There are three basic steps involved in reducing environmental racism as it relates to toxics:

1) be able to  identify the cases of environmental racism

2) determine correlations between cause and effect,

3) provide solid solutions in the social justice realm coupled with sound scientific remedies

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The Silent Violence of Environmental Racism

in 

Bayview Hunter's Point

by 

Dennis English

            The smell of bleach filled the air as the San Francisco City & County street-cleaning machine moves through the early morning darkness heading southeast on Third Street.  The driver of the street-cleaning machine peered ahead, first onto the roadway and then onto the sidewalk.  The driver recognizes the same group of fellows standing on the street corners.  It seems as though every time the driver reaches this part of the city, the rules change.

 Normally, cars are given tickets if they are found in a ďNo ParkingĒ zone on street cleaning day.  But in these parts, the unarmed parking meter patrol officers are afraid of getting shot when approaching the dope dealers and hustlers on the streets of Bayview Hunterís Point.  As a result, the street cleaning machine drives on, not even picking up the cluttered leaves, malt liquor bottles and other garbage lodged underneath the un-ticketed Cadillacís and escalades.  The dealers and hustlers continue on with their business oblivious to the noisy street-cleaning machine as it passes by their turf.  If there are any indicators of the remnants of the Wild West, this is it.

  Failure to clean the streets of Bayview Huntersís Point on a regular basis is not the fault of the Department of Public Works, nor is it the fault of the parking meter patrol officers, nor is it the fault of the infamous hustlers and dope dealers.  The problem is symptomatic of a much larger illness.  Even former Mayor Willie Brown acknowledged that much of the cityís attitude towards Bayview Huntersís Point is ďunresponsive, hidebound and racist (Williams 2004).Ē  Specifically, environmental racism is at the root of much of the anomalies that present themselves in Bayview Hunterís Point. 

This complex relationship between the disease of environmental racism and the physical and psychological symptoms presented by those who interact and live in Bayview Hunterís Point is the real contributors to the ongoing illegal drug trade; the perpetuation of the welfare family, the parasitic businesses, the continued release of toxic/radioactive substances into the local community; and the looming threat of gentrification of Bayview Huntersís Point.

            First of all, the silent violence of environmental racism contributes to the ongoing illegal drug trade in Bayview Hunterís Point as evident in the lack of enforcement of laws designed to protect the minimum standards for quality of life.  Along with the illegal drug activities in Bayview Hunterís Point, prostitution and petty crimes proliferate unchecked.  Many of the participants in these illegal drug activities are those who sell and are addicted to heroin, crack cocaine, and speed.  The end product of this deadly mixture of ill will and dependency are episodes of violence, resulting in murder.

 According to Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle ďÖthere are now more than 100 unsolved killings in recent years in San Francisco, and many of the victims are African-American.Ē Instead of establishing a community-based police force works and lives in Bayview Hunterís Point, the City uses outside strike teams to deal with the communityís problem of drugs and crime.

 Recently, the newly elected Mayor Gavin Newsom wanted to change the way the murders were being investigated.   Mayor Newsom visited Bayview Hunterís Point and announced that he was doubling the reward for leads to the conviction of the murders of Curtis Lane and Brian Williams.  The reward amount for these two murders was announced at the Bay View housing projects by Mayor Newsom to be $100,000.  Mayor Newsom quoted in Gordonís article as saying ďHopefully in some way, some small way, these rewards today can advance our efforts and clear some of these cases and restore a sense of confidence.Ē   Mayor Newsom also announced that there is a $10,000 reward for the information and arrest of the person(s) involved in the murder of Scharod Fleming and Carl Douglas Jr. both shoot down cold blooded in Bayview Hunterís Point within the past year.   Even though recent attempts have been made by the current mayor to solve certain murder cases, the last sixty years in Bayview Hunterís Point has been marked with neglect and utter contempt for the African-American, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino residents on the part of the law.. 

 Bayview Hunterís Point is predominately African-American, about 48 percent.  The Asian population comprises 24 percent of the population followed by the Hispanic/Latino with 17 percent.  Whites and others comprise 11 percent of the population of Bayview Hunterís Point, according to the University of California San Franciscoís Community Profile of Bay-view/Hunterís Point (2004).  The profile also indicates that the leading causes of death of Bayview Hunterís Point males are: homicide, HIV/AIDS, and heart disease, whereas for females in BVHP, the leading causes of death are: heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke.

The silent violence of environmental racism also contributes to the perpetuation of an economy based on fatherless households and parasitic businesses selling unhealthy foods to the residents of BVHP.  For example, in order to qualify for most federal government housing assistance programs, the top priority households are the fatherless ones headed by a single mother, by default, many of the Bayview Hunterís Point households are fatherless.  The lack of fathers in the homes contributes to many young males seeking role models out on the streets.  As stated, the streets have an array of dope dealers and hustlers who would be happy to stand in as father figures and mold their protťgťs into runners for the drug trade. 

