Combatting Environmental Racism

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People before Profit: Combatting Environmental Racism

After years of protests, court cases, deaths and stereotypes, the civil rights movement finally helped create equality in the United States and the saying in the Declaration of Independence, ‘All men are created Equal’, finally had meaning. But not all communities are created equal. Those communities inhabited by the poor and minorities are more degraded, less powerful and less protected. The government engages in environmental racism against the people living in these communities, putting their health and safety at risk. The profit maximizing mindset of western companies is putting profits before people, endangering lives and communities around the world and should be corrected before more people face the consequences.

Environmental racism “refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intentionally or not) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color”(90). As more and more countries shift to capitalism, humans are becoming increasingly greedy, selfish, and profit-maximizing beings. We are completely disregarding the cost to nature and each other; the only green we care about is the dollar. Individuals in power are taking advantage of minorities and placing toxic waste, landfills and polluting factories on their communities in order for them to save costs. Minorities such as blacks and Latinos are perceived as being weak and passive to government related actions. They are too scared to fight the government in fear that it will put their jobs in jeopardy and increase their economic burden. According to research by Dr. Deborah Robinson, three out of five African Americans in the United States live in communities with uncontrollable toxic waste sites. Also, three of the five largest commercial hazardous waste landfills are located in African American and Latino communities. People need to take notice that environmental racism is also a form of racial oppression. It is the same product in different packaging. The people living in these communities suffer “shorter life spans, higher infant and adult mortality, poor health, poverty, diminished economic opportunities, substandard housing and an overall degraded quality of life.” Also, studies have shown that long-term exposure to air pollution or toxic waste can cause lower IQ on children. How can one expect the poor to climb the class ladder and leave these slums if their IQ is being lowered by the environment that they are forced to live in? Corporate greed is to blame for this problem. People must take action to remove these dangerous plants and chemicals from these communities. Just because the poor are helpless does not mean we need to make their situation worst.

The people most likely to be exposed to these dangerous chemicals are also the least likely to have medical insurance. There are just over four million uninsured Americans; “That 4 million is broken down into 33% Hispanics, 21% African Americans and 21% Asian and Pacific Islanders”(92). 75% of people without insurance are minorities. These people are getting sick and cannot afford to pay for their healthcare costs so they are just dying by the masses. Not only are we hurting the very poor with our corporate greed, but we are also hurting nature. Environmental racism also encompasses nature. Toxic material is being dropped into our lakes and our air. A recent study has revealed that 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life. One American produces over 3,285 pounds of hazardous waste. Our countries are deteriorating, species are becoming extinct; we are destroying our planet and there are simple solutions to correct that can help alleviate these predicaments, but first, corporate greed needs to be exterminated.

The corporate mindset needs to change from ‘Profits before people’ to ‘People before profits’. It is...
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