Nuclear Dumping Stand Off at Ward Valley
A remote desert valley near the Colorado River became ground zero for a struggle between the Federal government and the Colorado River Native Nation Alliance over nuclear dumping. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials served tribal members with a 5-day eviction notice that clears the way for a 1,000-acre radioactive waste dump at Ward Valley.
The eviction notice brought new energy to the campaign of Native Americans and environmentalists to save this sacred land. More than 300 protestors, including members of the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Quechan, Cocopah and Colorado River Indian Tribes and supporters from the environmental justice movement, blockaded the site for most of February, staging protests and performing tribal rituals while law enforcement officials in riot gear stood by.
Our message to the government is very clear that Ward Valley is a sacred, holy place that cannot be desecrated, said Steve Lopez of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. BLM officials seemed to get the message on Day 18 of the occupation, when they decided to withdraw law enforcement personnel while talks with tribal leaders continued. Meanwhile, indigenous, Asian American, Latino and African American environmental justice activists are putting pressure on Clinton to uphold Executive Order 12898, which promised to address environmental justice issues in low-income communities of color.
What’s in a Name?
Just weeks before the country celebrated the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a controversy in Riverside, California, served as yet another reminder that racism is alive and well. Following the school board’s decision to name a new high school after Dr. King, nearly 300 people crammed the board’s auditorium on January 5 to voice their opinions. A procession of white speakers denounced the decision. The school is expected to be about two-thirds white when it opens in 1999.
Denying that race motivated their protest, many claimed King’s name might make it more difficult for graduating students to get into college. Martin Luther King was a great man, said one white speaker, but naming this school for him would be a mistake. Everybody will think we have a black school out there.
Some wanted the school to be named after Bob Hope, because of his legacy of entertaining American troops during wartime. Others preferred it to be named after the orange, which forms the base of the city’s economy. Though the board decided to go ahead with King’s name, the controversy has reopened racial wounds in this increasingly diverse city of 250,000. As one African American speaker put it: Don’t tell us this has nothing to do with race. We’re not fools.
Pesticide Exposure for Child Farm Workers Largely Ignored
Six-year-old siblings Ramiro Silva and Alejandra Renteria worked in Ohio fields last summer picking cucumbers dusted with endosulfan, a chemical that may cause a host of health problems. They often ate unwashed cucumbers for lunch. My arms get itchy sometimes, but I like to work, said Ramiro.
How many children are exposed to pesticides in the fields every year? What are the effects of pesticides on children? The truth is, scientists are largely clueless and the government doesn’t seem to care. An unreleased Department of Labor survey shows that 123,000 children between the ages of 14 and 17 work harvesting produce, from California’s Central Valley to Florida’s strawberry fields. Thousands of younger child workers remain uncounted.
Until 1997, when the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health doled out a measly $2.5 million for research on injuries to child farm workers, the federal government spent almost nothing to research the health and safety needs of child farm workers. Equally disturbing is the glaring omission of occupational exposures from the Food Quality Act of 1996, which set stricter standards for pesticide residues in food with the specific intent of protecting children from harmful exposure. It’s an explicit, purposeful exception,; said Ralph Lightstone of CRLA. They carved farm workers out.
Robust Economy Fails to Narrow Racial Gap in Health Care
The economy is booming. The income gap between African Americans and whites even shows signs of narrowing. Yet when it comes to health, the disparity between African Americans and whites continues to grow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from 1980 to 1994, the number of cases of diabetes and infectious diseases grew by 33 percent among African Americans, three times the increase among whites. Black men are two to three times more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men, according to a recent report by the American Cancer Society and 100 Black Men of America. And while the death rate for all women with breast cancer fell 10 percent between 1990 and 1995, the CDC reports that the higher death rate for black women did not budge.
The reason for these disparities? Government officials and analysts are finding that African Americans receive less and poorer health care than whites, a fact which is largely influenced by race, discrimination and social and cultural factors. We have a two-tiered health care system, said Dr. Randall Morgan, an orthopedic surgeon and former president of the predominantly African American National Medical Association.
Think About My Baby; Immigrant Women Take a Stand on Prenatal Care
When you vote, you think about my baby. That’s the message that some 80 immigrant women and their care providers gave to legislators in California’s State Capitol March 5. Mobilized by grass roots organizations such as San Francisco-based Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the Coalition for Immigrant Rights, this statewide campaign hopes to convince California legislators to block Governor Wilson’s drive to cut off prenatal care to undocumented immigrants.
While coalition lawyers recently won a preliminary injunction halting Wilson’s April 1 cut-off, organizers are pushing for passage of SB 34 (Vasconcellos). This bill would require the state to continue to provide prenatal care to all women, regardless of their immigration status. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the Assembly.
In addition to mass lobbying efforts, activists are getting the word out to the immigrant community that care is still available. While debate rages on and Governor Wilson spews his rhetoric, immigrant women are not seeking access to the health care they need for fear they will ultimately be reported to the INS, said Renee Saucedo of the Coalition for Immigrant Rights in San Francisco.
Organizers plan to turn up the heat on the Capitol in May, when tens of thousands of immigrants will converge on the Capitol for the Annual Immigrant Day rally. The spotlight for this year’s event will be on prenatal care. Last year’s rally attracted 12,000 immigrants and their supporters.