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Equity Challenge Day 11

DAY 11: What is Environmental Racism? 

One racial injustice frequently overlooked is the effect of discrimination on the environment a community is based in.

Environmental racism refers to the way in which minority group neighborhoods are burdened with a disproportionate number of hazards, including toxic waste facilities, garbage dumps, and other sources of environmental pollution and foul odors that lower quality of life. All around the country, members of minority groups bear a greater burden of the health problems that result from higher exposure to waste and pollution.

For example, research shows that environmental racism pervades all aspects of African Americans’ lives: environmentally unsound housing, schools with asbestos problems, facilities and playgrounds with lead paint. A 20-year comparative study led by sociologist Robert Bullard determined “race to be more important than socioeconomic status in predicting the location of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities.” (Bullard et al 2007)

Why does environmental racism exist? Mainly because those with resources — most often non-minority communities — can raise awareness, money, and public attention to ensure that their communities are unsullied, leading to an inequitable distribution of environmental burdens.

Today’s Challenge: 

Option 1: Read The Atlantic’s coverage of the EPA National Center for Environmental Assessment’s 2018 report that showed how people of color are more likely to experience exposure to pollutants. 

Option 2: Have you heard of environmental racism? Watch this 3-minute video on how numerous systemic issues contribute to differences in exposure to potentially harmful environmental conditions. 

Option 3: Watch this video that explains why African-Americans face disproportionate rates of lead poisoning, asthma, and environmental harm.