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Meanwhile, in Rural Alabama…

Since Alabama is in the news, let’s shift our attention to the following from AL.com:  UN poverty official touring Alabama’s Black Belt: ‘I haven’t seen this’ in the First World.

A United Nations official who tours the globe investigating extreme poverty said Thursday that areas of Alabama’s Black Belt are suffering the most dire sewage disposal crisis of any place he has visited in a developed country.

“I think it’s very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this,” Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said as he toured a Butler County community where raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits.

Alston was in Alabama on Thursday to bear personal witness to the poverty, lack of access to basic services and civil rights struggles that have plagued poor, mostly African-American residents of the state’s Black Belt region for generations.

[…]

On Thursday, Alston visited communities in the Black Belt’s Butler and Lowndes counties, where residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm – a disease of extreme poverty long eradicated in most parts of the U.S. – in part because they do not have consistently reliable access to clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage and other contaminants.

The entire piece is worth a read (and a skimming of the comments will suggest why the problem is unlikely to be fixed).

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Monala says:

    Heartbreaking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. JKB says:

    Alston was in Alabama on Thursday to bear personal witness to the poverty, lack of access to basic services and civil rights struggles that have plagued poor, mostly African-American residents of the state’s Black Belt region for generations.

    This wouldn’t be happening if a Black man or woman could ever be elected to the Presidency. They would surely champion basic services and civil rights for poor, mostly African-American residents.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 30

  3. JohnMcC says:

    I grew up in southern AL back in the 40s & early 50s. This summer I was watching the grandkids playing and realized – their moms let them roam freely about in their yard barefooted. Why, I asked myself, did that seem ‘wrong’ somehow. Then it hit me. I was kept in shoes while outdoors as an iron rule because – worms.

    Ah yes. Home sweet Alabama.

    @JKB: Well, I can imagine the furor over the precious 10th Amendment if Pres Obama had made the Alabama ‘Black Belt’ a project. Shame he couldn’t have offered some sort of federal program like … health insurance. That woulda been down-right white of him, wudn’t it J?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  4. @JKB: You’re right. if 8 years wasn’t enough to solve all the country’s problems that proves that a) we never need another black president, and b) these problems should be ignored.

    Amiright?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 0

  5. Slugger says:

    The US is a very large, diverse country and naturally will have pockets that lag behind. Lagging behind is not so bad if the trend is in the right direction; slow and steady is ok if it is in the right direction. However, there are signs that something is wrong. While life expectancy in Japan and Canada is inching upward, it is actually down somewhat in the US as a whole with poor communities like West Virginia leading the decline. US maternal deaths are also worse than in the recent past. A woman giving birth in the US is three to four times more likely to die in the US than in Western Europe. Now maybe this is statistical noise (the young mothers’ death rate looks like more than statistics to me), but I think we should take a serious look at this issue. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, the third class cabins flooded first, but the cold water reached everybody eventually.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. @Slugger: This is not just a case of lagging. The Black Belt (which originally described the soil, but is also reflective of the dominate racial make-up) has been long-neglected.

    It was once the richest part of the state because the soil was good for growing cotton and hence once heavily populated with slave labor. When the slave economy ended, the wealth shifted and over time the area has received little attention from state government. These are poor, ignored places.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well, since they don’t affect JKB, why not ignore them? They can’t be THAT important.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    (and a skimming of the comments will suggest why the problem is unlikely to be fixed.)

    Indeed. (And alas…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB: Yes, why couldn’t Obama fix the economy, ensure health care for more Americans than ever before, put America on a path to clean energy, AND get rid of hookworm in Ala-fvck!ng-bama too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  10. An Interested Party says:

    This wouldn’t be happening if a Black man or woman could ever be elected to the Presidency and didn’t have an obstinate opposition that was only concerned with destroying him/her and not doing anything productive to help the majority of the country.

