If the appalling nature of the talk coming out of the White House regarding Puerto Rico relief efforts is shocking to you then I am here to tell you that this is nothing new. We don’t call them “colonies” anymore, but the US has millions and millions of people who live under “American, but not quite” status and that includes Puerto Ricans. Let’s excuse the disgusting habit of valuing American lives above all others (because it’s not like people from other countries are less human, we’re just better humans. Am I right?) I mean, that’s disgusting but it’s not the MOST disgusting thing about American indifference to human suffering and its causes (hint: we cause a lot of it). But in this case, we are ignoring the suffering of AMERICAN CITIZENS!!!
Again, this isn’t the first time that we have ignored the suffering of American Citizens either. Katrina relief efforts spring to mind. So to do the hundreds of protests and civil actions staged by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights organizations to bring attention to repressive policies and violent police misconduct which often result in needless incarceration and DEATH. Yes, DEATH! Don’t forget the plight of our First Nations people who are the vast majority of the more than 2 MILLION Americans who live WITHOUT ACCESS TO RUNNING WATER! Yup, you heard me right.
And yet, Puerto Rico shocks you?
How about the US Virgin Islands? Most people can’t even name more than three. Go ahead, try. I’ll wait. …
But the same series of storms that flattened Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and parts of Louisiana, also hit the USVI and NOBODY is talking about it. So the question becomes simple.
Well, to understand this you need to understand a little about the history of these places and these people. And since history is generally dry and boring, I am going to leave the explaining up to the people best able to communicate it in a way that you will remember…late night comedians.
And if that infuriates you, let’s not forget that this kind of nonsense happens right here in the heart of this country. Washington D.C., the capital of the nation, and a city that until recently was nicknamed “chocolate city” is also NOT a state and its citizens don’t enjoy the same kind of respect that people enjoyed by people who live literally 20 minutes away.
And what, pray tell, makes all of these cases so similar? What is it about all of these places and the citizens that live in them that makes the majority of Americans and American lawmakers OKAY with treating them like “off-brand Americans” (thanks, Jon Oliver)? Well, it could be that unlike the vast majority of the contiguous United States, these places are decidedly NOT WHITE. The population of some of these places are upwars of 90% non-white, which we know makes CERTAIN people (I’m looking at you GOP) uncomfortable. And who wants MILLIONS of more citizens voting in elections and making demands on the federal government? Certainly not our respected Republican colleagues!
In fact, these territories are beautiful places that are inhabited by “alien races”, according to the US government, and not sufficiently sophisticated to be either fully recognized states or independent nations. Apparently, all of us darkies just don’t have the capacity to govern ourselves. Also…we bring a shit load of money to US government coffers every year. Hmm…what do you call a system whereby people are citizens but don’t have full rights (and are subjected to discriminatory policies, economic suppression, and state-sponsored violence) according to their place of birth, race, or ethnicity? I think South Africa had a word for it. I just simply can’t recall it.
So, to review, as long as US citizens are brown or black and contribute to the nation’s GDP we can expect that the federal government will make little or no investment in our communities, ignore our suffering even after a natural disaster and eventually send in police (read state-sponsored thugs) with riot gear to ensure “law and order”.
Let me remind you of a little place called Flint, Michigan, where a horrifying new study reveals just what more than 3 years of poisoned water can do to the community’s ability to survive (btw, this story got 57seconds of airtime on Fox News).