AuthorHightower, Jim

From corporate polluters to political bosses, power elites try to create a myth of inevitability to make workaday people feel too helpless to change the injustices of the system. "Don't bother" is their message.

But the feisty residents of Boxtown, Tennessee, definitely did bother when they learned that profiteering fossil fuel giants were targeting them. Boxtown, a historic Black neighborhood in Memphis settled 160 years ago by formerly enslaved people, was considered by Valero Energy and Plains All American Pipeline to be politically powerless, so when these multibillion-dollar pet-ro-powers decided to ram a dirty and dangerous pipeline through the Memphis area, Boxtown was their chosen route. The rich Texas oil barons even sneeringly called the lower-income community the "point of least resistance."

Boy did they get that wrong! Those "small" people of Boxtown resisted fiercely and smartly. Most flat-out refused to sell their family land at the thieving prices offered by the oil slicks. They forged a unified grassroots coalition called Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (now Memphis Community Against Pollution), reached out to other neighborhoods, and educated locals about the terrible safety records of the two corporate plunderers.

It's a long story, with many ups and downs, but the inspiring essence is that local "nobodies" defeated the big money and raw racist arrogance of a powerhouse duo of absentee corporate elites that disrespected--and misjudged--them. We're not helpless or too small; remember this: Even the smallest dog can lift its leg on the tallest building!

It gets little national media attention, but regular grassroots coalitions are mounting--and winning--gutsy fights against corporate and political exploiters all across America. Start with this: tuition-free higher education for all residents. While President Joe Biden gave up on his pledge to provide access to free community college for all Americans, New Mexico has done that, and more, by enacting and funding a bipartisan program to cover tuition and fees at all public colleges, universities, community colleges, and tribal colleges. Yes, bipartisan. The state seems to be blessed with a gutsy governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and some Republican legislators who have been persuaded that education, not extremist ideology, is the real path for people's progress.

And how about this: New Mexico, which is ranked as one of the poorest states in the country, has...

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