For many of these young men, thinking like a traditional family man is career limiting.  The contrasting criminal life is a less arduous path to economic gain.  Unfortunately, many of these youth seek out unsavory father figures, as depicted in the media, especially in Hollywood motion pictures.  The criminal life is glamorized in the motion pictures.  Our youth watch movies with big screen heroes such as Al Pachino, Tu Pac Shakur, and the Terminator.  Then Art imitates life in Bayview Hunterís Point.  Violence, disrespect of women, and death are what these role models encourage in their proteígeís.  . 

Of particular frustration are the parasitic businesses selling unhealthy foods tot he residents of the Bayview Hunterís Point.  For example, some of the stores that sell food in Bayview Hunterís Point not only push salty, high preservative snack type products, but also their share of cigarettes and alcohol, all of which contribute to the poor health of the residents.   Hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are suffered by many of the residents.  In addition, many such businesses abet the food stamp cheating and condone the drug dealing that goes on in front of their stores, thus contributing to the proliferation of the illegal drug trade.

             Another aspect of environmental racism is the release of toxic and radioactive substances into Bayview Hunterís Point.  According to an UCSF community profile, ďPeople living in Bayview Hunterís Point  have a much higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses than those living other parts of the City.Ē  The profile also indicates ďAfrican-Americans Ė who have a higher overall rate of birth defects Ė comprise 63% of the births in Bay-view/Hunters Point, compared to 12% of births in the rest of San Francisco.Ē 

 The surrounding environment plays a significant factor in the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point health status.  Even though shipbuilding of the golden age of sail existed before the arrival of the majority of the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point, the methods involved in the manufacture and maintenance of these vessels does not display the residual toxic effects of vessels utilized in the last 60 years.  The atomic age came in like a whirlwind to Bayview Hunterís Point.  Residents survived WWII and the cold war but not without involuntarily sacrificing themselves in the name of global democracy.   The testing of the atomic bomb in the South Pacific resulted in the United States Navy decommissioning a number of ships in Ďoperation cross roadsí while they were dry-docked at the Hunterís Point Naval Shipyard.  The decommissioning process involved the sand blasting of the hulls of the ships of  Ďoperation cross roadsí to rid them of any radioactive residues from the atomic bomb fallout.  During this sandblasting process, clouds of dust would rise up out of the shipyard and spread out into the San Francisco Bay and the local neighborhood of BVHP.  These clouds of dust contained radioactive fallout substances emitting alpha, beta and gamma rays for a period of sixty years.

 In a government study of chronic exposure to ionizing radiation (Wald, 1995), it was found that symptoms of radiation exposure can be determined from blood tests.  Wald says,  ďThe earliest indicator is a fall in the lymphocyte countÖfor dose up to 300 rad, the rate of fall in circulating lymphocytes is related directly to dose.Ē This means that extensive long-term exposure to ionizing radiation in excess of background values will show up as immune problems for those exposed over the 60-year lifespan of the radioactive isotope most likely sandblasted from the Operation Crossroads ships.  In addition, Wald indicates that ďA useful and sensitive biomarker for dose estimation in acute whole-body radiation exposures, as well as to predict the long term health risks on large population exposed to low levels of radiation is the chromosomal abnormalities, particularly dicentric chromosomes.Ē A chapter in the book Chemical Sensitivity by Bonnye Matthews indicates that this interaction between  ďthe adverse impact of environmental chemicals should be gauged by how people feel and function, not solely by death or overt damage.Ē 

The physical damage endured by the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point from the toxic/radioactive exposure has manifested itself into a psychological state ripe for exploitation.  This exploitation of the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point continues as is apparent in the current conversion of the United States Navy Hunterís Point Shipyard to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.  According to the Lennar website, the City and County of San Francisco's sole source for development of BVHP, the transfer of federal property should go smooth if everything goes within plans:

            On November 19, 2002, the U.S. Navy and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency reached an agreement to convey Parcels A and B of the Hunters Point Shipyard to the City of San Francisco. The transfer agreement calls for the Navy to spend $120 million to clean up the site. Furthermore, the City will only accept conveyance following certification that the land is clean and safe for development by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, and county and city agencies. Once the City accepts conveyance of the Shipyard parcels, it will convey the parcels to Lennar/BVHP to commence development. Lennar/BVHP will invest another $40 million to prepare sites within Parcels A and B for home and commercial construction. Conveyance of Parcel A is expected in the spring of 2004. The initial development of Phase I will begin following the conveyance of the Hilltop, Hillside and entry area portions of Parcel A from the City to Lennar/BVHP. Parcel B should be ready for conveyance in 2005 (Lennar).

Conversely, Maurice Campbell of the Community First Coalition believes that:

Redevelopment Planning Land Grab In Hunters Point, a Gentrification Plan
We have just learned that Redevelopment is making a move to grab the whole neighborhood!!

We were tracking special interest efforts to ram through the DDA (Disposition and Development Agreement) for Lennar to develop the Ship Yard, when we also discovered Redevelopmentís plot to gentrify practically all of BVHP. It appears as an Amendment to the current Hunters Point Redevelopment Project, so they can avoid a public process that would reveal the full dimensions of this total land grab (putting it out in local newspapers for comment).
This takes away the whole Hill and other huge chunks of the neighborhood, and once theyíre gone, you wonít have an opportunity to get them back.

