When people blame Black and other colonized people in the South for the actions of corporations and moneyed politicians, they only assist the state in nailing us to the cross that kills us for their salvation.
Since the mid-1800s, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have continuously increased. This phenomenon, along with other drastic environmental shifts, is referred to as climate change. Climate change, as defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a change in Earth’s climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity. I find it necessary to trouble that definition a bit, as it does nothing to name how much anti-Blackness, colonialism, and capitalism affect the ethos of this planet. This is to say that while we do each contribute to the make up of the Earth’s climate, the rate at which the climate changes and the conditions by which climate change is made possible is controlled entirely by capitalists, career politicians, and major corporations. Referring to this as a “human issue” indicates that we all exist on a level playing field and therefore contribute to the change in climate equally—we do not.
Deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels both play significant roles in climate change, and these efforts are led in large part by major corporations like Wal-Mart, IKEA, and Exxon, as well as western political leaders. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a gas that traps heat, and thus send this gas into the atmosphere when they are destroyed. This is referred to as the greenhouse effect. Too much or too little of the greenhouse effect can make a planet uninhabitable. According to NASA, most scientists agree that it is the human expansion of the greenhouse effect that is causing climate change. I don’t. I understand western imperialism and colonialism as the everlasting greatest threat to the climate through the continued exploitation of the worker, the ongoing enslavement and subjugation of the Black, and the destruction of Indigenous lands.
The pursuit of oil is a leading cause of war. Western imperialist nations, such as the United States, have invaded entire countries and terrorized whole nations to possess what has proven to be one of the most powerful resources known to humankind. It is not oil, alone, that has caused war, but rather the need for america to maintain its position as the power machine that controls the rest of the world. As proven by former President George W. Bush through the invasion of Iraq, america retains its global hegemonic power by convincing—whereby I mean demanding through impeding on countries’ social and political freedoms—other states to support its foreign and economic policies influenced by geographical components. As I once wrote, imperialism—though not inextricably so—is directly tied to capitalism; america will do what it must to preserve the power it wields through control of capital, even if that means the empire is sustained through military force.
Preserving power, however, does not look like imperialism alone. The facts are as transparent as they can be. 97% of climate scientists affirm that climate change is real, yet denying that climate change exists is still a top priority for politicians and corporations with a vested interest in controlling capital. This has also been a leading cause for the obliteration of entire cities following prodigious, apocalyptic storms like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans back in August 2005. Though capitalism and environmental racism are to blame for the devastating aftermath of Katrina, the storm was caused by climate change. Had politicians listened to the overwhelming evidence provided by climate and atmospheric scientists that climate change is real, Katrina could have possibly been avoided. Instead, they ignored the fact that sea levels and global temperatures are rising, that glaciers and ice sheets are continuing to melt, and that CO2 levels have skyrocketed, thus causing Katrina to destroy an entire city and thousands of families, and committing what I refer to as ecological genocide.
And here we are again. As I am writing this, Texas and other southern states are suffering through the coldest and most life-threatening winter storm they’ve experienced in 30 years; storms that have, in just a couple of days, left millions without power and killed many others. While millions are suffering from the South’s poor infrastructure and the government’s disinterest in protecting the people who live in these states, many have taken to Twitter to patronize southerners for their state’s misleadership instead of critiquing the elected officials themselves. This is not the first time this has happened.
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Last year, americans turned out in record numbers to vote in what has been referred to as the most important election in modern history. As Biden has reminded us throughout his campaign and since being elected as the next President, there were many red states and many blue states. Because of the nature of last year’s election—with more mail-in votes than usual—it seemed as though all states were voting as conservatively or “progressively” as they always had. During that time, social media was flooded with largely anti-Black sentiments about the South and its usefulness, or lack thereof. Viral tweets made their rounds naming that Flint deserved its “dirty water,” that New Orleans deserved “a second Katrina,” that Florida—specifically Miami—deserved no resources or care for the next hurricane it was sure to experience. And while Michigan is not a southern state, I imagine that Flint still had to bear the brunt of the country’s anger alongside the South because of how people link Black suffering to slavery, which can’t be divorced from the South. The South was marked, as it so often is during election season, as “useless,” “worthless,” and otherwise unimportant.
And then mail-in votes from Metro Atlanta started to be counted. With the possibility of the South being the country’s “saving grace” by flipping blue, the narrative had suddenly shifted. For months, there were endless viral tweets about voter suppression in the South—where an overwhelming number of Black people live; on any given day ending in “y,” you’ll find tweets talking about the work of Rosa Parks and MLK Jr., or the horrendous experiences of students like Ruby Bridges. Last year, the world lost several Civil Rights giants, and for months their names, stories, and social struggles were used as political props to push political agendas. And yet, when it came down to the wire, southerners were being blamed for the perceived results of the election instead of Trump supporters, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness—of which, there is no one place of residence. One could argue that when they name “the South” in this situation, it is to name voter suppression and overall white supremacy, but as the targeted cities are largely Black and the South itself is largely Black, these statements simply are not apolitical.
When it’s time for the country to be “saved,” everyone remembers that most of the Black folks in this country live in the South. They make us their political mules and beg us to carry the weight of saving a country forged by our subjugation. Yet, when it’s time to scrutinize the South, people make sweeping statements that erase the violence we experience here—as if suddenly the only people who live here are white supremacists. But it’s those white supremacists who shape the political landscape of the South. Black folks here lead radical resistance and create social movements, but we are also those who suffer the consequences of living in conservative regions. As is being proven yet again, when our elected officials succeed at doing their job—which is to protect the state first and always—it is Black folks who are harmed in the middle of a catastrophe.
It is violent, anti-Black, and violently anti-Black to blame people in the South for not being prepared for so-called “natural” disasters in states that don’t often experience this type of weather. Many states are having to abandon their social distancing and sheltering in place protocols to house houseless people and others without power. Yesterday, shelters in Texas saw anywhere from 500-800 people in varying shelters, warming centers, churches, gyms, and more. COVID-19 vaccines have been delayed. While hospitals are required to have generators with enough fuel to last them for 96 hours, many hospitals are running now on close to 72 hours with no access to their main power source. This not only means that vaccines they already have are at risk of not being stored at proper temperatures—thus rendering them useless—but also that many people hospitalized could be impacted in the coming days if power is not restored soon. Especially considering the fact that these generators are not used very often, and that grid operators are unsure how long it’ll take to restore power.
And while all of these circumstances inevitably lead to more suffering and more death, varying cities in Texas had skylines still lit during what would have otherwise been a citywide blackout and restored power to the richest neighborhoods. While some of the other southern states being directly affected by these storms are on collective power grids, Texas is on its own power grid to skirt not only federal regulations but any regulations at all—at least until the 1970s.These are some of the risks that many southerners are having to navigate through, in states led by officials who are more interested in money than people.
These are unprecedented times in states that simply don’t have the infrastructure to care for the millions of people these storms have waged war on. So when people start blaming Black and other colonized people of these southern states—even inadvertently—for the actions of corporations and moneyed politicians, they only assist the state in nailing us to the cross that kills us for their salvation. And I recognize that, for many, this is exactly what they want; that anti-Blackness requires the blood of Black folks so that whiteness can live. Still, it would be remiss of me to not name just how violent this especially is while many are already being sentenced to D/death. These are not mere jokes or random statements, they are the manifestation of social and structural anti-Blackness. They must be named and addressed as such.
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