All around the East Bay, adults, kids, and elders are wearing masks and sharing supplies to filter out the incinerated cars, gasified pesticides, petrochemicals, and (ironically) potentially noxious flame retardant fumes billowing down from the fires in the north. People have reported nosebleeds, dizziness, persistent coughing, uncontrollable vomiting, and other symptoms. Does race affect who is most vulnerable in this smoky mess?
Absolutely. Here are just three ways — please feel free to add more in comments.
1. White people probably don’t have to worry about being arrested and deported from an emergency shelter.
Fear of racial profiling, arrest, and deportation is giving some undocumented immigrant families (you know, the types that white County Sheriffs say “look illegal”) second thoughts about seeking emergency shelter and resources. And because farmworkers rely on fleeting harvest opportunities for their paychecks, some are even trying to keep picking fruit amidst the toxic smoke, increasing their risk of exposure. If you’d like to help support undocumented communities, check out the UndocuFund — for fire relief in Sonoma County.
2. Indigenous communities — whose knowledge of safe forest burning has long been ignored or suppressed — will not be eligible for federal aid.
The U.S. government itself acknowledges that colonization has suppressed indigenous knowledge of how to burn forests properly. These deliberate forms of burning have been used for millennia to strategically tend the landscape and prevent spontaneous lightning fires. (Check out this video for an example from the Mono people of Central California.)