Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Give the people back their land by Cassie Kinney

Not many people know of United States' terrible history of buying up land and exploiting it, nor do people know the extent to which this affects the present state of affairs. One thing that impacted the most was Land lotteries which prompted Indian removal. Land lotteries was simply giving away land to white immigrants like in Georgia. Another impact was creating systemic racism in the form of African/African American slavery. Even after slavery, Black families were not allowed to get loans to make small payments on property, Blacks were segregated, and now there is a phenomenon now that keeps Blacks segregated called Redlining. There are many systematic factors that contributed and still contribute historically to the racist policies, laws, customs, mores, etc which keeps people of color from owning land in the United States. Another example of this environmental racism includes deforestation in Central Africa (Congo) and South America, and pollution/contamination (e.g. Flint water crisis) affecting poor people especially people of color, and the global division of labor. People around the globe still face violence, war, poverty, exploitation of land, which is why many people are displaced in this world that want to live in their own home and land in peace. According to Rosenberg (2016) "There are an estimated 11-12 million refugees in the world today. This is a dramatic increase since the mid-1970s when there were less than 3 million refugees worldwide. However, it is a decrease since the 1992 when the refugee population was nearly 18 million, high due to the Balkan conflicts." The people of Sri Lanka, the people of Syria, the people of Myanmar, the people of Standing Rock, the people of Niger, etc just want their homes back. Roseberg also states that "Some consider the hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as Internally Displaced Persons."

Our history has created systematic disadvantages for poor urban and rural people which is why even today there exists a segregation of the worst schools, worst neighborhoods, and worst environmental/housing conditions. Those in rural areas were greatly disenfranchised during the Industrial age in Appalachia because of coal mining and timber companies. For example the expansion of surface mining leveled thousands of acres of mountaintops because the coal industry benefited from mountaintop removal (Eller, 2008.) Additionally, corporate chains like Wal Mart affect small local businesses in those rural areas of Appalachia, especially when the profits do not trickle down into the community because they go out of the region. The Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force found that large corporations and land companies controlled up to 90 and 100% of the surface land and the mineral resources in 80 Appalachian counties (Eller, 2008.) This was a significant study during this time and it's shocking information. Other data the study found was that 8 million acres—more than 40% of land surveyed—was owned and operated only by 50 private owners and the federal government (Eller, 2008.) 


Another example of this is that for 14 West Virginia counties, 25 companies owned 44% of the surface land, yet only assessed for 20% of the area’s taxes (Eller, 2008.) This means that taxes from these large corporations are not going to the community while the poor community pay higher taxes or more taxes to support it's own community. Likewise, these systems of racism has led to the extreme wealth of a select few white families. Today, the median wealth of white families is 20 times greater than the median wealth of black families (and 18 times greater than Latinx families). 

Subsequently, some of the programs put in place to aid those disadvantaged did nothing to help disadvantaged people of color. In fact, FDR was able to pass the New Deal including Social security and other beneficial programs, as long as they excluded domestic service workers and agricultural workers (which meant predominantly people of color.) This gave preferential treatment to whites. Secondly, the dream of home ownership granted mortgage loans to Americans, where 98% of all recipients were white. Third, GI bill was passed to give low cost mortgage, living expenses paid, and paid tuition for veterans, which exclusively benefited whites, and excluded black veterans. 
Additionally, The 62 of the richest billionaires own half of the world’s poorest populations. Those that have accumulated all the world's resources simultaneously destroy natural resources at an alarming rate. Those richest people are the ones that destroy the land (trees, soil, crops, air, water, animals/aquatic life), those people buy all the land, and try to keep people from being truly free. We do NOT live in a free and equal opportunity country, and it is essential that we (the 99%) take back stolen land, take back our stolen creativity and individuality. In an effort to save, protect, and preserve nature and all its species, we cannot continue to deforest the planet, pollute, and kill off ecosystems.

Moreover, the middle class own more land, but it's usually for farming, growing soybeans or corn for livestock to eat, or for hunting grounds (more family owned operations). I'm not sure how anyone figures they own the oceans, but they also wreak havoc on that too, and capture to exploit and kill aquatic life. Those who own the majority of land on this planet are the rich who exploit it for drilling and fracking, mining, infrastructure, etc. In fact the families who own most of the world's resources are the reason the number of trees has fallen by 46% since the start of human civilization. There are over 20,000 different kinds of trees in the world. Actually, 3 trillion trees are left on the Earth. Somehow these same people who don't own land will go to different countries in Africa or South America to mine for gold. And they too are part of the destruction of land, trees, wildlife, and the last remaining tribes.

As mentioned, all of these examples are the many ways land and resources are taken away from the poor and persons of color, and consequently, this land is often used for big business, corporations, coal mining, logging, or fast food chains. What's truly depressing is that absentee owners of land have taken thousands of acres while rich families keep land in the family for to be passed down through generations. I'm not sure redistributing land (redistributing wealth) is feasible, but it sounds effective. And in fact when I think about the few people that own half of the world, this wealth disparity is unfair, and simply unjust. This cannot be normal, this cannot be how the system works. There is much land to be "bought" but there is much land already owned on a large scale.

Simply, if all people were given land to build their own houses and grow their own food, there would be less corporations, less logging, mining, fracking, pollution, etc. If all people had an acre, no one would want to cut down all the trees on their property for a quick buck. People would perhaps use their land to make a home business and then this would create a local economy where everyone had a service to offer. This isn't about poor people paying taxes, because in fact the tax system is not fair for the poor to begin with. Poor people shouldn't pay taxes, only the rich! Poor people pay the same tax rate as the rich, if not more taxes. And something most people don't realize is that half of the US budget goes to funding the military. So, clearly the tax system is not fair for the poor, but it should be used to regulate the rich because they are clearly exploiting people, resources, polluting land, and those are the people that came from money that was passed down to them through the generations of a system that favored the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
 
I am one of the many people who do not own land. Even if I bought land, I still do not "own" any of the trees, the sky, the birds, the deer, the soil, rocks, and rivers. People often talk in terms of ownership like "my girlfriend", "my daughter," "our Earth", "our galaxy", "my America." I find this to be problematic because this suggests that we have a culture that cannot look outside of capitalism, imperialism, and colonization. I fear that if the culture continues to use rhetoric that reflects ownership and possession, then it will be one where the disparities, inequality, destruction will be even greater as civilization ages within this world. But, if those of us don't collectively buy up land to take away from capitalists, then what will be left for those of us that want to protect it? True equality is the providing access to healthy living conditions, healthy food and land to grow food, and education for everyone. 

References:

Eller, Ronald. D. (2008). Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. 
Rosenberg, Matt. (2016). Refugees: The Global Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Situation. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/global-refugees-overview-1434952

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