Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Price of Pollution: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Mossville, Louisiana

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Price of Pollution: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Mossville, Louisiana

Article excerpt

One of the basic natural right and expectation of a human being is to live in an environment that is safe and clean. Despite this expectation of a clean and safe environment, many in the society have been historically discriminated against in this regard (Bullard, 2000; Church of Christ Commission, 1987; Mohai & Saha, 2007). Studies and statistics show that African-Americans are disproportionately exposed to pollution from chemical plants and are disproportionately the victims of environmental discrimination and disparities (U. S. Council on Environmental Quality, 1971; Bullard, 1992, 1993, 1994, Church of Christ Commission, 1987; General Accounting Office, 1983; Arp & Boeckelman, 1994; Ringquist, 1995; McQuaid, 2000; Bullard, 2000; Ringquist, 2005; Mohai & Saha, 2007). This disparity is even more striking in the South which has had a history of racism and discrimination. (McQuaid, 2000; Bullard 2000). For example, in Louisiana, African-Americans are twenty percent more likely to live within four miles of an industrial site that releases toxins, forty-one percent more likely to live within two miles, and fifty percent more likely than Caucasians to live within one mile of a polluting facility (McQuaid, 2000).

Concrete evidence regarding racially based environmental discrimination was made apparent in 1971 when President Nixon's Council on Environmental Quality acknowledged that racial discrimination negatively affects the quality of environment among the urban poor (U. S. Council on Environmental Quality, 1971). Furthermore, a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office in 1983 showed that three-quarters of commercial hazardous-waste landfills in the southern regions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee were located in predominantly African American communities (General Accounting Office, 1983). With such statistical evidence, the claims of environmental racism and the call for environmentally just decision-making and policies gained ground in communities facing environmental injustices.

Environmental racism refers to racial discrimination in environmental policy making, decision making, and/or practice which results in inequitable distribution of environmental burdens borne by the society based on race or color (Bullard, 2000; U.S. House of Representatives, 1993). Most communities that are victims of environmental pollution usually are the poor and African American communities (Bullard & Wright, 1986; Bullard, 1992, 1993, 1994; Bullard, 2000; Church of Christ Commission 1987; Mohai& Bryant 1992; Hines, 2001; Mohai & Saha, 2007). In other words, they bear a significant environmental burden.

While the earliest claims of environmental racism were made in the 1960s, the term environmental racism and environmental justice gained national attention in the 1980s. The study by General Accounting Office which showed that hazardous waste facilities were more likely to be situated in African American communities; the first Title VI lawsuit by Houston residents of a middle-income African American neighborhood that challenged the siting of a landfill in close proximity to a residential area and school; the high profile case of demonstration by the people that challenged the siting of a hazardous waste facility in a predominantly African American community of North Carolina; and a study by the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice which found that there was a link between race and the proximity of that community to hazardous waste siting brought the issue of environmental racism and environmental justice to the national forefront (U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, 1971; General Accounting Office, 1983; Bullard, 2000; Church of Christ Commission, 1987).

Many communities around the country are voicing their disapproval against such injustices by attempting to make a case against environmental pollution and a case for environmental racism and justice. …

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