Wednesday, May 25, 2005

White privilege ... a bit from my latest paper take two.

The issue of white privilege examines the things whites in our society take as a given, that minority members do not have. Many members of white society, while willing to agree that the placement of hazardous treatment facilities in communities of color is wrong, are unwilling to admit that they themselves are over-privileged just as minority members are underprivileged. By turning a blind eye to the issue of white privilege white society perpetuates the behaviors and beliefs that allow them to obtain that privilege to begin with. Peggy McIntosh identified approximately 50 privileges held by whites in our society that are not held by most minorities in her essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible Knapsack.” Some of them are directly applicable to the issues faced by communities victimized by environmental racism.

Ø If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

Ø I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

Ø I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race

Ø I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person's voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

Ø I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

Ø I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

These privileges are a given for most members of white society. They are the every day interactions we take for granted, and as a result, we do not understand the complaints members of minority groups’ voice with regards to these interactions. There is one additional privilege missing from Ms. McIntosh’s list:

Ø I fell reasonably certain I can purchase a home in a neighborhood where there are no hazardous waste cites and feel secure the neighborhood will remain that way.

The issue of whiteness as property is another uncomfortable area to examine.

Historically, in our society, members of white society have held the majority of the political power, the land, and the military power. With that historical racial success comes an inheritance of privilege. Whiteness as property is not an examination of white society today choosing to disenfranchise minority groups but rather compares the rights and advantages members of white society have inherited from their predecessors with those inherited by minority groups. A NCES study indicates that children of parents who did not attend college are less likely to succeed in college than children whose parents did attend college. This is true even in cases where the first generation college student is given family support and encouragement. “Whether high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education and whether postsecondary students reach their degree goals depend on many factors, but those whose parents have no education beyond high school are considerably less likely to succeed than those whose parents have completed a bachelor's degree. Students who are nonwhite or from low-income families tend to be disproportionately represented among those whose parents have low education. Multivariate analysis confirms that parents' education remains significant for gaining access to postsecondary education and for persistence and bachelor's degree attainment at 4-year institutions even after controlling for other factors such as income, educational expectations, academic preparation, parental involvement, and peer influence." National Center for Education.

Members of white society are more likely to have parents who completed college than minority members. Therefore they themselves are more likely to finish college, as are their children, and their grandchildren, and so on. There are inherent benefits that come from being white and they are the privilege of belonging to a class who has historically held the power.

Few of these issues are considered socially comfortable and frank examination of the majority of them usually angers non-minority society. But despite the fact that many if not most individual whites are not racist and not actively choosing to disadvantage minority classes, our society as a whole chooses to make this small percentage of our members bear the majority of our environmental burdens. As a result, we as a society, and as individuals, have an ethical duty to examine the current system, and effect positive change to better spread the cost of our environmental excesses more evenly across all of our society members.

Monday, May 23, 2005

24 signs you have grown up

Normally I do not go in for these "10 signs your from the 80"s" types of emails but this one was so tragically true to life, I felt it needed posting. Enjoy!


1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke
any of them.
2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to
5. You hear your favorite song on an elevator.
6. You watch the Weather Channel.
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of hook up
and break up.
8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed
10. You're the one calling the police because those
%&@# kids next door won't turn down the stereo.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex
jokes around you.
12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car
payments go up.
14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of
McDonald's leftovers.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
16. You no longer take naps from noon to 6 P.M.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of
the beginning of one.
18. Eating fast food at 3 A.M. would severely upset,
rather than settle, your stomach.
19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and
antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.
20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to,"
replaces, "I'm never going
to drink that much again."
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer
is for real work.
24. You drink at home to save money before going to
a bar.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The gift that never needs dusting...

It all began one year when my parents decided they did not want to give the usual christmas detritus to our family. They wanted to give gifts that meant something but would actually be more meaningful than a "deluxe car jack and emergency travel kit" or a god awful sweater that is never to be worn. They went to World Vision online and bought each of my family members a goat for christmas. We made tree ornaments to go with the gift cards and gave our family gifts that went to really needy families in underdeveloped countries. Most of our family was as excited and happy about these presents as we were, and we have been giving them to each other ever since.

I began looking at heifer international when I realized that World Vision had a less secular purpose. While I have never questioned god, I question what man teaches in her name, and had no desire to spend my money furthering those teachings. I went looking for an organization that would allow me to assist needy families in learning to better their lives without religous overtones. I found Heifer International.

Heifer International promotes an end to world hunger through a sustainable development ideology. Not only does your donation of a bee-hive go to a needy family but with it training on how to use and care for the hive. Additionally each recipient of a Heifer gift must pass another gift on to another needy family in the future. So a recipient of Rabbits must pass on two female and one male rabbit to another family.

Their program promotes a sense of community and turns recipients of charity into those able to pass along charity, a healthy and amazing transistion for these families. So for the upcoming holidays or birthdays, or for fun, buy a gift that will not sit on a high shelf in the guest bathroom or stay buried deeply within a drawer, instead, buy something from the Heifer International gift catalouge.

Friday, May 13, 2005

new allies in a pleasantly unexpected source...

