How much do you know about environmental racism? The term refers to the systemic structures that place disproportionate environmental burdens and hazards on people based on race and ethnicity. It covers polluted air and waterways within communities of color, a reality with which many White communities don’t have to deal.
In a video for The Atlantic, staff writer Vann Newkirk argues that environmental racism is the new Jim Crow. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. The environment isn’t a person. How can it be racist?” says Newkirk in the video above. “But the most basic pieces of the environment, the air we breathe and the water we drink, are controlled and designed by people. And people can be racist.”
He offers the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as an example, but the examples are endless. There’s also the controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight to stop it and protect their water. And across the country, there are Black and Brown communities that can find toxic sites like coal power plants or landfills in their backyards.
Watch the video on the historic structures that have discriminated against Black, Latinx, Native, Asian and other communities of color—and subjected them to generations of poor health outcomes.