Enviromental Racism


Up to the 1960s, racism was defined as the dogma, set of beliefs, ideologies and doctrines that saw one culture as being inferior. The races that were regarded as marginalized and uncivilized did not have a voice in the society. The central theme of the racist ideologies was determining a superior culture, with the perception that other races were inferior. However, the definition or racism changed from as early as the 1960s to include other beliefs, attitudes and practices that supported the notion of superiority or inferiority in terms of race. The beliefs, notions and practices have since led to discrimination. Environmental racism has emerged to be one of the major social problems in the 21st century. Researchers have found out that the understanding of racism has led to discriminatory and prejudicial behavior based on the privileges that each race gets depending on their location. The context of the advantages available to the whites, for example, as compared to the people of color in the United States of America has led to discrimination differentiating people and creating several disadvantages in the natural surroundings. The policies and practices derived by institutions from certain regions have given rise to the ideologies and behavior promoting environmental racism.

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Environmental Activism

One of the main contributors to environmental racism, which has been a label for the activism occurring among the low income communities and the minorities, has been environmental activism. This form of activism links to racism based on the experiences, outcomes and actions of people from a specific region. The broadest sense of environmental racism has been seen in environmental discrimination and its corollary, where the decisions, actions and policies of people in a specific region are determined by their environment. The actions result in racial discrimination, whereby there is creation of advantages based on a race residing in a specific environment. Environmental activism rose from the 1970s, with the societal ideologies bases on prejudicial behavior and actions according to regions experiencing environmental challenges especially based on freedom. The institutional and personal power that influenced policies and actions was based on prejudices arising from environmental conditions in a certain area. The form of racism arising from the environment was not determined by the color of people but rather by the region they come from. One of the major examples of environmental activism resulting to environmental racism is Warrant County in North Carolina. The activism arising from the citizens after the 1983 proposed PCB landfill resulted in the black belt counties of North Carolina. The people in the counties are regarded as poorer compared to others in the state, and the residents have had a lower per capita income compared to other counties in the state.

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Changes in Technology

The changes in technology have also influenced personal and institutional ideologies and policies as far as environmental racism is concerned. The privileges that technology has created, as well as the environmental neglect have had unfair advantages over some areas in the country. The access of technology has led to the improvement of some areas over others, leading to discrimination in terms of the regions that people reside. The term environmental racism, as seen in the early 1980s led to racial disparities in processes, actions and policies improving some regions as compared to others. Some regions were able to express their discomfort of the increase in exposure of environmental hazards over others, due to the access of technology. This resulted to disproportionate negative impacts of the environment and social processes in some regions, which led to discrimination. The formulation of policies in the regions differentiated the communities in different regions across the nation. The communities without access of new technology were slow to address environmental issues, leading to slow formulation of policies supporting environmental cleanup. The communities exposed to the issues were also slow in determining the waste disposal programs and adopting modern technology in the programs, which resulted in discrimination. The communities could not take part in the interactive policy-making process that was initialized in areas that had access of technology. One of the cities that experienced such disparities was Chicago, Illinois. The African-American veterans in the city were left at Altgeld Gardens, a housing community in South Chicago. The toxic waste disposed in the area was due to the lack of activism from the veterans, with other areas expressing their dissatisfaction using modern technology. The African-American communities in the area could not express their ideas using the technological means as adopted in other areas.


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Change in Environmental Laws and Policies

There have been disproportionate negative impacts of the formulated environmental policies. The changes influenced by legislations have had deliberate negative impacts on the environment in some regions, leading to discrimination. The differential rates of cleanup of contaminants of the environment have been exposed by legislations in some of the regions in the country. The regions that have been exposed have affected specific racial groups, which have been targeted by legislations. The deliberate siting and targeting of facilities in minority communities has been evident due to legislations formulated by majority members in political positions. The policies have also resulted in blackmail in terms of the environment that some communities reside, which arises when workers are coerced to choose between better environmental standards and hazardous jobs. The workers usually opt for hazardous and well-paying jobs at the expense of the environment. The ethnic minority workers have also faced segregation due to the policies formulated favoring majority communities. The minority groups have been forced to take dirty and dangerous jobs, leading to residential places that are designated for the minority groups . Environmental racism has been influenced by policies in such a way that the minorities have limited access to natural amenities such as playgrounds and parks, which are located in majority communities. The inequality in services such as transportation and garbage removal is also evident especially in minority communities. The evidence can be seen in Chester, Pennsylvania. The political, economic and social forces in the areas have discriminated against the poor communities, especially the people of color. The Delaware County with a majority of whites has remained with poor minority areas such as Chester due to the policies influenced by the white majority.


The uneven exposure to environmental hazards and risks has been a major social issue that has risen due to several changes in the society. The issues are coupled with the exclusion of specific groups of people from the legislative processes. The inequality resulting from the environmental issues is known as environmental racism. The causes of environmental discrimination are solely political and social, rather than natural. It is not an environmental issues but it is rather an issue controlled by technology, policies, activism and laws supporting specific regions. Environmental racism is rooted in structures, discourses, economic and political institutions controlled by the majority in the society. Minority communities such as the African Americans, Native Americans, immigrant Europeans and South Americans have continued to be exposed to environmental hazards. The majority races have avoided places such as farms, coal mines, city dumps and destructive land, leading to the occupation of the minorities in environmentally hazardous areas. The society should embrace equality in terms of sharing the available natural resources, without exposing people to hazardous conditions.