Wacthing the current adminstration's treatment of environmental issues it is eay to believe that christianity is falling back on it's "God put it here for man so we should consume it" mantra. There are absolutely members of that religion that are, but I am conforted by the numbers of evangelical christians involved in the Creation Care movement, a rather logical, in my opinion, system of belief that argues Man is the Steward of what God has created and therefore we should care for it. Their Evangelical declaration on the care of creation reassures me greatly, for while it is filled with evangelicalism, it is also filled with environmentalism, and the movement can use as many allies as it can get.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A wee bit of my latest paper.

The Simpsons television show has been touted as having covered every important topic encountered by people. Environmental Racism and the location of Locally Undesirable Land Uses is a topic addressed in “Two Cars In Every Garage And Three Eyes On Every Fish”.

In this episode, Bart and Lisa catch the now infamous three eyed fish, Blinky, in a polluted stream near the nuclear power plant. In response to the negative publicity, the nefarious Nuclear Power Plant owner, Mr. Burns, decides to run for governor and improve his image by having dinner with a “common family”. The family he chooses is the Simpsons. Lisa and Marge Simpson, outraged at the environmental atrocities committed by the power plant, object to this dinner, but are told by Homer Simpson that he needs to agree in order to keep his job. They are even told by the public relations people that they will be given questions to ask rather than being allowed to ask their own. During the dinner, which is being broadcast on live TV, Marge responds to this gag order by serving to Mr. Burns the three eyed fish his power plant’s dumping has created. Mr. Burn’s spits the first bite of fish across the dinner table, resulting in sensationally negative headlines the next morning.

This episode is a perfect example of the alternative methods of advocacy found most effective when representing victims of environmental injustice. The problems faced by minorities in our culture are incredibly difficult to separate and conquer. Does addressing the placement of hazardous waste facilities solve the disparity in criminal charges between whites and minorities? Does a focus on limiting government ability to intentionally place these unattractive land uses in minority communities help increase the effectiveness of their political voice? Do settlements for past tort wrongs keep these community members from facing housing discrimination preventing them from leaving these afflicted neighborhoods?

In reality the reason environmental racism is such a problem is that it stems from a history of discrimination and disparate treatment and curing one symptom will not eradicate the disease. For this reason traditional advocacy methods are ineffective in effectuating change in these cases. The successful litigation of a constructive eviction claim, while providing damages for the victim, does little to increase public awareness of environmental racism or educate community members on how to demand livable conditions from the next slum lord to come along. The goal of an environmental justice advocate is to educate community members and the public, increase the power of the movement, and address the root of the problem, and not the symptoms.

The Simpson’s episode referenced above exhibits the type of non-traditional, awareness building activity that environmental justice advocacy should embrace. How does one advocate address the root of a systemic world-wide epidemic of race-based decision making? Here are some of my ideas -- First, look to the characteristics shared by these communities and determine how to employ non-traditional and traditional advocacy methods to eradicate or ameliorate these issues.

1. Availability of cheap land. What types of advocacy can address this particular piece of the problem? Perhaps an examination of the threatened community for equally threatened animals or land protected by environmental laws. If the community can put an end to a proposed development by declaring their neighborhood the “habitat” of an endangered species under the ESA then the root of the problem, available cheap land, is no longer there.

2. Lack of opposition. Oppose the proposed site. Encourage the community to contact civil rights organizations and environmental groups to write letters and campaign against the placement of the LULU. Urge communities to band together and find other groups or organizations that will assist in advocating against this project. Contact the media, spread the word of the proposed project to other communities and the world at large. Sponsor races as fundraisers, be vocal.

3. Inability to walk with their feet. Educate the members of the community in their rights against discrimination, help them develop their own strategies for dealing with housing discrimination. Urge them to fight these battles and provide support for them when they do.

4. Poverty. Education and empowerment is the limit to the advocates ability to cure poverty.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

And now for something completely different ...

So finals have begun and I will lack the time to post much requiring thought or creativity for the next 2 and 1/2 weeks. Today's post is to a clever little link sent to me by a friend. Enjoy.

LOTR Slightly condensed

Monday, May 02, 2005

Continuity and the more things remain the same

The Empire Strikes Back is one of my earliest memories. My parents took me to see it when I was five years old and I have been a fan ever since. When I was a little older my father built me a free standing "tree house" shaped like an ATAT walker. It had a little bridge on the side very similar to a walkway in the Ewok city on Endor. I spent my childhood terrorizing friends and sibling by requiring them to play Star Wars at all times. I was always Princess Leia.

Time progressed as time does and the films were re-released in 1997. I went to the opening night showing of each re-release. I cemented my name in the geek hall of fame when I was interviewed by the Rocky Mountain news for the re-release of Star Wars and quoted for answering the question Why did I wait in line so long? with "It's Star Wars, I have been waiting for this my whole life." Of course all the colorful discussion of the pervasiveness of Star Wars quotes, the years my family had spent making Star Wars jokes, and anything else I said that made me sound less crazy was left out of the article.

And now my daughter Marlena is almost four years old and as in love with the idea of Star Wars as I ever was. Princess Leia is her favorite role to play and she always makes her friend Simon play Han Solo. They use paper towel tubes for light sabers and today she informed me she wants a Revenge of the Sith themed birthday party this July.

Do I continue the tradition started so many years ago and bring her to see Revenge of the Sith? Is it time to share the magic chills caused by the opening music that can only be experienced fully in surround sound? Is this Star Wars movie going to live up to the legacy left by the first three films?

This October I turn 30 years old, and this summer I will be able to share with my daughter a film in a series that started when I was two. That this is a tradition that now spans generations is something to consider.

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