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Environmental Racism

In the United States, the term racism refers to collective disadvantage of a group of individuals due to their appearance or ethnic background. Discussions of racism usually involve issues in obtaining employment, low economic status, and difficulty in receiving a quality education. Environmental concerns, however, are not often brought up in this conversation. In fact, most do not even know what environmental racism, also known as environmental justice, would entail.

Environmental racism comprises both problems with pollution an access to quality food, both in relation to the race of those affected. Living, working, or going to school in a heavily polluted area can be problematic for health both in the long and short term. A child who grows up in a polluted home, or attends a polluted school has a higher risk of severe health problems. A problem for many Americans, it is still today an inescapable fact that pollution disproportionately affects people of color. It affects people of color in two main ways; lack of environmental regulation enforcement in neighborhoods where people of color typically live, or a conscious or subconscious choice on the part of local governments not to enforce existing regulation only in certain neighborhoods. While local governments are indirectly implicit in environmental racism, the direct culprits are the corporations that choose to locate their polluting factories or facilities in areas with a high population of people of color. These corporations do so with alarming consistency. Often, people in the local communities are roped into accepting the polluting facility due to a lack of economic opportunities in the area. It is simply a corporation putting these people of color into another harmful form of servitude. It is this blatant disregard for a specific group of American citizens, largely based on their race, that is the very definition of environmental racism.

While most modern Americans feel that racism should be a thing of the past, the reality is that it is alive and well even today. Environmental racism points to this fact very clearly. Not only are current communities affected by this type of racism, but their children and future grandchildren as well are harmed. In order to dismantle the problem of racism from American society, more effort is needed to solve this problem of environmental racism. Environmental justice activists alone cannot solve the problem. Rather, the entire nation needs to rise up, contact their representatives in the government, and demand equality for all citizens.

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