Environmental racism and racial justice issues come with controversy. Those who have the loudest opinions are most often people who have not been directly affected; who seem to take this subject as an unfounded myth. Unfortunately, these are real issues with real-life consequences affecting millions in the United States, including West Virginia.
The fight against environmental racism has been a long and hard one since its inception decades ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed because it is not the most visible form of racism. But it is very real, dangerous and widespread,affecting many more communities and people than most people understand, which is why everyone needs to take a stand against it.
We need to properly break down the issues we’re facing, including the discrimination against people of color that has shown itself in many forms over the years. The long-term impact of these discriminations can be seen in the environmental injustice affecting low-income communities. Low-income communities tend to typically be BIPOC communities, and as such, these communities have a long-standing history that disproportionately harms their people in all aspects of living. One obvious example could be through the array of disparities that affect them, the results all leading to the many health issues that impact their people.
Environmental racism came about because of this country’s long history of discrimination against people of color. Then came the rising cost of housing, which could also be directly linked to the increase in income inequality and workplace segregation. This alone has subjected people of color to live in undesirable environments with cheaper accommodations. Unfortunately, this comes with its problems, seeing as these accommodations are statistically placed outside habitable areas contributing to their cheap affordability. These housing units are almost always exposed to higher proportions of air pollution, toxic waste sites, landfills, complaints of lead poisoning and other industrial waste. The chance of these happening is far greater in colored communities compared to their white counterparts.
A form of solution….
The environmental justice movement and activists are strongly urging the Environmental Protection Agency and policymakers to eradicate intentional discrimination and create public policy based on respect for all people regardless of race or financial status. Meanwhile, the most effective form of change would come about if more people of color got involved in fighting and protesting against this inhumane injustice. I think of people like Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a nonprofit in New York City. She is constantly calling out to people to lend their voices to the cause. I also think of Savonala Savi Horne, executive director for the Land Loss Prevention Project in North Carolina. They both share an approach to this issue: Environmental policy cannot be made in a vacuum, isolated from other issues and policies; Instead, it should agree with the people whose lives it is meant to serve while increasing the prospects for winning the public and political support necessary to effect change.
Augustina Boateng is a freelance writer who is passionate for the fight against any form of injustice, especially for environmental justice and women’s rights.