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A village in Versailles

“A village in Versailles” highlights a community’s participatory justice and constitutional rights. The film features a Vietnamese community that moved to America during the Vietnam War time period. The Vietnamese people came to New Orleans and formed a small community in Versailles. The small community had little communication with the outside world and consequentially was socially excluded. Because the Vietnamese people were socially excluded they were not given participatory justice and constitutional violations occurred. The film “A village in Versailles” poses the questions: what is participatory justice, how did the city treat the community, and what was the community’s response?

Participatory justice is the justice that all communities should be granted regardless of social status, ethnic background, or beliefs. Participatory justice displays zero discrimination and allows for all groups to share and present their opinions. Constitutional rights are inherited rights given to the citizens of the United States. Violations of the constitution are deemed illegal.

Hurricane Katrina was very devastating for all of New Orleans, but the events following the hurricane made it especially unfortunate for Versailles. New Orleans was concerned with rebuilding the popular parts of New Orleans, but Versailles was viewed as unimportant, not worthy of rebuilding or environmental protection. The city did not include Versailles on the preliminary zoning plans, and the city was prepared to put a landfill right next to Versailles. The landfill would inevitably bring toxins to the water and consequently make Versailles an uninhabitable community. The government did not give the Versailles’ community an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter, and therefore Versailles was not given participatory justice.

Building the landfill right next to Versailles is also unconstitutional. The 14th amendment states “[no] State [can] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. A strong case could be made that building a landfill next to Versailles would have deprived the people of property due to the environmental and health related detriments imposed by the landfill, and yet the government kept with the plan of building the landfill.  It can be difficult for lower-class communities to reap the 14th amendment benefits because the government does not always view lower-class communities as important in comparison to upper-class communities. The government can occasionally take on a utilitarian mindset and sacrifice the environmental safety for the under-class community for the overall benefit of the affluent communities. The video states several times that the landfill was essential to the overall re-development of the city.

Versailles reacted to the injustice by coming together as a community and orchestrating organized protests in hopes to have their voices heard. The community also started to attend city meetings and voiced their opinions. Through continual protests and city council meetings the people of Versailles were able to stop the development of the land fill. Environmental discrimination still occurs, and it sometimes is necessary for a community to come together and give a concentrated effort to mitigate environmental injustice.

 

 

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