As Campbell makes clear, the current situation is ripe for exploitation of Bayview Hunterís Point.  It is just a matter of who will be the one to take advantage of the situation: the City and County of San Francisco or the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point?

    A Hunterís Point environmental racism truth counsel should be set up for atonement for the injustices of the past and present conditions in BVHP just like the African National Congress set up in South Africa.   As responsible citizens of California we should start with the acknowledgement of the original indigenous inhabitants of the Bayview Hunterís Point area.  There should be atonement for the near extinction of the indigenous tribes on the San Francisco peninsula.  There should be atonement for the drug trade and the perpetuation of the fatherless family in the area.  Moreover, the Federal Government should atone for the sixty-year radiation exposure the residents of Bayview Hunterís Point have endured for the sake of national security and global democracy.  To these ends, residents and all concerned San Franciscans must hold Elected Officials, Residents, and Businesses in the area accountable so that ultimately Environmental Justice can prevail in Bayview Hunter's Point.

To obtain copies of the The Black Studies Journal contact Dr. Dorothy Randall Tsuruta: dtsuruta@sfsu.edu . Ask for Spring 2004, Volume 5, "The Silent Violence of Environmental Racism in Bayview Hunter's Point" by Dennis English pages 90-96.  The Black Studies Journal is sponsored by the Department of Black Studies, College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University.  This issue was dedicated to "Ending the Violence."

The Black Studies Journal was printed in Santa Clara, CA by Enlighten Noah Publishing. Copyright 2004.

 

 

                                                Works Cited

Campbell, Maurice, Barbara George. "Redevelopment Planning Land        Grab In Hunters a Gentrification Plan."  March 2004.  Hunter's Point Search. 27 Nov. 2003 . http://www.indybay.org/news/2003/11/16662197_comment.php

Gordon, Rachel. "Newsom ups ante in solving killings." San Francisco Chronicle 11 March 2004, Online Edition. 14 Mar 2004 http://www.sfgate.com/

Lennar / BVHP.  "Navy Cleanup and Conveyance of Shipyard." Hunter's Point Search. Hunter'sPoint Shipyard. 14 March 2004 http://www.hunterspointshipyard.com/conveyance.html

Mc Carthy. "1. Chemical Sensitivity: A Psychological Perspective."  Defining Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Ed. Bonnye Matthews, North Carolina: Mc Farland, 1998: 5-8.

Wald, Neil, et al. "ASTDR Case Studies in Environmental Medicine: Ionization Radiation."  Environmental Medicine: Integrating a Missing Element into Medical Education.  Washington D.C.: Institute of Medicine, 1995: 639-73

Willams, Lance, Mark Fainaru-Wada.  "Cleanup Wizard in a Messy Scandal DPW Aid has faced String of Complaints."  San Francisco Chronicle 16 February 2004, Online Edition. 14 March 2004 http://www.sfgate.com

University of California San Francisco.  "Community Profile: Bayview/Hunters's Point." 1999 Internet Search. 15 March 2004  http://www.ucsf.edu/hut/volunteers/bayview.html

 

 

Environmental Justice Links:

Brought to you by "San Francisco Bay Area Progressive Directory."

Organizations:
Abalone Alliance Safe Energy Clearinghouse (San Francisco)
Arc Ecology (San Francisco)
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, South Bay (San Jose)
Borneo Project, The (Berkeley)
California Center for Land Recycling (San Francisco)
Californians for Pesticide Reform (San Francisco)
Center for Environmental Health (Oakland)
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Communities for a Better Environment (Oakland)
CorpWatch (San Francisco)
DataCenter (Oakland)
Downwinders
EcoNet
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (San Jose)
Environmental Justice Resource Center
Environmental Research Foundation
Faultline (San Francisco)
Global Options (San Francisco)
Greenaction (San Francisco)
Impact Fund, The (Berkeley)
Labor / Community Strategy Center
Literacy for Environmental Justice (San Francisco)
Midway Residents for Environmental Justice (Daly City)
Minkler, Doug (Berkeley)
National Religious Partnership for the Environment
Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security (Oakland)
People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (San Francisco)
People United for a Better Oakland (Oakland)
Pesticide Action Network North America (San Francisco)
Political Ecology Group (San Francisco)
project underground (Berkeley)
Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice (San Francisco)
Student Environmental Action Coalition
Toxic Links Coalition
Video Activist Network, The (San Francisco)
Western States Legal Foundation (Oakland)
Whispered Media (San Francisco)

 


 

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact me for more information or about my services.

Office Telephone
530-676-7534
Postal address
Dennis English, R.E.H.S.
4703 Grazing Hill Drive
          Shingle Springs, CA 95682
Electronic mail
General Information: calrehs@netscape.net
Webmaster: calrehs@netscape.net
 

Last updated January 9, 2005