Racism And The Health Of Indigenous Women

1466 Words Oct 27th, 2016 6 Pages
In the 1950s, the United States conducted 66 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, which were then under colonial rule. The Marshall Islands are home to several indigenous tribes and nations. The nuclear tests devastated the inhabitants of the island, who experienced decades of birth defects and extremely high rates of liver, cervical, and lung cancer. “Between 1954 and 1958, one in three births in the Marshall Islands resulted in fetal death” (Smith 67). This is perhaps the most extreme instance of environmental racism in modern history, and the health of indigenous women was particularly abused. Indigenous women have experienced the intersection of environmental destruction, sexism, and racism in remarkably horrific ways for over five centuries. As Kimberlé Crenshaw articulates, “intersectionality was a lived reality before it became a term.” There are numerous instances of sexual violence-related racism and environmental racism committed against indigenous women. In fact, “many feminist theorists have argued that there is a connection between patriarchy’s disregard for nature, women, and indigenous peoples” (Smith 55). Cases of forced sterilization, rape, and reproductive health traumas have plagued the history of Native American women. For centuries, the bodies of indigenous women have been violated and restricted, and environmental destruction has added another layer to their struggle. I examine how these three identities— environmentalist, feminist, and…
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