LaToya Ruby Frazier: A visual history of inequality in industrial America

LaToya Ruby Frazier: A visual history of inequality in industrial America


Along the ancient path
of the Monongahela River, Braddock, Pennsylvania sits
in the eastern region of Allegheny County, approximately nine miles
outside of Pittsburgh. An industrial suburb, Braddock is home
to Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, the Edgar Thomson Works. Operating since 1875, it is the last functioning
steel mill in the region. For 12 years, I have produced
collaborative portraits, still lifes, landscapes and aerial views in order to build a visual archive
to address the intersection of the steel industry, the environment, and the health care system’s impact
on the bodies of my family and community. The tradition and grand
narrative of Braddock is mostly comprised of stories
of industrialists and trade unions. Currently, the new narrative
about Braddock, a poster child for Rust Belt
revitalization, is a story of urban pioneers
discovering a new frontier. Mass media has omitted the fact
that Braddock is predominantly black. Our existence has been co-opted,
silenced and erased. Fourth generation in a lineage of women, I was raised under the protection
and care of Grandma Ruby, off 8th Street
at 805 Washington Avenue. She worked as a manager for Goodwill. Mom was a nurse’s aid. She watched the steel mills close
and white flight to suburban developments. By the time my generation
walked the streets, disinvestment at the local,
state and federal level, eroded infrastructure, and the War on Drugs
dismantled my family and community. Grandma Ruby’s stepfather Gramps was one of few black men to retire
from Carnegie’s mill with his pension. He worked in high temperatures, tearing down and rebuilding furnaces,
cleaning up spilt metal and slag. The history of a place is written
on the body and the landscape. Areas of heavy truck traffic, exposure to benzene and atomized metals, risk cancer and lupus. One hundred twenty-three licensed beds,
652 employees, rehabilitation programs decimated. A housing discrimination lawsuit
against Allegheny County removed where the projects
Talbot Towers once stood. Recent rezoning for more light industry
has since appeared. Google Maps and Google Earth pixelations
conceal the flammable waste being used to squeeze the Bunn family
off their home and land. In 2013, I chartered a helicopter with my cameras to document
this aggressive dispossession. In flight, my observation reveals
thousands of plastic white bundles owned by a conservation industry that claims it’s eco-friendly and recycles millions of tires to preserve people’s lives and to improve people’s lives. My work spirals from the micro
to the macro level, excavating hidden histories. Recently, at the Seattle Art Museum, Isaac Bunn and I mounted this exhibition, and the exhibition was used
as a platform to launch his voice. Through reclamation of our narrative, we will continue to fight historic erasure
and socioeconomic inequality. Thank you. (Applause)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

51 thoughts on “LaToya Ruby Frazier: A visual history of inequality in industrial America

  1. Capitalism has run its course, now is the perfect time to transition to the
    resource-based economy and leave capitalism behind.
    The idiotic economic system we have today, which relies on infinite growth and infinite consumption will crash in the next 10 years. 
    If we intend to overcome that crisis, these 8 things will need to happen: 

    1. All the repetitive, dangerous and not intellectually engaging jobs should be left to advanced robots, while human beings should be involved in science, arts and education.
    2. Money should be eliminated and we should transition to the resource-based economy. 
    3. There should be no countries, no nations, no borders and no organized religion.
    4. All voting should be done online, and people should be required to undergo an extensive test of competence before being allowed to vote in the first place. 
    5.  People should be required to undergo an extensive test of mental, physical and financial abilities and made to obtain a parenting license before being allowed to have children. 
    6. The human population of Earth should be kept between 500 million and 1 billion people. 
    7. Everything should be done to expand the human lifespan as much as possible. 
    8. We should colonize at least one other planet in the next 20 years and do everything in our power to explore the universe that we inhabit. 

    If you're somewhat dubious about how realistic this is, look up Ray Kurzweil and
    The Law of Accelerating Returns…  
    the world in 2030, 2040 and 2050 is going to be a VASTLY different place.

  2. Huh ? So this is scientific, but Rupert Sheldrake gets ousted and banned as unscientific ?
    I mean seriously, "A visual history of inequality in industrial America", how about talking about the fact inequality has never been as high as it is today in America and in most nations around the western world ?
    A great opportunity to do a great talk on a great subject, wasted. What did we from this ? Nothing. How about graphs, stats, facts and reasoning instead ?

  3. So, basically work conditions that men have been going through since the invention of industry. Something that is obviously not a problem until it's a black issue.

    Boys working in coal mines and being 95% of all work accident deaths. Nah, not a problem for the male gender… WAIT?! THEY'RE BLACK?! OH MY GOD!

  4. I didn't see any inequality. The white people left and went where the work went, the blacks stayed. Then business came back and the blacks resisted it? Ok then.
    Now it appears the chemicals were racist as they only affected the black workers, I did not know white workers were immune to benzine exposure.

  5. We've got a globalized wage-slavery problem now, but never mind that – lets dredge up the past because a lot of these people appear to be black.

  6. "thousands of white bundles owned by 'conservation industry'. That claims its eco friendly." Who claims that? Where? Do you have proof they are not? I'm so confused. She tells a story without any background. And when you think she comes to a point, she starts talking about an art exhibition. Get to the point. or any point!

  7. If u have such an issue with what TED talk puts up then unsubscribe and go on about your day . I promise you the unsubscribe button is not broken just unsubscribe.

