From Equal Access to Environmental Justice ; the NAACP's Plan to Sue the Lead-Paint Industry Is One Example of Civil Rights Shift

By Kris Axtman writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From Equal Access to Environmental Justice ; the NAACP's Plan to Sue the Lead-Paint Industry Is One Example of Civil Rights Shift


Kris Axtman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The civil rights movement is a long way from the days of lunch- counter sit-ins and bus boycotts in the 1950s and 60s. No longer is the country torn apart over allowing African-Americans to drink from "white" water fountains and swim in community pools.

Today's fights for equality are more subtle - like where to site incinerators, racial disparities in prisons, or who is affected by toxic paint in their homes.

This week, at its national conference in New Orleans, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced plans to sue the lead-paint industry. Calling exposure to lead-based paint a "civil rights issue," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume stressed the importance of equal access to a safe environment.

While Mr. Mfume acknowledged that the toxic paint is not just a black problem but "is everywhere these houses [with lead-based paint] exist," the reality is that low-income and African-American children are far more likely than others to live in such a home.

The NAACP's involvement in the lead-paint fight is a striking example of how the civil rights agenda has evolved. After the struggle for desegregation, the movement turned its attention toward economic equality. Now, activists are joining the fight for environmental justice.

"The original civil rights movement was about the right to sit at a lunch counter and order a hamburger. In the '70s and '80s, it was about being able to afford to buy that hamburger. And now, it's about not dying from the stuff that's in the hamburger," says Christian Warren, a history professor at the University of Georgia in Athens who recently finished a book entitled "Brush with Death: A Social History of Lead Poisoning."

Lead-based paint was used widely in American homes until the federal government finally banned it in 1978. The industry adamantly denies that it had any knowledge of the risks associated with the metal, but activists claim paint manufacturers knew as early as the 1930s that it posed serious health risks.

Who is exposed?

Today, some 40 percent of homes still have some lead-based paint in them. But low-income children are eight times more likely to live in older homes and apartments where lead paint causes a problem, and African-American children are five times more likely than Anglo children to suffer from lead poisoning (caused by inhaling paint flakes and dust), according to the Center for Disease Control.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From Equal Access to Environmental Justice ; the NAACP's Plan to Sue the Lead-Paint Industry Is One Example of Civil Rights Shift
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?