    Happy to be of help…meanwhile, some of the comments from the linked piece are as disgusting as JKB’s comments…it is no wonder that a child molester is about to become the next senator from the not-so-great state of Alabama…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  11. farmboy says:

    I have built 4 homes here in Alabama that I have lived in. Each home the county health department required a septic system to be installed that they would approve before they would let the house to be used. I did not expect someone else other than me to pay for this septic system. If these people do not want to put in a safe septic system and want to live like that, why do some people think that it should be paid for by someone else. Why do people think that they can not dig by hand a septic system themselves, sure it may take 3 months to do so, but it would be better than having someone coming in and saying O me look at what I don’t have, someone else should do it for me. One of the homes I built for myself took 4 years to complete. Being to lazy to make your home for your family safe is just sorry, SAD, SAD.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 20

  12. rachel says:

    @farmboy: Here’s another comment that shows why these problems aren’t going to be fixed anytime soon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  13. BamaSW says:

    I worked in this area as a social worker for 20 years. Yes, I am white, but was very close to these families and they accepted me into their homes daily. I am still involved with these families, but not as directly as before, but still am very close to them. There is such a disconnect between these journalists, politicians, and other outsiders. There has been many people who came in to “rescue” them so many times, but only use the opportunity to further push their own financial and political goals. No, I do not believe financial assistance would help their situations. It would take education, a tremendous amount of time and actual care from others, and the provision of more opportunities. It is so very sad to watch a great deal of these youth growing up believing sports in their only key to their success. However, you go to a ball game and the sidelines are lined up with these youth waiting their turn to play. Almost, every teen is on the team. But the bleachers are completely empty when they play a school 20 minutes down the road. Or that it is okay to be a grandmother at 32 or brag that your 12 year old is having sex with older girls. Or encourage a young girl to get pregnant before they graduate high school so that the child can be adopted by the grandparents and get a disability check because they are losing one. These are common occurrences. As I said before, it is not a poverty thing or a race thing. I also grew up in poverty to teen parents with no septic tank or enough food. Fortunately, I had teachers who stepped in to show me that I don’t have to follow the same path. It was not easy, but I was determined not to give up. That is what these communities need: Hope, encouragement, and someone to show they care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  14. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Suddenly, now that another Republican is in the Presidency there are these problems, which by the story have been ongoing for more than 30 year. Suddenly, there are homeless in California. Suddenly…

    But yes, Alabama should create a program to either extend sewers to the area or provide low cost loans to homeowners. They can take money that subsidizes the -studies programs at the universities. Or I’m sure there some global warming initiative eating up tax dollars, even in Alabama. Perhaps fix this problem before building the bike lanes and trails for the young upper middle class residents of Montgomery?

    @JohnMcC:

    Federal government imposes all kinds of subsidy programs. Obama was doing caulking for dollars, cash for clunkers.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 17

  15. WillD says:

    @JKB: How quickly you forget! A black man was ellected as President. Not once, but twice. A black man was not only elected, but served the constitional maximum of 2 full terms for a total of 8 eight years. His policies did nothing to reduce poverty, specialy amongst the black communities. The number of those in poverty increased during both of his terms. The race or gender of the president has nothing to do with it. To assume it does shows a deep seated racisim and sexisim.

    Simply expanding the number who receive welfare or food stamps does nothing to help reduce poverty. These programs allow for you to barely get buy. Most often in subpar conditions. Only an improving economy can help bring people out of poverty. If the poor can’t get a job, or make more money they will all ways be poor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  16. WillD says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: yes some of these areas more then lag behind the rest of the nation, and as you stated have been ignored. They have not been ignored by the federal goverment. These areas have equal access to the same federal assitance programs. They have been ignored by their own state, and local goverments. They have even been ignored by them selves. Allowing them selves to fall to this state, and be ignored.

    A major part of the problem comes from people forgetting their are not only 3 branches of goverment, but 3 layers of goverment as well. 1.) The federal goverment who’s main responsabilitiy is the protection of the nation from external threats. 2.) The state goverment who the health and well being of it’s of citizens specificaly is set aside for the state’s in the constitution. 3.) The people. Far to often people forget they not only have rights, but with rights come responsability.

