They can breathe. And it’s killing them.

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By: Gustavo Andrade

What happens to people when the air they breathe is so polluted with chemicals that the simple act of inhaling hurts? When they go out to their car every morning to find a half-inch-thick layer of ‘dust’ on it? When kids in the neighborhood seem to share certain birth defects and developmental challenges to a disturbing degree? When so many neighbors develop cancers at an alarmingly young age?

Here’s what’s been happening to people who have to live in America’s Sacrifice Zones: They perish, as shamefully as Mr. Floyd; with the knee of corporate polluters pushing steadily and unrelentingly against their necks.

No individual or corporation will be held responsible, no charges will be filed, and no damages will be paid to grieving families.

After all, the company settled on this area for a reason: local residents are black, latino, indigenous, white and in all cases, poor. They can’t afford lawyers and don’t have time on their side. They lack political power, are unorganized and don’t even know what is being done to them. To those in power, they are easy prey.

When you live in a Sacrifice Zone, it means your neighborhood falls in the 70th percentile of cancer and respiratory illness in your state. You might have a power plant down the street from the kids’ school, or some type of factory just up the road from your church. You’re told they’re good people who bring jobs in so you shouldn’t ask too many questions about their business.

Now, what happens when those residents start to organize?

Well then, friend, all hell breaks loose.

They start asking questions. They start talking to one another and having meetings. Yes, sometimes even on Zoom. They form coalitions and neighborhood organizations and hold press conferences and make demands.

They start misbehaving.

And that’s how they, like the brave protesters and freedom fighters out on the streets, finally force that knee off their necks and win.

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