Tipton Trash


I grew up about 10 minutes from a landfill in Tipton County, Tennessee. My high school was actually located on the same highway less than a mile away from this landfill and my elementary and middle schools were also about a mile from it. Every Saturday, my mom and I would make a trip to the dump. It wasn’t anything that I ever thought was strange or harmful in anyway. I thought that was what was normal for all families throughout the United States. All I really knew about it was that you had to pay a free in order to get a pass to dump your trash and other materials there. It wasn’t until reading in “Dumping in Dixie” and discussing this topic in class that I realized that this landfill is a byproduct of environmental racism. The landfill is an example of a LULU (locally undesired land use), which decreases property values, increases inequality, and causes small businesses to see fewer profits. After learning about the effects of these landfills and hazardous waste dumps, it made me think about the health and economic status of those in my hometown community. Could the landfill be harming people and lowering their quality of life?

Today, southerners are still suffering from institutionalized discrimination. It is very scary to think that your health could be impacted by these landfills, from the quality of the water to the quality of soil. These LULUs can affect the quality of our lives. The perception that these LULUs can affect your health creates depreciation of property values. There are very few (if any) regulations for LULUs. Small southern communities are also vulnerable to LULUs because they have an abundance of land. In class, we discussed that environmental racism intersects with class, rural living, and people of color. I found this to hit home with the fact that the town I grew up in has a landfill on the main highway, close to schools and many homes. The landfill never bothered me; I couldn’t smell it unless we were actually there, but now I think maybe we were all just used to the scents coming from the dump. I was definitely naïve when it comes to knowing about the effects that can occur because of LULUs. We watched a video in class, “Earthkeeping,” that went into detail about different communities fighting back against environmental racism. Communities in the video suffered most from pollution and benefited least from cleanups. One quote from the video really stuck out to me; a man stated: “If you fill a residential area with garbage, you are saying the people are garbage.” This quote made me think of all the places throughout our country that have these trash dumps and are stuck with poor health, less small business profits, and lower property values. It was encouraging to see how members of the community actually cared about fixing these issues. I hope that one day Tipton County residents will also see these issues subside.

Abandoned and Broken in the South: Urban and Rural Decay (Photo Essay)

This building is in the center of downtown Oakland, Fayette County.

Broken Windows

Inside the unused building in Oakland.

Furniture store in Fayette County destroyed by a fire.

The extent of the damage from the fire forced the owners to leave everything. Nothing was salvageable. Even computers are still in the back office.

I’m not sure what kind of frame or picture this once was, but I loved that you can still read “Memphis” under all the soot.

Eads Elementary School has not been used in many years. There are still desks, chairs, school supplies, and a piano inside. It was also used as a clinic at one point.

Graffiti is often on most abandoned or vacant buildings.

The Sterick Building or “Queen of Memphis” downtown was completed in 1929 and cost nearly $3 million dollars to build. It opened right before the Depression and unfortunately went bankrupt. It has been vacant since 1987.

Homeless people in Memphis have been known to take shelter in the Sterick Building.

29 stories of the Sterick Building

Empty retail space in downtown Memphis. I loved the random toys. A few teddy bears and a mannequin head.

The Tennessee Brewery was built in 1890 and was once home to the Memphis Brewing Company. However, it has been closed since 1954.

The Brewery is still for sale if anyone is interested!

There were plans to turn the old Brewery into a museum or a condo, but they fell through.

“Invest in Good Times.” The Tennessee Brewery is filled with graffiti inside and out.

Graffiti inside the Brewery.

On top of one roof of the Brewery.

This is a view of the Mississippi River and the old bridge from one roof of the Tennessee Brewery.

The Mississippi River from the top roof of The Tennessee Brewery.

The Marine Military Hospital opened in 1884, but has not been used as a hospital in over 40 years. Today, it is known for being the most haunted place in Memphis, for obvious reasons. It has many buildings, one of which is now a Metal Museum.

Built in 1911, the old police station in downtown Memphis has been vacant for 30+ years.

The grand opening of the Sears Tower was in 1927. It is 650,000 square feet! There have been rumors about turning it into an apartment complex. It has been vacant since 1996.

Abandoned home near Highway 64 and 385.

