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Environmental Racism

  Shama Mir and Morton Sklar, editors, US NGO Report on CERD: AN INFORMAL WORKING GROUP OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL  CIVIL RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE GROUPS, THE WORLD ORGANIZATION AGAINST TORTURE USA (September 2000)

 

 

Vernellia R. Randall
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from Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the United States, The Status of Compliance by the U.S. Government with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Compiled By THE WORLD ORGANIZATION AGAINST TORTURE USA

 

prepared by
Interim National Black Environmental and

Economic Justice Coordinating Committee

with contributions from 

Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe, and
International Possibilities Unlimited
The United Nations, through international treaties and resolutions, has long recognized that all people, regardless of race, color, or ethnic origin, have the fundamental right to a healthy environment. However, in the United States, environmental laws and policies are not equally applied to all segments of the population.

People of color in the United States bear a disproportionate burden of the nation’s pollution problems. The term “environmental racism” describes this insidious form of discrimination and also refers to racial and ethnic disparities in the formulation and implementation of environmental laws and policies. Hazardous and toxic waste facilities, municipal landfills, chemical plants and other polluting industries disproportionately impact non-white communities. As a result, people of color have elevated rates of cancer, lead poisoning, asthma, birth defects and other serious health problems. Yet, the United States continues to ignore its citizens’ demand for cleaner and safer living conditions, and for nondiscriminatory application of environmental policies.

The U. S.  government’s failure to protect the human rights of people of color with respect to the environment violates numerous provisions of both the U. N.  Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Under CERD, the United States has an obligation to protect the public health of all of its citizens on a nondiscriminatory basis. However, the federal and state legislatures have not adequately revised governmental policies and practices to protect communities of color from environmental devastation. Executive agencies have failed to adequately enforce existing civil rights and environmental laws with respect to people of color. The courts have refused to overturn laws, regulations and governmental actions that create and perpetuate racial discrimination. As a result, the U. S.  government has violated the principles of CERD by not taking effective steps to address the causes and remedy the effects of environmental racism.  

 

 
 
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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).