonial government plays golf.By Holly Peoples with enduring colonial histories are time and again marginalized and disadvantaged. Meanwhile colonizers continue to profit off of our lives and our land. And in the age of widespread pollution, ecological devastation, and climate change, it is we the colonized who always pay the price. At the intersection of colonialism, corporatocratic economy, and climate, these systems manifest with real and significant consequences on the lived experiences of colonized peoples. In the last few months alone, natural disasters hit, particularly in places with colonial histories. Efforts have rallied behind some of those affected, such as for Hurricane Harvey for example which had not one, but two benefit performances were held. On the other hand, other aid efforts are noticeably slower or more silent. Because of this, many attempt to amplify awareness of less-spotlighted natural disasters. However in the race to focus disasters in non-Western nations, a perilous trend emerges. There is a striking pattern in the media of calling help for disasters by framing affected Indigenous and colonized peoples as Western nationalities. Seemingly every online post for donations asks aid for the people of Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands because they are “American”. And while intentions behind this may be benign, the impact is anything but. This narrative is dangerous in predicating the value of human life on the fact that life is Western — as though we could not care to help Virgin Islanders as Afro-Caribbean people or Puerto Ricans as Boricuas. This framing also erases the colonial history of these lands and peoples, stripping context and culpability of the very imperialist expansion that plays a direct and serious role in climate and environment.
Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect.The first time you heard the term environmental racism may have been after Hurricane Katrina, during the ongoing Flint water crisis, or even as recently as Hurricane Harvey. You may have thought, “What? How can the environment be racist? It isn’t a person!” And you wouldn’t be alone in your initial assessment. Although the environment isn’t a person, large components of the environment are controlled by people, and people are racist and creative in the ways they come up with to harm people of color. As history and current events have shown, environmental racism is real. It’s having long-term effects on communities of color, and it’s costing the country billions of dollars. What is Environmental Racism? Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. The air we breathe, the water we drink, even the neighborhoods we end up living in are controlled by policies and practices. Redlining and housing discrimination of the 20th century is responsible for segregating people of color into the least desirable neighborhoods. 50 percent of people who live near hazardous waste are people of color (think Cancer Alley in Louisiana), and floodplains (think Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey) throughout the country have a high Black and Latinx populations. Additionally, Black children are twice as likely to suffer from lead poisoning as white children (think Flint water crisis). These disparate health outcomes are no accident; they are by design. Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect. In regards to environmental discrimination, racism trumps classism. Middle class Black people are more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods than poor white. In fact, one study found that Black people making between $50-$60k were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards that whites who only made $10k. Black and Brown people cannot buy their way out of the systemic effects of environmental racism. The political will of Black and Brown communities has not made environmental racism go away either. People of color have less political clout, so our needs often go ignored by those elected to represent us. This was the case in Flint, Michigan when residents protested the dirty drinking water for a year. Their concerns went largely ignored by local and state officials until the story made national news. Still, Flint, which is 57 percent Black, is without clean drinking water.