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The labor that Black women contribute to the world and to movements for Black liberation is often condensed to supporting roles, or erased altogether.

NPR just ran a story about GiveDirectly, an organization that has been based in Africa since 2008 and gives money directly to those in “extreme poverty.” Now, they are coming to Texas, which will be “the first time they have tried this model in the U.S. and, for now, probably the only time. After [Texas], they plan on turning their focus back to their projects in East Africa.” Here’s the thing: a Black woman already organized direct giving efforts in and around Houston immediately following hurricane Harvey and raised over $30k in the first 24 hours, all of which went directly to Black women. Her name is Dr. Roni Dean-Burren and she was not mentioned in NPR’s story. Dean-Burren and several others reached out to the reporter of the story to notify them of their oversight, but none have received a response. This scenario is not uncommon because, too often, Black women's work goes overlooked in favor of others. You may know her as the Texas Textbook mom who took on McGraw-Hill two years ago when her son informed her of the dishonest way that their history textbook portrayed the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Since then, she has kept busy as an educator, activist, and mother raising free Black children and fiercely advocating for Black women. “I was enlightened by the death of Korryn Gaines,” Dean-Burren says. “Her murder by the Baltimore Police Department was met with such vitriol—from white people and from Black men alike. That left me feeling tons of acrimony, but it also helped me to focus my work, thoughts, and time into supporting Black women.”

Puerto Rico is without resources. Meanwhile its colonial government plays golf.

By Holly  Peoples with enduring colonial histories are time and again marginalized and disadvantaged. Meanwhile colonizers continue to profit off of our lives and our land. And in the age of widespread pollution, ecological devastation, and climate change, it is we the colonized who always pay the price. At the intersection of colonialism, corporatocratic economy, and climate, these systems manifest with real and significant consequences on the lived experiences of colonized peoples. In the last few months alone, natural disasters hit, particularly in places with colonial histories. Efforts have rallied behind some of those affected, such as for Hurricane Harvey for example which had not one, but two benefit performances were held. On the other hand, other aid efforts are noticeably slower or more silent. Because of this, many attempt to amplify awareness of less-spotlighted natural disasters. However in the race to focus disasters in non-Western nations, a perilous trend emerges. There is a striking pattern in the media of calling help for disasters by framing affected Indigenous and colonized peoples as Western nationalities. Seemingly every online post for donations asks aid for the people of Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands because they are “American”. And while intentions behind this may be benign, the impact is anything but. This narrative is dangerous in predicating the value of human life on the fact that life is Western — as though we could not care to help Virgin Islanders as Afro-Caribbean people or Puerto Ricans as Boricuas. This framing also erases the colonial history of these lands and peoples, stripping context and culpability of the very imperialist expansion that plays a direct and serious role in climate and environment.

Support may come in various forms, but no matter what, we must remember that corporations will not save us.

In the last two weeks alone, the news has been filled with nothing but tragedy. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has wrecked havoc in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Social media and mainstream publications has been littered with links to crowdsourcing funds, giving the names of organizations and corporations emerging to rise to fill the need. And on the surface, this is admirable, necessary work, but looking deeper, we can see that this is nothing more than a strategy used to maintain their image. At the same time, Munroe Bergdorf — L'Oreal's first Black transgender model — was ousted from her position after calling out white supremacy in a Facebook post following the events of Charlottesville in August. Though both of these instances seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, it's clear that both signal a necessary lesson: our reliance on corporations and organizations to do the work for us signals our own compliance with saviorism. In the wake of tragedy, we often see a public rush to donate to the first organization that we see and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. But to put our faith within organizations, especially those who have long histories of cooperating within the oppression they pay lip service to fight, is a lazy way that we allow casual oppression to continue.

Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect.

The first time you heard the term environmental racism may have been after Hurricane Katrina, during the ongoing Flint water crisis, or even as recently as Hurricane Harvey.  You may have thought, “What? How can the environment be racist?  It isn’t a person!”  And you wouldn’t be alone in your initial assessment. Although the environment isn’t a person, large components of the environment are controlled by people, and people are racist and creative in the ways they come up with to harm people of color. As history and current events have shown, environmental racism is real.  It’s having long-term effects on communities of color, and it’s costing the country billions of dollars. What is Environmental Racism? Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. The air we breathe, the water we drink, even the neighborhoods we end up living in are controlled by policies and practices.  Redlining and housing discrimination of the 20th century is responsible for segregating people of color into the least desirable neighborhoods. 50 percent of people who live near hazardous waste are people of color (think Cancer Alley in Louisiana), and floodplains (think Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey)  throughout the country have a high Black and Latinx populations. Additionally, Black children are twice as likely to suffer from lead poisoning as white children (think Flint water crisis).   These disparate health outcomes are no accident; they are by design. Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect. In regards to environmental discrimination, racism trumps classism.  Middle class Black people are more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods than poor white. In fact, one study found that Black people making between $50-$60k were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards that whites who only made $10k. Black and Brown people cannot buy their way out of the systemic effects of environmental racism. The political will of Black and Brown communities has not made environmental racism go away either. People of color have less political clout, so our needs often go ignored by those elected to represent us. This was the case in Flint, Michigan when residents protested the dirty drinking water for a year. Their concerns went largely ignored by local and state officials until the story made national news. Still, Flint, which is 57 percent Black, is without clean drinking water.

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