Dakota Pipeline Protests and Environmental Racism

Currently, in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, there are many people who are protesting the building of a new pipeline that has been in the making for some time. The project was set to be made with about 3.7 billion dollars, and would carry about 470,000 barrels of gas a day between the 4 states that it was built through and connecting to other previously-made pipelines. It is being built through other parts of North Dakota, Illinois, and close to the Canadian border. There have been thousands of people who have protested the making of this pipeline, particularly in Cannon Ball, as a result to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe fearing for the pollution of the nearby Missouri River waters, which is a major water source for their reservation. Some may dispute the possibility of there being an oil spill in the area, but in just ten years, there has been 27 oil spills in this country. Another large issue that is causing the uproar is that the building of the pipeline would destroy sacred burial sites on their land. Energy Transfer Partners is financing this project, and the pipeline has been measured to be about 1,170 miles long. President Obama had, after the many protests and after the Standing Rock Sioux sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers, requested that the company stop the construction of this pipeline, but it was not enforced and they continue to build it.

In Flint, Michigan, the state took over the city’s finances in 2011 due to a deficit found through an audit. As Michigan took over, they decided to reroute the water supply in order to save money through the state’s general funding. Due to lack of financial support by the state, Flint switched the water source to the Flint River in 2014 while waiting on the construction of the water pipeline through Lake Huron. General Motors had complained to Governor Snyder about the quality of this water that was causing car parts to corrode when they were washed with the Flint water. Governor Snyder reallocated the General Motors water source in Flint to the fresh water that everyone else (other than Flint residents) was using. Something to note here is that the majority of the Flint residents are African American. The Flint River water has lead and other toxins, and residents diagnosed with Legionnaires Disease has risen significantly. Cognitive impairment, behavioral disorders, delayed puberty, and hearing problems have been reported by those affected by the lead poisoning. Fetal growth in pregnant women has been reduced, and internal organs has been negatively impacted as well. In 2015, state officials warned Flint residents of the contamination due to the toxicity of the water exceeding the allowed rate in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and repeatedly went back and forth with acknowledging how unsafe the water truly was, finally caving in October of 2015 and agreeing to switch the water source to the one the rest of the state was using. Although they have changed the water source at this point, the illnesses people got from ingesting and washing with the contaminated water will not change, and many people have died as a result. All of this was done as a way to save money, and the decision never would have been considered in a more upper class white neighborhood or even just a city that was predominantly white.

Then we have Hurricane Katrina, which practically destroyed the majority of New Orleans in 2005, most of the nearly 2,000 people who died as a result to the disaster was in New Orleans. After people finally were rescued from the severe conditions of the city, they were moved into a crowded Superdome that was crowded and putrid, a place that was not meant to “house” such a large number of people. Later, when FEMA provided temporary trailers to thousands of the people who lost their homes, the trailers were found to have dangerous levels of formaldehyde and other toxins. The city is still making repairs today, and most people who originally lived there had to flee the city, many if not most moved to Texas.

All of this is linked by many distinguished scholars to environmental racism. To quote an excerpt from a source compiled by multiple academics on a website pollutionissues.com, “Up to the late 1960s, racism was defined as a doctrine, dogma, ideology, or set of beliefs. The central theme of this doctrine was that race determined culture. Some cultures were deemed superior to others; therefore, some races were superior and others inferior. During the 1960s the definition of racism was expanded to include the practices, attitudes, and beliefs that supported the notion of racial superiority and inferiority. Such beliefs and practices produced racial discrimination.


However, researchers argue that to limit the understanding of racism to prejudicial and discriminatory behavior misses important aspects of racism. Racism is also a system of advantages or privileges based on race. In the American context, many of the privileges and advantages available to whites stem directly from racial discrimination directed at people of color. Therefore, racism results not only from personal ideology and behavior, but also from the personal thoughts and actions that are supported by a system of cultural messages and institutional policies and practices. Racism is thus more fully understood if one sees it as the execution of prejudice and discrimination coupled with power, privilege, and institutional support. It is aided and maintained by legal, penal, educational, religious, and business institutions, to name a few.

Environmental racism is an important concept that provided a label for some of the environmental activism occurring in minority and low-income communities. In particular, it links racism with environmental actions, experiences, and outcomes.

Environmental racism has been rooted in the initial system in segregating People of Color into certain areas in every city, and providing next to no resources to those communities as a result to their racial prejudice. When segregation was abolished, realtors and loan officers enforced a way of continuing segregation by refusing loans to anyone that was not white, and lowering property values once a person of color moved into a predominantly white neighborhood, thus running whites off to other areas of the city or out of state. As this continued, through history and still today, now in mixed (but predominantly black or non-black people of color) neighborhoods, radio towers, factories, and other such “eyesores” or possibly risky to one’s health, are seen more in low-income or areas with mostly People of Color. In closing, Environmental Racism was very much, for decades, an intended practice to cause suffering in the black communities and cannot be confused with the issues with classism because although white people may face the issues of classism and/or sexism, the issues of racism were the root of environmental racism that is still predominantly affecting the African American and other groups of color.








Works Cited

Dalrymple, Amy. “Pipeline Route Plan First Called for Crossing North of Bismarck.” Bismarck Tribune. The Bismark Tribune, 18 Aug. 2016. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Medina, Daniel A. “7 Things to Know about the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.” NBC News. NBC News, 4 Nov. 2016. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Library, CNN .. “Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Oct. 2016. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Moore, Michael .. “10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I Will. | MICHAEL MOORE.” Michael Moore, 3 Aug. 2016. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Jervis, Rick .. “Katrina Q&A: New Orleans before and after the Historic Storm.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

Staff, History.com. “Hurricane Katrina.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 5 June 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Bouie, Jamelle. “Persistent Racism in Housing Is a Tax on Blackness.” Slate Magazine. Slate, 13 May 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Issues, Pollution .. “Pollution Issues.” Environmental Racism – United States, Industrial, Toxic, Human, Power, Use. Advameg, Inc, 2 Aug. 2012. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.



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