About the guest-blogging at Feministe, I’m going to assume that, if you’re not already reading, even my presence is not going to tempt you over there. So, I’ll just cross-post everything I post over there here.
If you want to go over, great. If not, fine.
That makes sense, right? I think so.
Writing about the Kingston Ash Spill reminded me of the whole Eno Road situation, which is another instance of environmental racism and the stupidity that results (I wrote about it last year, better than I am doing now). Here you have an instance of blatant racism, where white people were told of the dangers of the dump long before black people were. But you also have the kind of racism that bites white people in the ass, where now that a public face has been put on the problem and that public face is black, white people run around acting immune from the problem.
So while the poor Holt family is still trying to get some justice (justice which would benefit everyone in town, let me add), white people are building lovely homes right on the back side of the dump, a dump that has never been properly dealt with, which may still be leaking toxic chemicals.
I mean, what do you even say in the face of that?
(Cross posted to Feministe)
Last December 22, a retaining wall at the Kingston Fossil Plant (run by the TVA) gave way and dumped over a billion gallons of coal ash slurry across a great swath of Roane County, Tennessee. It was one of the worst, if not the worst, man-made environmental disasters in our country’s history. People’s homes were swept away. Nearby rivers and streams were poisoned. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, or what you’ve heard about it.
The experience, even over here in Nashville, was that it was just a little something that happened, not that bad. It’s only been in the ensuing months, as the TVA’s obfuscations have become clearer that the scope of the disaster is coming into focus.
All along the way, it seems, we have made deals with the Devil.
Oh, the TVA. Yes, it brought electricity to the South and with it, air conditioning, and with that, modern civilization (I over-simplify some, but only a little). In exchange, though, there are towns sitting at the bottom of vast lakes, ‘lost’ cemeteries filled with loved ones. And we haven’t even touched on coal itself, a devil’s bargain if ever there was one. Yes, it brings money into regions that otherwise would be dirt poor, but at the cost of people’s health and their lives. They sometimes blow the tops off of mountains to get to it. And, in order to burn it for electricity, the TVA has to have somewhere to put the fly ash that’s a byproduct of the process.
And then the TVA gets a couple of decades of lax oversight and the ability to be a private enterprise when they need to be and a government enterprise when it suits them and before long you have 5.4 million cubic yards of muck spilling out of a pond the TVA claimed only held 2.6 million cubic yards.
And now, the TVA is shipping the coal ash they’re cleaning up from the site to Perry County, Alabama. The New York Times article is interesting and heart-breaking.
To county leaders, the train’s loads, which will total three million cubic yards of coal ash from a massive spill at a power plant in east Tennessee last December, are a tremendous financial windfall. A per-ton “host fee” that the landfill operators pay the county will add more than $3 million to the county’s budget of about $4.5 million.
The ash has created more than 30 jobs for local residents in a county where the unemployment rate is 17 percent and a third of all households are below the poverty line. A sign on the door of the landfill’s scale house says job applications are no longer being accepted — 1,000 were more than enough.
But some residents worry that their leaders are taking a short-term view, and that their community has been too easily persuaded to take on a wealthier, whiter community’s problem. “Money ain’t worth everything,” said Mary Gibson Holley, 74, a black retired teacher in Uniontown. “In the long run, they ain’t looking about what this could do to the community if something goes wrong.”
It’s true that Roane County, Tennessee, is whiter than Perry Country, Alabama, but I was a bit taken aback by the claim that Roane County was richer.
And then I remembered that Oak Ridge is in Roane County, which does indeed mean that the residents of Roane County are, on average, richer than the residents of Perry County. But I don’t think I have to spell out for you what the citizens of Roane County had to accept in order to get that higher income. Another devil’s deal.
So, when it comes to putting this fly ash someplace, the charges of racism have been flying–environmentalists are claiming environmental racism because the fly ash is going to a predominately black community; some folks in the community are claiming that it would be racist to deny them the fly ash, like “Here come the white folks to protect the black folks from themselves.”
And, frankly, from where I sit, both claims seem to be oversimplified but also probably true. Isn’t that the pernicious thing about how we do racism in America? There can be racism on both sides and probably is.
Still, I like how Southern Beale puts it: there is something really fucked up about asking anyone to choose between poverty and poison.
(Cross-posted at Feministe)
So, I pull in my driveway and the Butcher and Mrs. Wigglebottom are running around in the front yard, playing a raucous game of “chase me, chase you” and I roll down my window to shout words of encouragement, “Get that boy! Get that boy!” and the dog looks up and snaps her head around and when she sees it’s me, she just looks like my arrival is the best thing that’s happened to her all day. She ran along side the car clear to the back of the house.
“I think she was running like five miles an hour!” I said to the Butcher.
“Um, that’s not very fast.”
Did y’all know that Beth Slater Whitson, who wrote “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland” lived in Nashville?
If you have been down Granada towards Ellington Parkway, you’ve probably seen the house her husband gave her as a wedding present there on the left. I know it was up for sale last year, because I saw the listing, but they didn’t mention its history. Maybe they didn’t know. That would be sad.
They had a story about it in the Tennessean fifteen years ago or so, which I was able to find in Google’s cache. And it got me thinking of the importance of retelling our stories. If you don’t continually tell the stories that “everyone” knows, soon no one knows them. Whitson gets forgotten. Her house sits at the end of a dead end (it’s technically on whatever street is behind Granada), a strange 1900s relic on a street full of houses built thirty, forty, fifty years later, its significance long forgotten.
The Tennessean article said that she had great periods of manic creativity and crushing bouts of depression. Her husband was wealthy enough to be able to keep her at home and not in an insane asylum.
She died in the house.