Eradicating the Racism in the Air By Keri Hayes

The structural foundation of racism in America isn’t often affiliated with environmental Justice Reform. Yet, the focus on eradicating the racism in the air begins with Environmental Justice Reform- when you take time to evaluate some of the facts, like “An African American child is three times more likely to go into the emergency room for an asthma attack than a white child, and twice as likely to die from asthma attacks as a white child. Or the fact that African Americans are more likely to die from lung disease, but less likely to smoke.” (A study conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation). We have a social responsibility to seek and find solutions to these problems like; demanding the removal of hazardous coal plants, and enforcing environmental regulations upon all companies that produce massive smoke waste. American efforts need to be focused on saving lives and preserving our Beautiful Planet.

Low social-economic communities inhabited by minorities are disproportionately affected by the many toxic waste plants and factories that have high pollution levels and are located within just a few miles of residences and business establishments. Race has historically been the number one indicator of the placement of toxic facilities in this country, and that definitely must change. Toxic facilities should not be allowed to exist in this country because their effect on the environment as a whole is toxic. Three out of every five African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities live in a community hosting hazardous and toxic waste sites.  Hazardous waste sites, polluting industrial facilities, and other locally unwanted land uses are disproportionately located in low socio-economic communities populated by Black and Brown People. Air Quality isn’t the only environmental concern when it comes to racial equity in environmental justice. Water Quality and basic access to adequate water supply have also been long-standing environmental justice issues in America. Low social-economic communities commonly inhabited by Black and Brown people are also disproportionately exposed to water pollution across America; the most egregious example, the Water Crisis of Flint, MI. In April 2014, City Officials in Flint, MI, switched the city’s water supply from the city of Detroit’s water source “Lake Huron” to the Flint River in efforts to save the city 5 million dollars. By December 2014, the City of Flint, MI had invested 4 million dollars into the treatment of their Flint River Water Supply. The city has replaced around 8,000 galvanized and lead infested pipelines. However, there are an estimated 7,000 more pipelines to be replaced. There is no question that there needs to be financial compensation for those poisoned by systemic racism, along with adequate healthcare treatments provided to communities at no cost, to correct the impact environmental injustice has had on communities affected by this inacceptable toxic water crisis, and poor air quality control.

Low social-economic communities, again, commonly inhabited by Black and Brown people, are disproportionately affected by climate change and are rewarded less in governmental aid in recovery efforts. African Americans received, on average, $8,000 less than their European American peers during the Natural Disaster of Hurricane Katrina. There definitely needs to be an emphasis on increasing property values in places with significant declination, along with adequate compensation and relief efforts administered in a timely manner for Minority Homeowners that have been displaced due to natural disasters.

Closing I’d like to also address the growing concern of the many environmental injustices that have affected the United States Penal System (On both State and Federal Levels) impacting environmental injustice upon African Americans, and all Black and Brown people throughout the country. For those who may be unfamiliar with Superfund cleanup sites, Superfund’s were designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. Superfund cleanup sites are polluted locations in the United States requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. According to a GIS analysis of a 2010 dataset of state and federal prisons by independent cartographer, Paige Williams, at least 589 federal and state prisons are located within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site on the National Priorities List, with 134 of those prisons located within just one mile of the superfund cleanup site. This too, must be addressed to eradicate the Racism in the air. The American Penal System directly affects the lives of our Black and Brown brothers and Sisters drastically at different rates than our European American Counterparts. Exposing us to toxic environments that affect our health. We must work together in efforts to eradicate racism and eliminate hateful social practices and dangerous environmental injustice practices across our Nation. It is our social responsibility to eradicate the racism in the air. This is why it is so important for African Americans, along with Black and Brown people all over this Nation to demand our public servants to focus on Environmental Justice Reform and Eradicate the Racism in the Air.