Letter to the Editor: Int'l student responds to racial allegations

My name is Kritika, an Indian girl who came to the U.S. for the first time last semester, and I am one of the members of the group who created the Environmental Science display that caused controversy last semester.

Apparently, I am a racist. Wondering how that happened? So am I.

When you grow up in a country whose independence is younger than your grandfather, you grow up hearing details about 200 years of oppressive British rule, ranging from the transfer of Indian treasures to England’s coffers, to the slavery of farmers and those forced to build an empire’s infrastructure, fight in wars and build hotels with plaques stating “No Dogs and Indians Allowed.” You learn about the struggle of Mahatma Gandhi’s’ “satyagraha” (non-violent resistance), which inspired Martin Luther King in his freedom movement.

Unfortunately, many Indians feel fairer = better. I do not think one should be ashamed of being colored, and hence I liked our painted dolls. I feel sorry ABC did not understand our display. They only looked skin deep. Let me introduce the term “Environmental Racism.” The Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund defines this as “any government, institutional, or industry action, or failure to act, that has a negative environmental impact which disproportionately harms –– whether intentionally or unintentionally –– individuals, groups, or communities based on race or colour.”

People of color are exposed to a hostile and unsafe environment of toxins, industrial waste, hazardous substances and pollutants in the U.S. as well as other countries. Three out of five African Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites. Many African Americans live near landfills where the plastic bottles (manufactured with crude oil and other chemicals) we use for sodas and water are dumped. Is that a safe place for families to raise their children?

This is the result of a system where products with a short lifespan end up in landfills. Discarded e–waste (electronic waste) is shipped off to sites in African countries, India or China. African children in Ghana are playing with the toxic metal waste of developed countries.

One of the gravest problems facing us today is climate change. Burning Fossil fuels  is causing excess emissions of CO2, which alters Earth’s climate. Inefficient electrical practices, fuel inefficient cars and pollution are contributors. The Environmental Justice Foundation states that 10 million people in Africa have been forced to migrate over the last two decades due to desertification and environmental degradation.  1.1 billion people in Africa and Asia do not have access to safe drinking water.

John P. Holdren says, “If the oil dependence problem is a 600–pound gorilla already in the room, the climate–change problem is an 800–pound gorilla in the process of beating down the door.” I say, “If racism is a 600–pound gorilla already in the room, then the effects of climate change on race is an 800–pound gorilla in the process of beating down the door.” To ABC and all of its supporters, we are trying to keep that door from being beaten down. Want to help us?

A few people (represented by the U.S. doll) control most of the world’s resources. People of various races and nationalities are suffering the consequences. Our past will continue to be a future reality if we don’t stop pointing fingers and push for change. It is time for a new “satyagraha.” None of us are blameless. None of us are incapable of action.

I have no hostility toward ABC. I support the idea of equality they stand for. I feel that this idea can be changed into positive action. I am not only brown, I am also green.  And I am proud of it.

–Kritika Kapadia, ‘13