On Tuesday we went to the Marathon oil refinery. I’ve never encountered such visceral, visual, raw representations of racism, injustice, and environmental destruction. We saw private driveways across the street from steel mills. The air felt thick and strange and I don’t know if it was just psychosomatic but afterwards I quite literally needed to lie down and rest and I was there coughing for a couple hours.
Marathon seems to basically own the community and is imposing its monetary power at will with no respect or consideration for the people who have generational history there. People can’t leave because their property values are nothing, and people have familial community ties, so it’s almost like they’re being held hostage by Marathon by usage of chemical warfare.
We were shown a dark desolate place called Zugg island that in both name and physical appearance looks like something out of a horrible dystopian sci-fi film. It reminds me of the facility in “The Shape of Water” or the factories in “Metropolis”. It was big and black, industrial and imposing. In short, it looked like death, not progress. Emma [the tour guide] was telling us how her father worked there and how she and her mother would pick him up sometimes on dark rainy evenings. She believed as a child that monsters lived under the bridge and on that island, and to some extent she was right. We saw flares and smoke of some kind billowing everywhere and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this area of the city had just been completely forgotten.
This tour really hurt, and it’s definitely a thing I’ll be unpacking for weeks. I also think that this tour did an interesting job of reshaping and reframing everything I thought I knew about environmental racism and oppression in both this city and all the other forgotten industrial districts across the rust belt where people are fed into furnaces just as fast as the coal is.