  8. I'll try to avoid any buzzwords, because I'm really not on any sides here; but the social activism videos TED has been focused on as of late are really growing weary. Along with the same comments arguing about them.

    Is there any plan to revert to science, theory, or just… enjoyable content any time soon?

  9. I must be missing something. What does any of this have to with skin color? Haven't white people also been getting sick and killed in heavy industry since the beginning of the industrial revolution or are all those dead people faking it? Perhaps the mill owners should fire all the black employees and only hire white people and put an end to this exploitation of the black minority being forced to take those jobs against their will. The next Ted talk is about race discrimination in the work place and how there's no jobs for black people. (and yes that was sarcasm for those who can't see the obvious).

  10. I thought this was a TED talk but then I saw the thumbnail and thought…. "here we go again"

    This women makes her life look like a North Korea sob story…

  11. 01:38 "Braddock is predominantly black." Poor whites have been displaced in San Franciso by affluent whites. Affluent whites have been displaced in West Los Angeles by wealthy Jews. Affluent whites have been displaced by wealthy Taiwanese & Chinese immigrants in San Marino, CA. In Eastern Tennessee & you'll find white folks who live in trailers. Many of them don't even have trash pick up so they burn their trash on the land they live on & their kids breathe the fumes. Meanwhile, poor blacks in Oakland have houses, lawns, cars.  How about those miners in West Virginia? Almost all of them are white. They go underground daily and come up covered in soot, inside & out, then go home to slums. Poor whites of Appalachia have been begging for attention for illegal toxic discharges into hundreds of waterways across five Appalachian states. Poor whites of Hinkley were getting all sorts of diseases from water (re: Erin Brokavich), but our media likes to package blacks as victims & whites as privileged. So, no one knows about this. I feel for this lady and her community, but Braddock's blackness is not the issue. This happens to many people and it's bad for all.

  12. >99% of all workplace deaths are men
    No TED talk on this

    >Some of them were black
    OH MY GOD STOP THE PRESSES IT JUST CAN'T BE TRUE, WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY

  13. Left screwed things so badly that this kind of video receives these massive down votes. I have a feeling that USA will not elect his democrat candidate and it will swing to the far right just like Britain did recently.

    If someone told me that power follows a cycle ten years ago I would think it was some kind of conspiracy theory, now that I see it unfolding before my eyes, I'm not so sure.

  14. I take exception to this perspective! I hailed from western Pa. Many people left of all races, when the steel mills and oil fields collapsed.
    They are ghost towns now on par with Detroit. It split families left empty buildings, and polluted lands. I left with only the clothes on my back.

  15. It could have been a pretty good talk if there was not racial bullshit. Here in my country there are also people who suffered and some keep suffering the inequalities that the economical chasms bring.

  16. TED: "Ok, ok, we will give you five minutes if you stop throwing race card at our face."

  17. I can only agree with the proposal that Ted should split up in a Science Talks and a Social justice Talks section so People would less Insult each other.
    I would say if Ted wants to air something controversial they should Show someone saying that it is not the Boss class, the White man or other more nefarious Players that seemingly force People to take drugs, have children with 16 or less and commit crimes and that talking as if poor People are just helpless children who can not be talked to as full-grown adults does not Show your great empathy for them as you would be insulted iif others thought this about you.

  18. Another white-guilt social justice warrior video. TED used to be about looking to a great future, not looking to the past and point fingers.

    Thumbs down.

  19. They need to lower the frequency and increase the quality of these talks man… One ted conference… Once a year… That's how it should be.

  20. Oh, well… Here it goes again. Reality check: 17 TED talks in my YouTube suggestions list. 3 on political/social themes. 14 on design, medicine, programming, space exploration, anthropology, psychology, etc. TED is talking about more subjects, not talking less about any subject. Deal with it.

  21. Thank you very much for sharing this story. It's important to respectfully remember those that came before us, often having made sacrifices to contribute in some small part to our present. It is sad that so many in Braddock were quickly abandoned and forgotten at the end of their utility.

    The response to this video is heartbreaking. We need many more like it.

  22. So instead of taking a hands on approach to this she takes pictures and vaguely tries using racism to meet a unclear goal? Not everyone needs a microphone TED.

  23. This woman is somehow representing changing economic circumstances in a region as somehow racist that only black people were displaced as fortunes shifted has she never heard the words of Paul Simon's " My Little Town" or Springsteen's"My Hometown" , the steel/coal/textile industries marked everyone when they left  America for Asia and it took decades, it wasn't the white man suddenly abandoning the black man it was the economic displacement of entire industries and it affected everyone, glad that she could make a buck off the misery she recorded and make her predominantly white audience feel guilty and somehow responsible , gee Thanks.

  24. Why is it so hard for people to disagree and enjoy a TED talk at the same time? I think her work is important and will shape the way the town will be remembered. I didn't agree with everything she said but she made some good points and I think listening to her perspective was interesting regardless.

  25. I'm not sure why you guys comment. They'll just dismiss any argument for actual equality and call it racism, so they can continue believing what they believe. Its what people always do.

  26. "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."  

    Do people watch videos with an open mind? Especially on topics about race… I feel like it's becoming useless, one side presents valid issues while the other interjects with irrelevant comparisons. Frustration occurs with no real solution. Cycle continues.

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