Environmental racism is a pressing problem

Infographic created by Laquavia Smith/PantherNOW

Infographic created by Laquavia Smith/PantherNOW

Laquavia Smith/ Staff Writer

By now, I am pretty sure everyone has heard of Flint, Michigan even if they are unsure where it’s located. The issue at hand isn’t necessarily Flint or any other city, but solely the question of environmental racism.

“If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?,” wrote The New York Times writer John Eligon.

Environmental racism, according to Your Dictionary, is “the placement of low-income or minority communities in the proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as toxic waste, pollution and urban decay.”

It’s a problem that isn’t new to environmentalist and activists worldwide; however, it’s a term many are unaware of, even if it’s a fairly common problem in Miami and other melting pots.

Aside from the nationally known incident of minorities within Flint literally being poisoned though hazardous water conditions, incidents of dangerous chemicals being released, used or accessible throughout lower-income communities is a very conventional occurrence and it doesn’t stop at chemicals.

One less publicized act of environmental racism is currently taking place in Detroit. In 2016, over 80 different schools in Michigan closed down due to environmental conditions ranging from rats, mold and even lead poisoning similar to Flint’s initial problem.

It shouldn’t take over three years to figure out why thousands of children county-wide are calling in sick for school.

Teachers throughout these rural areas are sick and tired. In 2016, according to local newspaper, Your Daily Dish, thousands of students and their teachers staged a “sick-out” protest that forced schools to close down for two whole days.

“The teachers and parents of [Detroit Public Schools] are blaming the wrecked conditions of the schools on Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the legislature’s austerity measures to cut costs that is also being blamed for the lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan,” the article states. “Flint residents have been using bottled water since their water supply became contaminated with lead in April 2014.”

Michigan is also suffering from musty smells and warped floors. Within the Flint school district alone, three different schools tested above the federal government’s safety standard of 15 parts per billion for lead.

We see fatalities nationwide within specific generic borders of areas. We see children with high percentages of lead in their blood, children with an increase of asthma and children who are more prone to becoming sick in areas that are labeled “low-income,” “rural” or “hood.”

Aside from Michigan, this environmental racism is occurring throughout Louisiana, California and even Pittsburgh. Not only are there unsafe conditions, but they are being ignored by officials city-wide, state-wide and even on a national level.

“Why don’t they just fix the problem?” ran across my mind numerous times, but Michigan is an example of how a poverty issue transforms into the less known “environmental racism.” But, before the problem can be fixed, people need to be aware that environmental racism even exists.

Why is it a relatively unknown term and why is it treated like an epidemic that takes years to fix, if not ever. As a campus who is built on minorities, differences, scholarship and merit, we should do our part to inform, become involved and seek change.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo taken from Flickr.


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