The American Dream Denied


Exhibition on View Through December 14, 2019

Over the past 40 years, a series of man-made environmental crises have caused forced evacuations and unprecedented health disparities in communities across America. From the relocations of entire neighborhoods, such as Love Canal, New York and Times Beach, Missouri in the 1980s, to disproportionate cancer rates in residents currently living in “Cancer Alley” (an eighty-five mile stretch of industrial plants alongside the Mississippi River in Louisiana), to the federally declared state of emergency in Flint, Michigan in 2016, the effects of these crises cross geography and time. An increase in coverage from national media, growing awareness in the American public, and the persistent voices of those directly impacted have put a spotlight on issues of environmental pollution and its consequences on marginalized communities resulting in a demand for enhanced scientific research on the subject.
Increased exposure to lead is just one example in the growing body of environmental studies research demonstrating that pollution is often disproportionately located in communities of color. In a 2018 study, researchers with the Environmental Protection Agency found that people of color are 35% more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air, and people in poverty are exposed to more fine particulate matter than people living above the poverty line. Additionally, a recent report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated that, since 1982, up to 10% of the country’s water systems have been in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act health standards each year – as many as 21 million Americans may have been exposed to unsafe drinking water in 2015 alone – finding that those from lower-income neighborhoods were the most affected.
The two exhibitions on view at the Newcomb Art Museum through December 14, 2019 reveal the human impact of the above statistics, and explore issues of environmental justice. LaToya Ruby Frazier’s Flint is Family and the accompanying student response The American Dream Denied organized by Tulane’s Critical Visualization and Media Lab (CVML), showcase the lived experiences of affected communities in Flint and New Orleans as they operate their daily existences – going to school, going to work, raising families – among life-threatening environmental pollution.

This booklet companion to The American Dream Denied delves deeper into the history and experiences of local Louisiana communities impacted by pollution. All texts were produced by members of the CVML and all opinions stated are solely the authors and those individuals interviewed.

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