Environmental racism is not science, but the result of a power
dynamic. The dynamic that causes environmental inequity occurs
when people who have power in a society choose not to have environmental
hazards in their community. This environmental inequity becomes
environmental injustice when environmental hazards are placed
in a community of disempowered people. Furthermore, environmental
injustice develops into environmental racism when people in that
community happen to fall into a different racial classification
than those in power.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally,
the people in American society who tend to be disempowered most
often are Native Americans, Latino peoples, people of African
descent, and other racial minorities. Science is simply a tool
by which to measure the results of discrimination, and a blunt
tool at that. Part of the reason the tools are inadequate is because
a study that charts how close people live to waste sites does
not take into account where the people get their food, their ability
to relocate, or whether they had any say in the siting of the
facility in the first place. Lastly, but most importantly, a study
designed in this way doesn’t tell us who is getting sick
and dying from environmental exposures. All of these are factors
in the dynamics of power, yet none of these factors are addressed
in the University of Chicago study.
The fact is that the University of Chicago study
is based in part on historical data that is highly irrelevant.
It defies logic and common sense to suggest that white professionals
who can relocate almost anywhere would choose to move to a location
that would be highly toxic. This would lead one to believe that
the former industrial areas mentioned in the University of Chicago
report no longer pose any serious health threats. If this is not
the case, then the group that should have the most thanks for
the researchers of this report are the realtors of the greater
This kind of information should provide at least
a short term boom as all the yuppies relocate to different parts
of the city. After all, what better way to depopulate an area
than to suggest that living there will cause residents to die
of cancer and have children born with birth defects. When people
don’t move after learning that they live in an area that
is contaminated, it is because they can’t afford to, not
because they prefer to stay.
-Rush, Edward, Race Relations: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven
Press, Inc. San Diego, CA, 2001.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about the results
of a power dynamic in race relations. Write three case study examples
regarding how you might use the content of this section in your
According to Rush, who are the people in American society
who tend to be disempowered most often? Record the letter of the
correct answer the .