(With Apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Right now, as I’m typing this, the leading edge of Hurricane Irma is hitting the Virgin Islands (US and British) and Puerto Rico. Let me rephrase that:
Right now, as I’m typing this, Hurricane Irma is hitting the United States.
But if you were to ask our main stream media, this is a non-story. They appear to be holding off on reporting until she hits Florida or Georgia or the Carolinas. They are quiet.
And yes, the devastation for Florida or Georgia or the Carolinas is likely to be devastating. And that will be a huge story. But *so is* the story of the Hurricane passing directly over Puerto Rico, our long neglected US territory, and over the US Virgin Islands, another US territory that depends on tourism for its survival.
This discussion goes all the way back to statehood for the last four states that entered the union. Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Arizona. It goes back to why these admissions to statehood were controversial at the time. It goes back to America’s foundational shame: racism.
“Dunbar’s number” is the number of people with whom any individual can form stable relationships. The posited actual number is 150 people. Beyond that, every single human uses abstractions and concepts and other mental shortcuts to decide how to treat people that they are unable to have those relationships with. And for the last 400 years, racism has been the poisoned concept at the root of much of the evil in the world.
We didn’t invite Arizona and New Mexico to be states until enough English speaking white folk had moved there that it became “necessary”. We only invited Hawaii to become a state in the wake of Pearl Harbor and its role in World War II. Alaska was given statehood to make statehood for Hawaii more palatable to racists by providing anti Civil Rights Amendment votes.
And Puerto Rico? Determinedly Hispanic, Spanish speaking. The US Virgin Islands? Majority Black. Both solidly blue territories, and unlikely to be made states any time soon. Because, racism.
And because racism, as we wake up tomorrow morning, we will not be subjected to hundreds of pictures of the devastation in Puerto Rico, which *will be worse* than Houston for a myriad of reasons. We will not hear the rescue stories, the stories about pets. We will not have major companies putting donation pages for Puerto Rico on their splash pages of their Internet spaces. We will have ugly shades of the “poor savages, shouldn’t we do something”? We will have hand wringing and expressions of sadness and pity.
Fuck all that. Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders are *Americans* and deserve the best that America can give. They don’t deserve to be an afterthought. If you agree, call your congress member and Senators and make sure that they are being given assistance equal in scale to that provided to states during these disasters. R/T this thread widely (from the top) to make sure that happens.