Environmental Racism is Horror

This horror movie starts with a government’s promise to right a historical wrong. Smiling city officials, white and Black, line up in front of beautiful brick homes. Behind the politicians stand Black families, kept from generational wealth through redlining and loan denials, each family promised one of those gleaming new homes. The homes loom in the background, grinning their straight brick smiles. These New Orleans homes are state of the art for 1960, and they have a front yard and a back yard. Porches.
            Welcome, they say. Welcome to the American dream.
            The city of New Orleans sells these homes to working class Black families at a steep discount. Coming soon! A brand new elementary school to serve these families and their sweet children. State of the art.
–   xxx      –
            Two weeks after moving in, a young man is digging in his yard. He wants to plant trees, food to eat. Autonomy through property that will accrue value, with space enough to grow vegetables so the food desert of the upper ninth ward doesn’t keep him or his wife from fresh, healthy food. As he digs, his hands bleed. Broken glass, shard after shard, spit from the earth. Like teeth.
            That’s strange.
            Children develop asthma. After more time, adults and children get cancer diagnoses at alarming rates. It isn’t just glass shards that the earth under these homes rejects: it is massive amounts of garbage. It is old containers too worn down to reveal their prior contents, the only markings remaining a skull and crossbones. And —
            Warning: Toxic.
–    xxx      –
            In this case, the horror movie I describe has a name, but isn’t actually a movie: Gordon Plaza. The neighborhood in New Orleans built on a superfund site. Homes knowingly built on a toxic waste dump – one that once burnt trash so constantly that neighboring folks called it Dante’s Inferno – that for decades piled trash considered too toxic for “normal” landfills. The landfill was shut down when it was deemed too toxic, then reopened when Hurricane Betsy devastated the ninth ward neighborhood of New Orleans and more space was needed for the resulting strewn trash.
            Gordon Plaza was developed as a subdivision in 1981. After garbage began exploding out of the earth almost immediately, the EPA tested the soil and found 150 known contaminants, 49 of which are known carcinogens. In 2006, residents won a class action lawsuit that did not provide enough money for relocation or restitution for the plethora of sicknesses that residents have suffered and died from.
 It’s 2021 – and Gordon Plaza is still demanding a fully funded relocation
It is not an accident that every single resident of Gordon Plaza is Black and working class. In a lot of horror stories, the monster is at once simple and looming, in the shadows but with its tentacles protruding out of the soil in front of our very eyes. But this monster we can defeat – together.
Want to learn more and hear from the residents themselves? 
Want to get involved or donate to help a fully funded relocation? 

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