What is environmental racism?
Simmons Bunton said “environmental racism is the social injustice represented by the disproportionately large number of health and environmental risks cast upon peoples of color in the communities in which they live. These minorities are the most common victims of toxic landfills, waste incinerators, industrial dumping of uranium, mining and environmentally detrimental activities. As a practice whether purposeful or unintended it is often reinforced by governments, legal, economic, political, and military institutions because it occurs simultaneously with other racial inequities. These other racial inequities are high poverty rates, deteriorating housing and infrastructure, economic disinvestment, inadequate schools, acute unemployment, or poor inaccessible medical services.”
How is environmental racism connected to Black Lives Matter (BLM)?
This is all coming to life in conjunction with issues that involve BLM. Freddie Gray out of Baltimore is an example. Freddie Gray had won a lawsuit where he proved that he had been negatively impacted by lead poisoning in the housing projects where he grew up. Now, if you look at his life and criminal record, it had been tested that he had lead poisoning since a child. Lead Poisoning affects educational development and decision making. I’ve told my students, the same system that allows black people to be killed on camera is the same system that allows them and their families to be subjected to polluted environments.
How does it affect the Black Community?
Dr. Robert Fuller, created maps of the areas most threatened and vulnerable by changing climate, he dubbed these states “the blackbelt”. The blackbelt includes: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas & Texas, and southern California. Part of the hispanic belt is also the most threatened by climate change. The poverty belt mirrors the black belt and latino belt all the way across the south. This area also represents the uninsured belt with places that have the worst healthcare systems, with Texas being the worst.
This same black and latino belt is also called the obesity belt. 7 of the least healthiest states are in the south. Food desert means places where there is no supermarket within a mile and they have no car. The black/poverty/obesity belts are also laden with food deserts. Contrary to popular belief, living in the south you can’t grow your own food. Rising heat and access to water is a major hindrance. These same states make up the diabetes and stroke belt. In addition they make up the pollution belt. Or the states with the highest number of waste facilities. There’s no coincidence these are also the states where it’s the worst to grow up as a child.
Blacks are 79% more likely than whites to live where industrial pollution poses the greatest health danger - PA, Tx. These communities closest to hazardous waste site are called Fenceline communities. Residents of Fenceline communities have home values $0.30 less than the average home. You’re losing money on your home tied into the generational wealth. Residents of Fenceline communities have income levels 22% below national average.
What Do You Think About the Death of Henry Griffin and those like him?
We (Black people) make up the majority who have no health insurance. What caused him to have asthma in the first place? I would bet he lived in an area with industrial production. The most vulnerable populations generally suffer earliest and subsequently the most. In addition to setbacks based on geography, [inequality] is based in limited income, sparse economic means, and lack of access to healthcare. These all culminate to something Called “Social vulnerability”. 2 factors of social vulnerability is response time from emergency responder and political representation - if you don’t have any political rep no will go to the federal government and people are being poisoned and it needs to stop. If you don’t vote you don’t have a say so - and coincidently these are the same states that want to increase the barriers to voting right.
This facility that generates so much wealth should pay for med care b/c all my problems are an extension of your facility. We can look at oil refineries like in Richmond, MIA, Miss, or Fla where the oil spills happen. BP decimated the means of survival for the fishermen, restaurants, and poor people who knew they could fish for their dinner. They can't eat and commerce is halted. Directly impacting life-chances. Areas like WV, fracking is taking place to produce natural gas. Affecting white people. Oh, Pa, Wv is saudia arabia of natural gas. Poor people in these areas are negatively affected by extraction the money from these places does not go to the people in these places.
Economic practice we have to develop new econ system that does not subject one group of people to the detriments while another group benefits only from all the productivity.
How Can People get Involved?
First step is to find out what enviro racism is and look at toxic facilities where they live. You can find this by using google or checking in with EPA for maps of facilities. Next, we can become members of and form alliance with white enviro orgs. The largest enviro org is Sierra Club. This year the SC has been asked to address the lack of diversity in its org. Environmentalists realize their orgs are basically all white but those affected most aren't repped. We must be proactive and participate because we are affected most. Next, we must adjust our attitude toward nature. Many of our people left the south to flee jim crow. In moving we lost our connection to nature, ability to farm and live on the land. Now we suffer from gentrification. The reverse of white flight. In certain areas there is no access to public transpo so you need to learn how to grow your own food. Maybe you need to consider a woodburning stove in case your gas gets cut off. It may involve learning how to fix a fractured bone or how to check blood pressure. It may also include what certain people may call being a doomsday preppers - canning food. Must get back to knowing how to do these things. We see how law enforcement treated our people saying they were looters and refugees yet they were American citizens, void of a helping hand.
A large part is working on being communities and seeing each others as neighbors as a community - common unity. A common bond between each other. That also extends to our willingness to let each other “trap or die” in our communities. We know this affects families. I can’t be cool with you if selling heroin to my neighbor not allowing her to be a mother to her kids. It has to be more than one person - the community must all come together to talk and act as one. Now, we’re acting as a community. First step, is becoming aware of these things.