In 1979, Robert D. Bullard, a sociologist at Texas Southern University, completed a report describing the futile attempt of an affluent African-American community in Houston, Texas to block the siting of a hazardous waste landfill in their community. This paper provided evidence that race, not just income status, was a probable factor in this local "uninvited" land-use decision. In 1977, Sidney Howe, Director of the Human Environment Center, suggested that people positioned in the poor socioeconomic level of their respective communities were exposed to more pollution than others, and that those creating the most pollution live in the least polluted places. He used the term environmental justice to describe the corrective measures needed to address this disparity.
During the 1980s, African Americans began organizing environmental campaigns to avoid poisoning farm workers with pesticides, lead poisoning in inner-city children, the zoning of toxic facilities such as landfills, polluting industrial complexes, and incinerators. In addition, many Americans questioned the placement of large numbers of nuclear waste dumps on Native-American reservations. Meanwhile, activists, scholars, and policymakers began investigating the link between race and exposure to environmental hazards. Two influential studies exploring this relationship—one by the U.S. General Accounting Office (US GAO) and the other by the United Church of Christ (UCC)—found that African-Americans and other people of color were more likely to live close to hazardous waste sites and facilities than whites. The study by the UCC was particularly important because it made an explicit connection between race and the increased likelihood of being exposed to hazardous wastes. The studies also made the issue of race and the environment more salient in communities of color. ... continue reading>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_racism
In order to understand the injustices of environmental practices and policy making, it is important to look at what environmental justice has to do with race. According to Salzman and Thompson, “environmental justice focuses on how the burdens of environmental harms and regulations are allocated among individuals and groups within our society” (Salzman & Thompson 38). In other words, environmental justice can only work if we look at how it affects people of different social groups, i.e. racial or class groups. Why are communities that have a majority population of people of color the ones that are targeted by polluting industries? In Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, Bullard explains that African American communities are targeted by polluting industries because of their “economic and political vulnerability… and are likely to suffer greater risks from these facilities than are the general population” (Bullard, Dumping in Dixie, xiv). African American communities simply lack the organization, financial resources, and governmental lobbying and support to assess and handle these problems on their own, so businesses take advantage of them. Also, environmental issues are lower on the list of social issues in African American communities than are issues such as drugs, crime and poverty, thus there is not much focus on the environment.
From looking at individual case studies, it is apparent that environmental laws and regulations are not applied uniformly. There are obvious differences between the health risks of people who live near industrial pollution, and according to Bullard, “virtually all of the studies of exposure to outdoor air pollution have found a significant difference according to income and race” (Bullard, Dumping in Dixie, 99). Statistics provide disturbing evidence to help prove Bullard’s point. For example, in Atlanta 82.8% of blacks live in areas that are highly exposed to waste and pollution, compared to 60.2% of whites. Also, in King and Queen County, VA, the population is virtually split 50/50 between white and black. Between 1969 and 1990, five new landfills were placed in the county. Four out of the five landfills were placed in predominantly black communities, leaving only one to be placed a predominantly white community. All five of these communities protested the landfill sites, however only the protests conducted by people living in the predominantly white community were successful. 50% of children in the U.S. suffering from lead poisoning are African American and exposure to lead poisoning is higher for African Americans both within and outside urban areas, regardless of income level. Three-fifths of all African Americans live in communities where abandoned toxic waste sites are located (Bullard, In Our Backyards, 12). Nearly half of all Native Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites. As the number of people of color in a community increases, so does the probability that a waste site will be placed in that community. A 1993 survey found that 87% of studies done on the distribution of environmental hazards have revealed disparities based on race (Goldman Table 1). Cases and statistics such as these show the correlation between race and the placement of hazardous industries. ... continue reading>> http://antiracistresistance.wordpress.com/environmental-racism
Synopsis: Shame On You: That Can Be Reused! is a must-see intergenerational documentary that explores environmental justice and recycling in NYC's urban communities with a focus on the South Bronx. Through interviews with experts, South Bronx residents and youth groups, EVC Youth Producers examine what environmental racism is, whom it affects and how we can make a change.