Racism: Pipelines, Geography and Geology

It seems like nowadays, we use the word ‘racism’ or ‘racist’ for just about anything. It is an easy cop-out to avoid dealing with some of the real issues of poverty and wealth redistribution. The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world, with more than 2.4 million miles of pipe and approximately 72,000 miles of crude oil lines in the U.S connecting regional markets.

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You’re probably sitting over a pipeline right now as you read this. This whole idea that racism dictates such decisions is petty in my opinion. If race was the culprit then Mississippi would be the most ideal place to take advantage of that. If you want to become familiar with locations of pipelines all you have to do is go to https://pvnpms.phmsa.dot.gov/PublicViewer/.

The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) shows pipelines in counties by the scale of the county. Sometimes the rhetoric doesn’t match the data. There is so much more that comes into play before pipelines are laid. There are many precautions that have to be implemented first. Companies take many steps to ensure the health, safety and also address local and environmental concerns. The land must also be assessed. Like I said, it’s too so easy to blame racism. Not everything is about race. I would look deeper into class warfare because when dealing with money class matters and green is the only color. I’m not saying that there might not be some people involved in the process who view others as inferiors and could care less about what happens to them but there is no clear way to identify racism as a determinant for pipelines.

Racism almost certain impacts not only the decision to place pipelines on reservations but the very history of reservations in the United States themselves. The reservations, it will be recalled, were frequently the results of wholesale expulsion of Native-American populations from coveted land earlier in American history. In this case of pipelines specifically, the economic component is the primary driver. I’d argue that the economic agents are not overtly racist, meaning that they advocate the imposition of explicit racial hierarchies in politics and law, but they are motivated and shaped by the structural racist elements that governed the founding and development of this country and society.

Like many other facets of environmental racism, the tendency to build pipelines through or near reservations is a combination of economic expediency and a structurally-inculcated indifference to the plights of others, specifically people of color. When it comes to oil pipelines, geography and geology combine with economics and deeply-rooted racism. Racism makes itself felt not only in the deployment of these pipelines but in the historical circumstances that carved out the reservations that are impacted by these pipelines in the first place. If secure housing units are “”prisons within prisons”” the deployment of pipelines through or near reservations are a “”displacement upon displacement,”” with the establishment of reservations themselves representing the initial displacement of Native-American people.

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