    One major common factor in the poorest areas is people forgetting their role and responsabilities. The responsability to vote so they can have an impact. Get at the very least the tax payer paid education instead of droping out. Once that is achived take advantage of the subsidized higher education opprotunities. Stay off drugs. If you take drugs of any kind you are 2x as lkely to need public assitance later in life. One of the biggest responsabilities one has is to look out for them selves and their familes. By this I mean if the economy has dropped significantly and only has prospects of getting worse in your area, then leave while you still can. Stop clinging to tradition and put your family first! Leave before your situation is so bad you can not leave. That is how these areas get so bad. There are all ways people who will refuse to leave because their family lived there for generations, or that some how tge ability to renain is some how owed to them. It is not, put your family first!

    This comes from soneone who grew up poor. I had begun my climb out of poverty, and nearly made the same mistake. Fortunetly I left California before the bad state goverment policy induced poverty got it’s grip on me again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  17. @BamaSW:

    It would take education, a tremendous amount of time and actual care from others, and the provision of more opportunities.

    A major element, however, of the neglect that I was referring to was the lack of adequate funding and attention for education in these regions (indeed, statewide, but especially in the poor areas of the state).

    And while funds do not solve everything, they are necessary to establish things like basic sewage services.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  18. @JKB:

    Suddenly, now that another Republican is in the Presidency there are these problems, which by the story have been ongoing for more than 30 year. Suddenly, there are homeless in California. Suddenly…

    I would submit that you have not been paying attention if you buy this “suddenly” BS.

    I would note, too, that this is a dodge. Either the problems exist, or they do not. Are you suggesting that they do not exist?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  19. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @farmboy:
    Even money says Farmboy supports the child molester.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I am not familiar with Alabama…but I can tell you for certain that giving yyyuuuuuge tax cuts to the rich ain’t gonna help these folks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Jc says:

    This is Alabama we are talking about – The whole state is a problem. People do not want tax dollars going to help poor people, because poor people should help themselves, because being poor is their own darn fault – That is Alabama in a nutshell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. Timothy Watson says:

    It’s interesting that the New York Times and the Washington Post can find every angry white man who can’t find a job and is still bitter about the Ford plant closing 20 years ago, but it takes a United Nations official to get any attention to this problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. BamaSW says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: There were several “concerned” Community leaders who filed for grants for septic tanks. It was a significant amount. However, all the money that was given to this project went to Administration fees and salaries. Not one septic tank was installed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. @BamaSW: This is unfortunate and wrong (if not criminal).

    That would suggest something very wrong with that grant process. It is not, however, an argument against trying to fund septic tanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Tyrell says:

    @BamaSW: The “administration” fees and salaries – sounds typical on projects like that. I worked for a construction company and the owner used to get a lot of government jobs. Gradually he wouldn’t bid on those because of the increasing regulations, maze of paperwork, and crazy constantly changing schedules. And none of that produced a better building.
    Sounds like some golden opportunities down there for plumbing companies. But a lot of people want to stay in the “good old days” and “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”.
    “If it’s not broke, break it”(Trump)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Jc:

    People do not want tax dollars going to help poor people, because poor people should help themselves

    Ironic…when you consider that Alabama is a Red State Welfare Queen…counting on Blues States to help it survive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Barry says:

    @JKB:”Suddenly, now that another Republican is in the Presidency there are these problems, which by the story have been ongoing for more than 30 year. Suddenly, there are homeless in California. Suddenly…”

    Suddenly JKB notices what papers have been writing about for many, many decades, and assumes that it’s something new.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. DrDaveT says:

    @WillD:

    The federal goverment [sic] who’s [sic] main responsabilitiy [sic] is the protection of the nation from external threats how people behave if you let them

    Fixed that for you, at least the last bit.

    The last time foreigners were more of a threat to US liberty than Americans themselves were was… 1815?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. NW-Steve says:

    @WillD:

    One major common factor in the poorest areas is people forgetting their role and responsabilities. The responsability to vote so they can have an impact.

    Well, seems like some of those poor folks woke up and took your advice in Alabama yesterday. Impressive to have such an influential commentator right here in our midst.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Quartered Safe Our Here says:

    Off topic but as a fellow Alabamian and commenter on officials down here, you might enjoy this

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/us/ana-franklin-alabama-sheriff.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0