Pezzullo Interview On Fifth & Hill

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Phaedra C. Pezzullo, is Assistant Professor of Communication
and Culture at Indiana University.
What are your thoughts on Fifth and Hill?
It’s important to recognize that environmental racism or
environmental pollution has been disproportionately placed
in communities of color and exists as a national phenomenon.
In 2007, there was a landmark study completed, Toxic
Wastes and Race at 20, prepared for the United Church of
Christ by four top environmental justice sociologists. Their
findings confirm, once again, that people of color make up
the majority of those who live in host communities, which
are less than two miles from a [hazardous waste site]. Communities
of color, too often, are segregated and dumped on
in ways that would not be tolerated in white communities. I
think it’s encouraging that the Douglass Park community
has begun to reach out to so many people outside their
neighborhood by inviting them in through toxic tours. This
is how we are supposed to act in a democracy.
When companies like Ameren IP and the Illinois EPA say the
site poses ‘no immediate threat’ do you find that misleading?
That’s definitely misleading. To say there is no immediate
threat would be like saying to someone about their house
“Well your house is about to be foreclosed in a month, but
don’t worry about it today.” Of course you are going to worry
about the future, if it’s your own body, your own health, and
your own families’ health. So even if it’s not an ‘immediate
threat’ what is the plan? Is the plan to wait until someone
does get sick; is the plan to wait until someone is harmed?
That seems like a poor way to address this issue.
Ameren IP and Public Officials have been quoted as saying
that concerned citizens involved in the coalition are outsiders.
Is this something you have found to be the case elsewhere?
Yes, one of the first moves that institutions make, when
they have admitted they polluted the community, is to blame
the victim. In a community like Champaign-Urbana where
they have admitted to what they have done to this neighborhood,
they turn around and try to point the finger at somebody
else and distract people from the issue. Polluting institutions
tend to want to privatize a controversy. They tend to
not want people to talk about the issues and to want to shut
down discussion. Communities, on the other hand, want to
live in a democracy and publicize or democratize discussion,
by talking about the issues. This would be a very sad country
if we say we don’t care about what happens to our neighbors.
To access Toxic Wastes and Race at 20, see: www.nccecojustice.

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