Environmental racism isn’t what it sounds like.
“Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
Last week, in fact, a whole week ago, @ferociousfem facilitated a dialogue about environmental racism. What’s environmental racism, and how is the environment relevant?
Well, it’s not that simple.
Environmental Racism: refers to socially marginalized racial minority communities which are subjected to disproportionate exposure of pollutants, the denial of access to sources of ecological benefits (such as clean air, water, and natural resources), or both.
For centuries, the environment has been slowly exploited, the development of societies contribute to the destruction of earth.
However, capitalistic practices have led to inherently racist intentional placements of harmful industries.
When we buy “eco-friendly” products; are we aware of where they come from?
How do you fight eco-friendliness with civil rights?
Who pays the prices for the progressiveness of our society?
What is Environmental Racism?
Two poster cases for environmental racism.
- Dakota Access Pipeline: The pipeline was rerouted through Sacred tribal burial grounds. As you can see, it goes directly through Sioux territory. The difference? It was originally routed through white, middle-class land. But instead, it was forced through sacred territory. Racial privilege forced toxic chemicals to poison Native lands.
- Flint Water Crisis: Lead in the water pipes of flint have led to 12 total recorded deaths, and multiple folks sick. When asking the state for newer pipes, funding went elsewhere. And, even through justification of citizens being unsafe, the state decided to save a buck. Why flint? The demographics of flint are primarily minority.
So why was there funding dedicated to whiter parts of the state? Richer parts of the state?
Bribe them with Jobs.
Bribes: Coming into a community that’s depressed, bringing jobs (harmful to environment) which brings income and jobs, an offer can’t refuse, hence placing in low income neighborhoods.
Toxic chemical exposure is often placed in lower income, POC (people of color) neighborhoods. Even though it may be in good intentions (for example a recycling plant), companies will often go into low income neighborhoods. This is a clear bribe.
And because of a flawed society, often these neighborhoods harbor POC unable to shake poverty. The offer is too good to be true: Stable, well paying jobs? Sure.
The land near these neighborhoods will have cheap rent, and provide jobs to the neighborhood closest; as they’re counting on the easy job labor associated with the location.
And thus when the plant is operational, noise pollution arises. Smoke from incineration fills the air. Toxic waste from the plastics thus burned are now being disposed of.
This exposure of chemicals is being forced upon folks who didn’t and haven’t asked for it. They’re stuck in a neighborhood that is next to a company that seeks to profit off of their systematic oppression; all for a good cause?
Utilized by the neighborhoods to paid to have it built elsewhere.
All the while, it is a recycling plant.
What’s the harm?
Intention vs. Impact.
Environmental racism impacts more than one population and identity. The injustices range far and wide; more than I can fit into a blog post.
All in all, no, the trees aren’t racist. But the people cutting them may be.
The question I leave you with is;
If we all have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; why does that only apply to the folks with privilege?
SJS, Signing Off~
PC: The Nation, The Lala, The Globe and Mail, Atlanta Black Star
9 thoughts on “Are the trees racist?”
I honestly loved this post. I was not fully aware of the term environmental racism but now that I fully know about it, I am not surprised. It makes sense because racism is still seen today but it doesn’t make sense because I still do not quite understand why racism is still an issue in a country that has the potential to be so progressive.
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Thank you for covering a not so discussed topic. I wish science classes starting from middle school would cover environmental racism because it is such a prominent issue now as well as historically has and has always been a prominent issue. By you pointing out that individuals are bribed with jobs in order to accept something that could ultimately destroy their community is all too real. This happens abroad too! The notion that for many people, the money is worth more than the costs that it’ll bring. Thank you again for talking about such a relevant and crucial issue that affects everyone involved and not involved.
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Thank you for not only educating me in every day activities but also for educating me on THIS. This post was one of the more eye openings pieces I have ever read. The idea of bribing people with jobs is so scary because you hear that so often in politics and it’s terrible to use people’s downfalls against them. Once again thank you for you brightness and for being you.
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Love this! So well said. Thank you @socialjusticesolidarity
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Thank you for choosing to cover this important topic that often slides under the radar of topics that gain attention from media outlets. I am not as well versed in environmental racism as I probably should be and this post is inspiring me to delve deeper into issues like this. Thank you for yet another thought-provoking and honest post that strives to shed light on issues that aren’t being discussed enough in our community!!
A little late but not forgotten! Thank you so much for bringing this to light with everyone! When I first got assigned this topic I had NO idea what it was and what it actually entailed so to see you took the little we gave you and ran to find out more about it and write an entire post, I’m in awe and so grateful! Also, I think we mentioned in the dialogue but all it takes sometimes is for someone to recognize their privilege and do something about and of course, everyone can all VOTE. Thank you again!
Environmental racism, environmental justice, ecofeminism & feminist sustainability are all major topics in this spring’s Ecofeminism class (SCOM / WGSS 302). Your post resonates with the class (as does the subsequent replies to it!) I’m teaching it:)
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This is a great post! Not enough people know about these issues. I was in a 300 level environmental english class and more than half the class had never heard of environmental racism. These are very important topics, thanks for writing!