Fayette County, TN hopeless and abandoned house.

The James Lee House is such a beautiful and unique structure. It was built in 1848 and has been vacant for 50 years, but while taking this photo I found out that it has been sold! The new owners have plans to make the house into a bed and breakfast.



“Low Pay Is Not Ok”

After watching the documentary “Ten Dollars an Hour,” I felt overwhelmingly disgusted by our world today. No one should have to work so hard for so little money! I am a server who makes $2.13 an hour, plus tips; most people either aren’t educated about this or they just don’t care. I definitely understood the customer service aspects of work that we discussed in class. We always have to act like “happy slaves” who are respectable and love to please. I could not imagine if I had to live off of the money I make $2.13 an hour plus tips for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, many American’s are in situations where they are living off of these types of wages. What disappointed me most about the film was the fact that the “House Mom” (who only gave her family “recipes” and ordered the food) got paid $30,000 a year PLUS she has free living space, no bills, has INSURANCE AND BENEFITS, and gets reimbursement for gas for her truck. WHAT??? And don’t forget, the House Mom is also in charge of hiring and firing. If she thought you had a bad attitude, you were gone! While the House Mom is “busy” doing her “work,” Leasse is literally slaving away for long hours in the kitchen. Then House Mom sits around and eats what Leasse cooks! Leasse’s annual income was only $18,000 a year.  I was absolutely appalled. After working for years, Leasse didn’t even get offered insurance or benefits, which the House Mom already had. In order to give the 4 full time kitchen staff members annual health insurance, it would cost $4,000 a year ($2,400 for Leasse). The House Corporation for the fraternity takes in $700,000 a year. Why would they not give their employees the benefits they deserve? It would not hurt them at all! This documentary opened my eyes to the fact that this is happening more than most of us know.

The short clip we watched in class about Nancy, the woman working at McDonald’s, was also an eye-opener. The “help-line” told her to apply for federal programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. After seeing the video, I signed the petition at LowPayIsNotOk.org. Their website states that McDonald’s makes $5.5 billion in profits and that more than half of fast-food employees’ families are on public assistance and cost taxpayers $7 billion year! Corporations like this do not care about their employees; they are only worried about what profit they will make! They are constantly moving to where they can find the cheapest labor so that they can receive the largest profit. Most workers are unable to demand benefits, raises, and better working conditions because they cannot afford to be let go. I have read many comments under articles about the McDonald’s helpline video and most people who disagree with fast-food workers getting paid more use the excuse that they “are lazy and need to work hard to get somewhere.” In my opinion, if they are barely surviving from their wages and have to use federal aid programs, how are they supposed to move ahead in life and find a better job or become more qualified by getting more education? Education costs money that these people do not have! I can see how many of them feel stuck and hopeless. If corporations like McDonald’s and the House Corporation for the Sigma Nu Fraternity would give their employees a chance, they could possibly make a huge difference in the world as well has have better lives for their families. AND not to mention the $7 billion dollars we are paying for them to be on government aid would significantly drop. The only downside is that the corporations wouldn’t be making as much money as they are now. Boo hoo.

The Most Dangerous State, Tourism, and The Broken Window Theory

We have all seen in the news recently that Tennessee has just been named “The Most Dangerous State” in the United States by the FBI’s statistic research. My home state had the nation’s highest violent crime rate last year! Most of us were shocked by this new information. According to the FBI, the research was based on violent crime being murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults.

With major cities like Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, I didn’t really see Tennessee as being more dangerous than any other state with these cities that are known for having a lot of crime. However, many people do think of Memphis as the crime capital. This is because Memphis’ violent crime rate is the fifth worse in the nation. Nashville is also the 18th worst, which I was shocked by. These two cities combined with the poverty rate, and low education level of our state made us skyrocket to number one on the list.

How can we stop violent crime in our city and in our state?
In my opinion, we have to start with the doing something about the poverty rate and education. In class we discussed how our city is investing in sports, businesses, and the development of downtown and the river for tourism rather than investing in education and low-income citizens. I think that our culture can speak for itself. While most of us don’t understand why people would want to vacation here, there are many reasons for people to want to see the Home of the Blues such as: our National Civil Rights Museum, The Memphis Zoo, Graceland, Sun Studio, Stax Museum, Beale Street, The Pink Palace, world-famous restaurants and much more. The problem with our tourism is that we have so much crime that it scares people away. We also discussed the “broken window theory” that most definitely has a huge impact on why people do not want to come visit Memphis.

