Week 4: Environmental Racism
The mainstream, white, environmental movement’s neglecting of the needs of Black and Brown communities and not allowing their voices to be represented in leadership has resulted in a failing of all people of color. A lack of diversity has led to the misconception that people of color care less about environmental issues. Today’s Environmental Justice Movement has its roots in the Civil Rights Movement, the Indigenous Environmental Movement, and the Farm Workers’ Movement that all sought to address the inequity of environmental protection in their communities.
- Use this interactive timeline to explore the history of the Environmental Justice Movement and the people who made an impact. (10 mins – EPA)
- Read a short article and watch a small excerpt of a speech by legendary activist Dolores Huerta, who is still at work as a forceful voice for women’s, workers’ and immigrants’ rights. (7 mins – Denise Graveline)
- Watch this video featuring Indigenous rights lawyer and activist Sherri Mitchell explaining why all Americans should care about environmental justice and Indigenous issues. (5 mins – Now This News)
Climate change is the greatest threat we have ever had to face, and slowing its effects will take all of us. However, the consequences of climate change will not impact everyone equally because of society’s systemic racial inequities. We must listen to people of color working on the front lines of this crisis to ensure that our response to the climate crisis is equitable. Today, you will be looking at how activists are taking an intersectional approach to environmental activism and why such a focus matters.
- Read this article about why environmental justice must be central to the environmental movement as a whole if we are going to combat climate change effectively. (14 mins – TIME)
- Watch this stirring talk calling for a global recognition that we cannot solve climate change without racial, social, and intergenerational justice. (10 mins – TED)
- Read this article about the importance and challenges of Black urban farming in Pittsburgh. (10 mins – Pittsburgh City Paper)
- Listen to this podcast on how there can be no solution to climate change without the leadership of people of color. (12 mins – NPR)
As a result of America’s perpetual segregation, exposure to environmental hazards–such as landfills, heavy industry, and lead–have disproportionately impacted communities color. Such exposure causes higher instances of serious health conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive impairment. This reality did not happen by accident; it is a direct result of deliberate policy choices. These articles and video will talk about how we got here and how systemic racism has impacted the health of our communities.
- Read this article from medical ethicist Harriet Washington on how environmental racism is fueling the coronavirus pandemic. (5 mins – Nature.com)
- Watch this video about the residents of a steel mill town in Braddock, Pennsylvania as they reckon with a history of discrimination and its resultant health crisis. (7 mins – The Atlantic)
- Read this article about how systemic racism has led to an epidemic of lead poisoning that has had a deadly impact on children of color in formerly-redlined communities. (8 mins – The Guardian)
- Read this article about why toxic stress caused by racism and environmental factors are leading to a rise in Alzheimer’s for people of color. (3 mins – US Against Alzheimer’s)
As climate change has caused a growing number of extreme weather events per year, marginalized communities of color–which are subject to systemic underinvestment–have been left unprepared and given far fewer resources with which to rebuild. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 96,000 Black people were forced out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and too many working class Black homes were never rebuilt. More recent examples include Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico and the federal government’s slow response.
- Read this article on why environmental racism and climate change will make us more vulnerable to future pandemics. (12 mins – Harvard)
- Read this article how hurricanes, climate change, and environmental racism produce a perfect storm of inequality. (5 mins – SPG Law Firm)
- Watch this TED Talk on how climate change is likely to create a refugee crisis that will disproportionately impact people of color. (13 mins – TED)
As we discussed in during our conversations on reparations, Indigenous People have fought for generations to prevent the theft of their ancestral land and the destruction of their cultural and religious sites. The impact of this destruction is not only damaging culturally and spiritually, but it is also devastating environmentally. Native People living in these areas bear the brunt of the health and safety risks that come with oil drilling, fracking, and mining.
- Listen to this podcast about the steps unrecognized tribes are taking to address cultural and environmental protection. (21 mins – Living Downstream)
- Read about Native People’s fight to protect Indigenous land and important cultural sites from further damage from oil drilling and fracking. (8 mins – The Guardian)
- Listen to this impassioned speech from Representative Deb Haaland on the destruction of Native land that happened during the construction of new sections of the border wall. (6 mins – House Natural Resources Committee)
Prompts and action items to inspire meaningful thought and conversation and effect change.
- What was the most challenging thing you learned this week?
- Can you think of any examples of environmental racism that are impacting your community in particular?
- Write a letter to your congressperson or senator encouraging them to take action on climate change.
We hope that this exploration of topics around reparations, racism in sports, gender-based violence, and environmental racism has been thought provoking and inspires you to pursue greater knowledge, seek diverse sources of information, and take action to advance racial and social justice!
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh invites to continue the journey begun with the 21 Day Challenge by:
- Subscribing to our electronic newsletter here
- Joining our monthly Action Conversations on Race
- Checking out YWCA’s Legislative Priorities and contacting your elected officials about supporting race and gender equity.
- Making a donation to support direct services and programming that empowers women and girls, especially women of color
- Following us on social media: Twitter @ywcapgh | Instagram @ywca_pgh | Facebook | LinkedIn
- Explore this blog entry by Black Women Radicals about Black women leading the call for reparations since emancipation. (8 mins – Black Women Radicals)
- Watch this this interview with Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, who advocates for “positive discussion” of a slavery reparations bill in the US Congress. (17 mins – CBS NEWS)
Racism in Sports
- Watch this this interview featuring Billie Jean King, one of the most renowned and beloved athletes of our time. Off the tennis court, she continues her advocacy for equality. (8 mins – PBS Newshour)
- Explore this video/article about a teen girl reforming high school sports. The 17-year-old helped advocate for a new bill in Ohio to address religious discrimination in sports. Watch how she won. (7 mins – Runner’s World)
- Read this article about singer FKA Twigs and why it is a reminder of the disproportionate effects intimate partner violence can have on Black women. (5 mins – NBC News)
- Watch these two segments (related to a video included within the Challenge) addressing the overlap of gender violence with racism and oppression. VIDEO 1 ; VIDEO 2 (7 mins & 9 mins – Futures Without Violence