In March of 1963 Martin Luther King’s famous march on Washington to
protest the government’s failure to safeguard the civil rights and
physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks took place. This
is considered one of the most important events in the fight on
racism in the past 50 years. The march did make specific demands
with some being the end of segregation of public schools, meaningful
civil rights legislation and a $2 minimum wage.
Racism has changed over the years but it still exists. Are you a
victim of racism? In the years following 9/11 people of Middle
Eastern heritage were blatant targets and even now we have people
who are still experiencing racism. Is the type of racisms you are
exposed to based on the color of your skin, sexual preference,
political beliefs or by just where you live.
Environmental Racism is defined as the intentional or unintentional
racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and
regulations, the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority
communities for the siting of polluting industries, or the exclusion
of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and
In the United States researchers have been investigating why
minorities are more likely to live in areas where there is more
pollution than Caucasians. It has been suggested that the
segregation practices of the past have contributed. Even affluent
minority communities are more likely to be in high pollution areas
than similarly affluent Caucasian communities.
From 1987 to 1992 researcher James T. Hamilton studied American Zip
Codes for targeted expansion of hazardous waste facilities. He found
that the average minority population in the targeted areas was 25%
compared to only 18% in the non-targeted areas. Of the more than 9
million people estimated to live within 2 miles of one of the
nation’s 413 commercial waste facilities, 5.1 million are people of
color and Caucasians only make up 25% of the estimated total.
While this study shows a startling reality in the USA, Environmental
Racism is not limited to affluent countries. Between 1989 and 1994
it is estimated that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) countries exported 2,611,677 metric tons of
hazardous waste to non-OECD countries.
The question of “Why is this happening?” ends with the answer of
“Racism and Profit.” The large corporations continue with the
“Profit before People” mindset. Corporations have become more
powerful than nation states and feel that they are not accountable
to anyone except their shareholders. Second, around the world people
of color pay a far greater and disproportionate price for economic
development and industrialism with their health.
Is there a solution? Experts point that the solution is
Globalization based on a global civil society that puts
accountability of moral, legal and environmental issues of the
leaders on the people they govern. This means that we should hold
the governments accountable. In a democratic society this
accountability exists with the ability to remove existing
governments from power. Unfortunately, the world is not all
democracies. The fact is that humanity still has a long way to grow
up and mature. This is exactly what Martin Luther King was hoping
for; let us hope that one day we can realize his dream.