Defining Environmental Racism


The roots of institutional racism are deep and difficult to eliminate. Even in today’s society, racism influences where a person lives, works and plays. Racism also influences the likelihood of exposure to environmental toxins.

Environmental racism defends, protects and enhances quality-of-life choices available to whites at the expense of blacks. Systematic targeting of black communities for the sitting of sewer treatment plants, landfills, incinerators, hazardous-waste disposal sites, lead smelters and other risky technologies is environmental racism. Excluding blacks and other minorities from policy and other decision making board, commissions, and staffs is also environmental racism.

The development of segregated communities is the result of governmental policies and marketing practices adopted by the housing industry and lending institutions. Housing segregation follows a color continuum with blacks being the most racially segregated minority group. Millions of blacks are geographically isolated in economically depressed and polluted urban neighborhoods away from the expanding suburban job centers.

The commission for Racial Justice’s landmark study, Toxic Wastes and Race found race to be the single most important factor—more important than income, home ownership, or property values—in the location of abandoned toxic waste sites. The study also found that: (1) three out of five blacks live in communities with abandoned toxic waste sites; (2) 60 percent (15 Million) of blacks live in communities with one or more abandoned toxic waste sites (3) three of the five largest commercial hazardous-waste landfills are located in predominately black or Latino communities and account for 40 percent of the nation’s total estimated hazardous landfill capacity; and (4) blacks are over represented in cities with the largest number of abandoned toxic-waste sites—Memphis, St. Louis, Houston, Cleveland, Chicago, and Atlanta.



Provided As An Educational Courtesy By:

North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN)

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