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60+ Environmental Justice Advocates and Groups Issue Coronavirus Call to Action Demanding End to 'Sacrifice Zones'

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/07/07/60-environmental-justice-advocates-and-groups-issue-coronavirus-call-action

I lend my full support behind this call to action, we have to get louder, fiercer and more resolute in our demands for results.

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Most of the country is considered by the sociopathic “elite” to be a “sacrifice zone”—these gods in their own sick minds don’t deserve any sacrifice worth a gutted candle, let alone our lives and the sacred land!

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“people subjected to systemic racism”
Publish the zip codes, neighborhoods, even streets effected. All it takes is a spread sheet!!

Four months of deaths, long hospital stays, and still hearing lies tonight on TV from so called professionals a few hours after this article placed onto common dreams.

Where are the democrat voices? Silence, no rebuttal, gives the daily Trump pronouncement that all is well for going back to work and school credence. He is and will call careful public health measures such as face masks and distance, cowardly.

Trump is totally wrong and he demeans Dr. Fauci, who is begging governors and other officials to mandate masks to save 35,000 to 45,000 lives by Thanksgiving.

I am expecting an October surprise that causes a Trump and republican resurgence at the voting in November. It may be various court rulings about votes by mail. It may be false info leaked from white house about Joe Biden and Tammy Duckworth. It may be false facebook and twitter news that is not verified and never removed.

Call to Action = balderdash.
Get into action, fast.

Just setting up mail in balloting is a tremendous work load and
setting up ‘truth only’ about C-19 is paramount.

Democrats, speak up and actually accomplish right now, or lose.

In our July 18 action in Northern VT, this demand for environmental justice that requires the ending of “sacrificed zones” will be highlighted.

Many in STEM are so accustomed to taking for granted that communities of color are “Sacrifice Zones”, that they don’t even realize the degree to which they promote White Supremacy.

Here’s a video that some of my Black engineering colleagues put together. Its more about the challenges functioning as a Black engineer in a society steeped with violent White Supremacy: ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3qzaTq9ZkU&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop

@PSwanee @Trog I’d be interested in your perspectives.

The thesis of the video appeared to be that being in a STEM field does not confer immunity from societal or institutionalized racism, nor from racist police violence in particular. To me, that seems like a factually uncontroversial thesis. What I did not see in the video was any suggestion that people in STEM fields inherently or disproportionately promote white supremacy, or take for granted that communities of color should be sacrifice zones.

Around 2:10 a few folk talk about the fact the we get kicked out when we speak out about the White Supremacy embedded in STEM. Folk also mention that, with respect to research, the only options to us are to “sell out” - this is due to the White Supremacy of funders such as the National Science Foundation and other groups that often decree that our research is doesn’t constitute valid scientific research when it is focused on collaborations with low-wealth and communities of color.

Part of my family is from Puerto Rico. US STEM researchers and practitioners used my family members as human guinea pigs to test out the birth control pill and then a “birth control” technique where women were sterilized without their consent or knowledge.
://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/9/28/the-bitter-pill/
://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/health-and-society/dark-history-forced-sterilization-latina-women
In a meeting with other engineers who denied structural White Supremacy in the field, I was shocked to find out that many never heard of the Tuskagee experiment (://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/history/40-years-human-experimentation-america-tuskegee-study).

Some claim that what happened in Puerto Rico and Tuskegee is “ancient history” and that,nowadays, things like this don’t happen. I’d encourage folk who have that perspective to look at NIH studies on this racist practices (://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593955/ and ://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821669/)

I imagine that many White STEM researchers and practitioners would still deny that communities of people of color are intentionally “sacrificed”. I’d encourage these folk to look at how engineering’s God of Gods, Elon Musk, pushes for indigenous Bolivians and other Latin Americans to be “sacrificed” for his personal profit.
://mronline.org/2020/03/09/elon-musk-is-acting-like-a-neo-conquistador-for-south-americas-lithium/

Look at Ruha Benjamin’s “Race after Technology” ://www.amazon.com/Race-After-Technology-Abolitionist-Tools/dp/1509526404

Or, to look at how folk from your astrophysics neck of the woods, Trog, have pushed for the interests of Native Hawaiians to be sacrificed:
://www.cjr.org/opinion/mauna-kea-telescope-protest-hawaii.php

Just like a lot of white folk claim that police killings of Black folk are just the result of “a few bad actors”; many white folk in STEM will claim that any past or present transgressions are not indication of an overall White Supremacists climate.

For any folk that feel that way, I suggest you connect with S.E. Anderson (://www.blackeducator.org/), Chanda Prescod-Weinstein and Brian Nord
(://www.particlesforjustice.org/), and/or members of the People of Color Caucus of Science for the People (POCcaucus@scienceforthepeople.org).

That part was in there.

“about the White Supremacy embedded in STEM.”

That part was not, nor was there anything that made that apparent to the average viewer. In a video all about them speaking out, it appears they only felt they could speak out about how they can’t speak out, but for whatever reason, they did not speak out about what they cannot speak out about.

