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Climate Change & Racism

Though at first glance racism and climate change may seem like they aren’t correlated at all, a deeper look into locations and treatment of minority neighborhoods may tell us otherwise. Though many people only begin to consider how the environment was damaged starting from the 1960’s, Elizabeth Yeampierre, the co-chair of UPROSE, a climate-justice alliance, thinks even further back. In an interview with YaleEnvironment 360, she is quoted as saying, “...I think about the slave quarters. I think about people who got the worst food… when freed, were given lands that were eventually surrounded by things like petrochemical industries.” When we truly think about locations of minority neighborhoods in the United States, many of these neighborhoods are located in areas where toxic chemicals may be emitted. One major example that is extremely detrimental is the Gulf Coast cities, where not only the largest oil refinery is located, but also some of the major polluters reside. According to the Scientific American, one third of the population is African American, and is seen as a “...sacrifice zone for the nation and the rest of the world to have sulfur free gasoline” by Hilton Kelly. In the past, racist “redlining” tactics have put minority communities in danger; as put best by Mustafa Santiago Ali, “...we’ve got 100,000 people dying prematurely from air pollution… communities of color, lower wealth communities and Indigenous peoples… disproportionately impacted…” When we consider fighting for climate change, we must also fight for racial justice. No matter how we may think about it, one will not change without also changing the other.


Jackie Kwan

Writer


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