It is almost like there is a vicious circle around our need for tourism and the money it brings in and spending money on tourists rather than using it for our school systems and low-income citizens. While we are spending money to make the city look better to outsiders, we are neglecting putting money into the low-income citizens and the education systems. This results in our high poverty rates and a lower standard of living. Outsiders and then taken back by the “broken window theory” by seeing our city as a place with too much crime. To them, Memphis is too “scary” or there is too much violence to even consider visiting; therefore we cannot gain as much income from tourists.

While the “broken window theory” steers most people away, I love the character of cities and buildings that aren’t all brand new, shiny, and polished. I love to explore old, abandoned buildings and downtown Memphis is the place to do so. The Sterick Building, which has been empty since 1980, is Memphis’ tallest building and I had the opportunity to explore it as well as get on the rooftop. The view is unbelievably beautiful and something that I will never forget. It made me appreciate our city more and see it for the amazing place that it is! Sometimes the run down places are the most interesting to see. Memphis isn’t a place to go see fancy, expensive buildings; it’s a place to explore and learn about southern history and culture.

Side Note: If you want to read more about the most dangerous states in the U.S. and see the other states in the Top 10, here is the link:

The South & Domestic Violence

Is Southern Culture Behind Domestic Violence Increase?

This article was very shocking to me. Not only is Tennessee the ranked fifth in the country for women being killed in a domestic dispute, but also some of the other states in the top ten are: Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The news article claims that our southern culture can be to blame for this. The writers do not go into much detail about what in particular it is in our culture that produces such high domestic violence rates. One reason that I believe could be a factor is that many men in the South think that women are their property. It was a normal to believe this during the Civil War, but this belief should be long gone by now. In the 21st century, it is crazy that some people still have the mind-set that they can actually OWN another person. My guess is that men are taught this as young boys; from generation to generation they see how their fathers and grandfathers treat their wives. But aren’t they also taught to be “southern gentlemen” and to never lay their hands on a woman, no matter what? I have heard “men” (or should I say boys) state things such as: women should keep their mouths shut, they should not talk back, but only speak when spoken to, and that they only belong in the kitchen (as if women only have a role in the home and no where else). It is almost like some men in the South are closet abusers, they will act like they are the perfect southern gentleman, but in reality, they treat their wives as the opposite: cruel, harsh, demanding, and harm them physically as well as emotionally.

Also, some men in the South can be more physically aggressive because they think they have the right to honor and respect. Women in the South are less likely to come forward with domestic violence issues. They don’t want people to know that their husband beats them behind closed doors. In the South, women especially want their friends, families, co-workers, and even acquaintances to think that they have the perfect relationship/marriage. Because many women in the South are housewives, they might feel like they cannot make it without their husband, even if he is abusive, they need him in order to survive. We also have to think about the fact that the South is home of the “Bible Belt” and many women think that they cannot leave their husbands because, according to the Bible, divorce is wrong and women need to submit to and respect their husbands. Although many forget that the Bible also says for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church: which definitely means that if they believe and live by the Bible, husbands should not harm their wives physically or emotionally.

Domestic violence is also displayed in movies about southern culture, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. It is hard to watch as Frank slaps his wife, Ruth, and then pushes her down the stairs. This movie takes place in Alabama, which is the second highest state for domestic violence deaths. (Here is the clip where Ruth leaves Frank. If you have never seen the movie, it’s awesome!) In class, we briefly discussed the movie and book Gone With The Wind. I recently re-watched the film and was shocked to see how even the typical, independent and strong “southern belle,” Scarlet O’Hara, was a victim of marital rape. I had never really noticed the meaning of the scene until after talking about the movie in class. It is common for a person in the South to know a victim of domestic violence or even to know someone who was killed in a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence is not something to be overlooked. I believe that men and women should be aware of this terrible problem of domestic violence in the South and in our culture.