"Folk also mention that, with respect to research, the only options to us are to “sell out”

That’s been a longstanding complaint of researchers in general. Research costs money, and the people who control the money typically determine what sorts of research get funded.

“- this is due to the White Supremacy of funders such as the National Science Foundation and other groups that often decree that our research is doesn’t constitute valid scientific research when it is focused on collaborations with low-wealth and communities of color.”

That was not in the video.

“In a meeting with other engineers who denied structural White Supremacy in the field, I was shocked to find out that many never heard of the Tuskagee experiment”

There have been numerous examples from history of researchers doing unethical experiments on members of race-based underclasses, but also Jews, homosexuals, women, children, mentally handicapped people, prisoners, and poor people, among others. Essentially, any dis-empowered group has historically been at increased risk of being subjected to unethical research.

Research, engineering, and medicine are tools, and like most tools, they can be used well, to great benefit; they can be used poorly or inefficiently; and they can even be used as instruments of unethical and sometimes horrific abuse. It is not an indictment of the tool itself when a tool is used badly, or applied towards bad objectives.

The TMT is proposed as being the last telescope for Mauna Kea. Under the current plan, the construction of the TMT (about 2000 feet from the summit) would be accompanied by the removal of three existing telescopes at the summit. The total number of telescopes would go down, while the useful science that could be done would be improved.

In polls over the last few years, the current island residents want the telescope by a margin of 2 to 1 over those who don’t, and among the native islanders, it is about evenly split. However, only around 15% of the native population would reject the telescope under any circumstances, which suggests a large portion of those who aren’t satisfied with the current deal are not opposed to a deal in principle. I heard one of the protesters saying she thought the use of that site was worth more than a million per year (one of the terms of the present deal) which sounds like her interest is in negotiating a better deal. The problem is, who speaks for the native population?

The large majority of native islanders want science and their heritage to co-exist to mutual benefit. But those who are of native descent are the only ones who can legitimately decide who can speak and negotiate on their behalf, and they haven’t been able to figure out how to do that in a coherent and unified manner. The scientists with the TMT project have tried to be culturally sensitive, have worked with native experts to ensure that Area E has no burial grounds or sites of special archeological, cultural or ecological importance, and are trying to build in some redresses for the heavy-handed way prior projects were imposed. That may be why there have been more protests for this telescope than for previous ones–because there is a sense that native voices were being heard this time. It’s also why the scientists were angry that all their outreach work was being undone by the arrests and strong-arm tactics of the government. But ultimately, I don’t see how this is resolvable until there is an accepted and legitimate native body who is empowered to negotiate on behalf of all natives. But if the Mauna Kea site falls through and they build it elsewhere, that would be millions of dollars lost to the local natives, and that could delay the dismantling of some of the telescopes that are already there. It’s hard to see how that outcome would be a win for anyone.

Meanwhile, over at the Mauna Loa observatory, on another sacred mountain, some of the best tracking science of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the planet is being done, and that observatory, too, was opposed by some native islanders. Yet, it has contributed to climate science that has global importance, and particular importance to people living on low-lying islands–including some that the Hawai’ian islanders themselves came from.

Hi Trog. Perhaps you misunderstand. Nobody is criticizing the fact that engineering, mathematics, and science exist as disciplines. The critique is that the practice of STEM, in the US, is steeped in White Supremacy. For many of my colleagues in STEM, its clear that White Supremacy is in play when, for example the NSF declares research on air quality related to an industrial process is not “scientific” because it focuses on low-wealth and communities of color, but similar research on air quality in an air vehicle is considered of scientific merit.

Perfect example of White Supremacy, Trog. The interests of a local community of color was sacrificed by the mainly White astrophysicist community, who is OK with having to sacrifice the interests of that community.

Ask yourself, how is it that astrophysicists were able to do put in the telescope even though the local community of color was opposed? Because the astrophysicists had the backing of police to ensure the interests of the astrophysicists through force.

I wonder how many White astrophysicists involved with these projects ever considered the ethics of utilizing the land of Hawaii at all given that it was expropriated from a native population through imperial force. I know several Black astrophysicists from Particles for Justice, who are not OK with this dynamic. Another example of the White Supremacist mindset that pervades the community of researchers and practitioners of STEM in the US.

I disagree, Trog. Practitioners of STEM often maintain inequitable power dynamics in their interaction with communities. There is a Solidarity STEM movement that operates on the principle of collaborative engagement. Communities are non-uniform and there are often many varied perspectives. Its a long process which, in some cases, result in people coming to a consensus of a course of action and, in others, result in the recognition that there will be no easy way to move forward with unity. Given the US history of state sanctioned slavery, oppression, violence, and war against Black, Brown, and indigenous peoples, it is inappropriate, and I would say perpetuating White Supremacy, for STEM practitioners to take the patronizing stance that they even though communities of color may oppose the activities, its in their best interests. I would add that it is part of the White Supremacist practice for folk from predominantly white STEM communities to get their will by resorting to force (i.e. police) against these communities of color.