Environmental Racism: How to Right Injustices for Black Communities
The environment is a key part of our lives, and it should be accessible to everyone. However, for black communities in the United States, this is not always the case.
Environmental racism refers to the ways in which Black people are disproportionately impacted by harmful environmental practices and policies. This can take many forms, including exposure to hazardous waste, being forced to live near polluting factories or landfills, and a lack of access to green space.
In this blog post, we will explore environmental racism and justice in more depth and discuss what can be done to right the wrongs that have been inflicted on Black communities for so long.
What is environmental racism?
Environmental racism is the result of a long history of discrimination against black people in the United States. It is a structural problem that exists when Black communities are subjected to environmental hazards at a higher rate than other groups. This can be due to many factors, including poverty and racist zoning practices.
One example of environmental racism is the way in which hazardous waste sites are disproportionately located in Black neighborhoods. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that people of color account for more than half of the people living near hazardous waste sites in the U.S. This means that black people are more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals, which can lead to health problems like cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Another recent example of environmental racism that is not yet resolved is the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. However, the river was highly polluted, and it was not properly treated before being sent to Flint residents. This led to lead contamination of the water, which has had devastating effects on the health of Flint residents, especially children.
What is environmental justice?
Environmental justice is the belief that everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment. It is about ensuring that Black communities are not disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards. It is a movement that seeks to address environmental racism and fight for the rights of Black communities.
There are many organizations fighting for environmental justice in Black communities across the United States. One example is WE ACT for Environmental Justice, which is based in Harlem, New York. WE ACT works to empower Black communities and give them a voice in the fight for environmental justice.
Examples of environmental racism in Louisiana
Louisiana is a state with a long history of environmental racism. For example, there are numerous petrochemical plants located in Black communities along the Mississippi River. These plants release harmful chemicals into the air, which can lead to health problems for residents.
Louisiana is already one of the most polluted states in the country, and black communities are disproportionately impacted by this pollution. One example is Cancer Alley, a stretch of industrial plants along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This area was nicknamed “Cancer Alley” because of the high rates of cancer that residents have developed due to exposure to toxic chemicals from these plants. Many now refer to it as “Death Alley,” as well.
In addition, Louisiana has several Superfund sites, which are areas that have been contaminated by hazardous waste. Black communities are more likely to live near these sites, and they often do not have the resources to clean up the contamination. This leaves residents at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Another example of environmental racism in Louisiana is the way in which Hurricane Katrina was handled. After the hurricane hit, Black communities were left without adequate food, water, and shelter while White communities received assistance. This led to further health problems for Black residents, as well as mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.
What can be done to right the wrongs?
There are many ways in which we can fight environmental racism and strive for environmental justice. One way is by supporting black-led organizations that are working on these issues, such as WE ACT and the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.
We can also demand accountability from our elected officials and hold them responsible for making decisions that will benefit all their constituents, not just those with the most money or power. We can vote for candidates who have environmental justice platforms, and support laws and policies that will protect Black communities from environmental hazards.
Hopes for a brighter future for poor Black communities
Despite the challenges that Black communities face, there is reason to be hopeful for a brighter future. In recent years, we have seen an increase in awareness of environmental racism and a growing movement for change. We are beginning to see more Black people in leadership positions within the environmental movement, and this is essential to creating lasting change.
As we continue to fight for justice, we must remember that our goal is not just to make things “less bad” but to create a world in which all people can thrive. We must strive for a future in which Black communities are not just surviving but thriving. Only then will we be able to say that justice has been served.