(Image Courtesy of Paul Sancya)
America has had its fair share of issues that bring about systems of oppression ranging from institutionalized racism to sexism. One issue in particular that has begun to cause commotion within Black and Latino communities is environmental racism.
For people to understand why environmental racism is so significant to Black/Latino communities, they must first know the overall meaning. There isn’t a clear definition of environmental racism because it depends on the perspective of each person in who is affected by it. Therefore, I decided to ask the Senior Community Organizer and interns of We Act, a New York based organization devoted to repelling environmental racism. Based on the responses, the general idea of environmental racism is an unequal distribution of environmental rights based on race. However, each of the volunteers had their own perspective on environmental racism. Senior Community Organizer of We Act, Charles Callaway, commented, “Environmental racism is when more polluting facilities are placed in particular communities” (Charles, We Act). One intern, stated, “Environmental racism is the lack of protection to certain races (Black/Latino), and results in more trash being left in poor neighborhoods” (Jonathan, We Act). Another intern expressed, “Environmental racism is a form of the government targeting minorities through the use of mass pollution” (Diana, We Act). In addition, a different intern felt that environmental racism was, “Not letting people of color become involved in the well being of their environment” (Jonathan, We Act). The last response came from a volunteer who believes environmental racism is, “An extension of the history of oppression that overshadows people of color” (Kiana, We Act). Hearing all of these statements has not only enhanced my understanding of this underlying issue, but also motivated me to research about more incidents in which environmental racism has occurred.
One of the more recent and popular cases of environmental racism happened to be the hazardous water in Flint, Michigan. The PBS documentary Poisoned Water takes viewers through the water crisis of Flint, by highlighting the local officials’ role in neglecting the health of residents exposed to poisoned water. The explanation behind the lead contaminated water was a way of saving money by changing the water source. This is a prime example of environmental racism because the officials of Flint were willing to put the health of the community (especially children) at risk because an alternative water source was more profitable.
(Image Courtesy of Black Agenda Report)
To conclude, I want everyone who is reading to realize that environmental racism is not only an issue, but also another form of oppression. More people should be educated on the crisis, as well as their environment (especially Black and Latino communities). I would like to end with the question, what could we do to find a solution for the crisis that is environmental racism?