Mainstream media may be through with the issue, but we all can remember December 14, 2015: the day Flint, Michigan declared a state of emergency due to dangerously high levels of lead in the drinking water. It is no longer in the headlines, but for residents of Flint, the nightmare is ongoing. Now, there are allegations that the EPA should have declared a state of emergency much sooner than it did. But in the midst of it all, almost 9,000 Flint children have been poisoned with lead, and could face the irreversible, life-long effects.
Why did this happen? Why was this allowed to continue for so long? The questions are are numerous. The outrage is obvious.
While tragic and simultaneously infuriating, the Flint water crisis is only one instance in a long history of neglecting the environmental safety of minorities and lower socioeconomic groups. I’m going to use the words: environmental racism. People are being poisoned by the water they drink, the air they breathe, and the land they live off of.
Unfortunately, it goes further than that. It’s the reason why beach houses in Miami were able to weather Hurricane Matthew, but in Haiti, the death toll has reached a pessimistic number of 546 people.
Someone actually said Hurricane Matthew killing almost 400 Haitians is environmental racism… Smh
— whosjoeyt (@jpterrebrood) October 7, 2016
friendly reminder environmental racism is a real thing and it’s not “the weather is racist” smh
— Spooky Pumpkins ? (@bewareofspock) October 8, 2016
How can a hurricane be racist? Well, obviously, it can’t. It’s a hurricane. However, Hurricane Matthew affected Haiti so severely, not because the weather is racist, but because the already impoverished nation lacks the resources (food, shelter, medical equipment) to stand natural disasters like these. The poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is black.
Flint, Michigan is also predominantly black with the black population at 57 percent. Are these coincidences? Both incidences demonstrate key aspects of environmental racism: neglect and disregard for the health and safety when it comes to environmental factors like natural disasters or even drinking water.
The most unfortunate part: these are not isolated incidents. The same types of injustice occur in poor minority communities in the United States and all over the globe. Look around in your own communities. Just because it is not headline news doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Environmental racism is much bigger than Flint or Haiti, it’s global and it’s all around us.