Environmental racism – it’s real. But what is it? It’s the institutional policies and practices that affect the health outcomes or living conditions of people and communities based on race or color. Neighborhoods with hazardous waste facilities, toxic dumping, pollution, and unreliable water sources all tend to be in minority and poorer areas. A popular example being Flint, Michigan, where the water was contaminated with lead because the “big man” wanted to save some money. In an African American majority and poor community, their voices were unheard. To this day, many depend on bottled water to cook, drink, and bathe.
Meanwhile, less than two hours away in Evart, Michigan, another multibillion-dollar company, Nestle, gets access to pump 400 gallons of water per minute, so they can bottle it and sell it back to communities like Flint.
If that doesn’t say anything, there is the incident of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Original blueprints included crossing the Missouri River near Bismarck, a very wealthy white majority area, but concerns of oil spills into the capital’s water supply changed their minds to reroute it right through Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. After fighting a long battle, the Army Corps broke the treaty keeping their land safe and the pipeline was completed. Not long after, reports of leakage into their water emerged.
Maybe you’ve heard the story behind the Kinzua Dam. Similar to this, and in our own backyard, the Seneca Nations suffered from the white man’s touch. A treaty was broken, their land was flooded, and homes burned for the creation of the Kinzua Dam, even when other solutions were plausible.
A current issue in Pennsylvania is the ever-growing fracking industry. Fracking near our Allegheny River is creating consequences for the Seneca Nation in New York, down to the poverty-stricken Pittsburgh. A recent study shows that fracking chemicals dumped in a site in Warren, PA eight years ago has built up on mussels down the river, therefore, it is now entering the food chain. The poorer, black areas of Pittsburgh rely on this water for everyday needs, yet the white man’s want for oil has surpassed the importance of equality for all people.
These are just a few of the hundreds of cases of clear environmental racism. When is there going to be justice for these unnecessary actions? It’s time to take action and stand up for what is right.
Jamestown Community College student