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Reflection Essay

Reflecting back on the film from class on Thursday I had mixed feelings about the film and the arguments that it presented. I feel like a majority of the topics and the stories covered do not tend to end happily or come to any sort of complete conclusion. It was very nice to see for a change, an environmental justice success story for a minority group. The Vietnamese community when struck by hurricane Katrina was at a serious disadvantage before, during, and after the storm. Their story is a success because despite their disadvantages they managed to stick together and pull through, contrary to other minority groups affected by the hurricane. Because they were such a tight knit close community they were able to rebuild much faster and efficiently than other minorities. I feel while this had its advantages to helping them it also held disadvantages through out the entire natural disaster process. I would like to preface this essay by saying that I do not think in anyway that the Vietnamese people deserved what happened to them and how they were treated in any way what so ever.

While watching the film I could not help but to think that the Vietnamese community being disadvantaged was partly their own doing. I asked myself, how do minority communities not interact and get involved with the other communities around them?  The film showed that kids, both African American and Vietnamese went to school together yet they never interacted with each other outside of class. How does that happen? I understand that when the Vietnamese first arrived they probably felt like total outsiders

I feel like their close-knit community is a double-edged sword. On one side it gave them an identity and capabilities that helped them through the hurricane, but on the other it created barriers between them and the world outside of their community. Their close-knit community created language barriers, which would affect them at every stage of the disaster. It created political barriers in the after math when it came time to rebuild. Because the community of Versailles tended to keep to themselves they were not active in the community of New Orleans or active voters. When it came time for decisions to be made in regard to what areas needed help rebuilding or where to put a toxic landfill, the local government did not hesitate to locate it in their community. I believe in the video that it was said that the community of Versailles did not matter because they do not vote. If they had been more involved and didn’t sequester themselves to the point that no one knew they existed there probably would not be an environmental justice issue in the first place. I understand that the reason the community of Versailles was started was, as a refugee community for people fleeing from Vietnam in the 1970’s, so a majority of them did not speak English and were very unfamiliar with the customs and culture of America, but I feel like that is no excuse. They came to America for freedom and opportunities yet they did not feel the desire to exercise their voice as citizens until there was a problem. I doubt that the only reason why the landfill was located in its location was based strictly on the fact that it was next to the Vietnamese community. All the while when they did decide they were not going to tolerate the actions of the government and outside experts, they did have a reasonable request for simply wanting a liner put on the landfill. In the end the way the Vietnamese were treated through out the hurricane Katrina disaster was unjust but in my opinion they could have had a hand in it playing out differently and their environmental injustice was not strictly to blame on the government and experts.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    I think that although the Vietnamese community was not politically active beforehand, they acted as quickly as they could with the given knowledge. Many of these development projects are legislating and planning for months or years before the public even hears about it. By the time that they do, the companies have had lots of time to address potential resistance and prepare their case while the communities have very little time and very little resources to make their case.
    It is not the job of the Vietnamese community to know about potential developments that aren’t even brought to their attention before they happen, but it is the job of the government and experts to assess the real cost and potential damages to their citizens. Considering that this was a major stream located near a community that bases their livelihood on agriculture, the development should have definitely raised some red flags.

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