Friday, April 18, 2008

Where's Rev J. Wright When You Need Him?

Wassup, Y'all!

Or Erin Brockovich for that matter. Lady E. passed on some actual factuals about 'testing' goin' on down in East St .Louis (ESL to you and me) that features scientists using "a vacant lot near a grade school in East St. Louis to test a new method of addressing lead-contaminated soil — by mixing it with waste sludge that could render the lead chemically harmless." The 'testing' was funded by a $50K U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and this 'test', like a similar one conducted in Baltimore, MD was targeted to a southside poor neighborhood...

'What's the problem, Ty?' readers may ask. The goal was noteworthy - to 'protect children from lead poisoning in the soil' and lead poisoned soil has 'long been a problem in East St. Louis because of former paint manufacturing and lead smelting plants there.' Sounds good, but let me ask you this? Do you think that Southwestern Illinois Resource Conservation & Development Inc. - the midwest nonprofit behind the testing - would have attempted this in an affluent, northside neighborhood? Doubtful. I'd expect they'd still be going through litigation and picketing perpetrated by concerned soccer moms.

According to the article, the local ESL residents, though informed of the testing, weren't informed that the sludge used in the testing could itself be dangerous. Now I may be mistaken, but isn't this just the same type of omission of facts that occurred when the U.S. Department of Health was conducting their syphilis experiment on unsuspecting southside homeys in Tuskegee? What ever happened to full disclosure?

What's interesting is that this type of ESL thing is not a new phenomenon. ESL itself - a city with a 98% southside population - has been dubbed 'one of the most toxic communities of color in the nation'. Last year, in the June/July issue of The Crisis magazine (dap to Crisis for the lead glossy), Robert Bullard wrote an article titled, 'Dismantling Toxic Racism', which discussed a trend where local municipal governments were quick to locate toxic landfills in areas predominantly inhabited by people of color. One example he cited was the 1982 decision to dump 60,000 tons of contaminated soil in Warren County, North Carolina - a predominately southside county.

Interestingly, this spurred the United Church of Christ Commission (remember them y'all? If not, give a holler to Rev. J. Wright - he'll fill you in) to publish a landmark report titled, 'Toxic Wastes and Race' in 1987. It was followed up by a twenty year retrospective, 'Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987 - 2007', also published by the UCC Commission which found 'race to be the most significant independent predictor of commercial hazardous waste facility locations when socio-economic and other non-racial factors are taken into consideration.'

Now I not sayin', I'm just sayin' - all this seems to be more than enough to make the homeys in ESL go 'hmmmmm'...



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