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Republicans deny that infrastructure can be racist, but examples keep popping up

 Ignorant conservatives are mocking the rest of us for having knowledge they don’t.
Lowndes County resident Jerome Means talks about his failing wastewater sanitation system at his home in Hayneville, Ala.
Lowndes County resident Jerome Means talks about his failing wastewater sanitation system at his home in Hayneville, Ala., on Feb. 21, 2019. Julie Bennett / AP

Republican mockery be damned, examples of inequality in American infrastructure keep rearing their heads.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rightly noted Monday that American infrastructure policy has been plagued by racism. Republicans have been scoffing at the notion ever since. In the conservative echo chamber, figures like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have been spiking the football on Buttigieg.

“Roads cannot be racist,” Carlson said on his show Monday. “They are inanimate objects. They are not alive.” 

Heavy rains flood the front yard of Lowndes County resident Charlie Mae Holcombe on Feb. 21, 2019, in Hayneville, Ala. Holcombe kept her grandchildren out of the front yard because she feared contamination from the failing wastewater sanitation system at her home. Julie Bennett / AP

But Republicans dancing in the end zone on this don’t understand they’ve scored for the wrong team. In the real world, all of their denials about systemic inequality in American infrastructure are being undermined.Just one day after Buttigieg’s news conference, the Justice Department announced an investigation into Alabama’s state and local health departments over concerns they may “have diminished access to adequate sanitation systems” in majority-Black Lowndes County. The investigation will examine whether Black residents “disproportionately and unjustifiably bear the risk of adverse health effects associated with inadequate wastewater treatment, such as hookworm infections,” the Justice Department said.

Those concerns aren’t new. Activists have pointed to racial inequality in Lowndes County’s sanitation systems for several years.

There’s no need to stop at that example. In Benton Harbor, Michigan, which is nearly 85 percent Black, residents have been struggling for years to get local officials to fix a water system contaminated by lead. Just last month, residents were advised not to use tap water to cook, drink and brush their teeth.

If Republicans need yet another example of racist urban planning at work, there’s southern Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” an industrial hub of oil refineries, plastics plants and chemical facilities that are known to pollute the air and water supply.

“The ever-widening corridor of petrochemical plants has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected the mostly African American residents in St. James Parish to cancer, respiratory diseases and other health problems,” a United Nations report published in March said.

The examples of America’s racist infrastructure policies are clear and plentiful. Republicans who don’t see them are ignoring truths as real as the air we breathe.

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