What is Environmental Racism & How It Affects Us
What do toxic waste, poisoned water, stinky streets, and old electronic parts littering have in common? They all harm the environment and affect a person’s mental and physiological health. In some countries, communities are forced to live near toxic waste, making them suffer psychologically and physically. Why?
The answer is environmental racism.
To learn more about it and how it impacts people, keep reading. This post aims to explain environmental racism, its causes, its impacts, and what you can do to deal with it.
What is Environmental Racism?
Coined by Benjamin Chavis in 1982, the term “environmental racism” means communities of color are burdened with health hazards and forced to live in toxic and unhealthy surroundings. The policymakers, considering racial discrimination, enforce regulations and laws that deliberately target communities of color and make them live near toxic waste facilities.
Environmental Racism can be practiced in different forms. From workplaces with no health regulations to drinking contaminated groundwater to being schooled in decaying buildings, the absence of departmental stores and building polluting factories near parks or schools, it is practiced everywhere.
Examples of Environmental Racism
Common examples include contaminated water supply, living in areas surrounding chemicals causing health problems like cancer, no fresh fruits, and problematic neighborhoods.
Besides this, neighborhoods are overlooked because of undesirable locations, and no housing, schools, or hospitals exist. AT an early stage, people might not realize the absence of these things, but this is environmental injustice.
In addition to this, people are forced to leave specific neighborhoods and they also become a victim to disproportionate environmental policies due to color and low-income groups. The Clean Water Act is the most prominent example of such discrimination.
Reasons of Environmental Racism
There are different factors that lead to environmental racism. The primary reason of all is discrimination due to color which exists from ages.
Besides this, there are other factors too, and this includes:
- Different housing policies for people of color.
- Enforcement of environmental laws that allows disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards in marginalized communities.
- Limited political power and representation for black people.
- Discrimination against certain communities results in unequal environmental benefits and burdens distribution.
- Putting up facilities near low-income localities to throw waste.
- Systematized discrimination based on race and division of institutions that includes housing, criminal justice, and healthcare systems.
- Insufficient environmental protection and inadequate representation of the concerns of indigenous peoples.
These factors contribute to environmental racism and are the reason for the discrimination in ecological health and well-being among different groups.
The Side Effects of Environmental Racism on Overall Wellbeing
This sort of discrimination has significant and far-reaching impacts extending beyond land rights and money. It can result in the loss of life, livelihoods, and economic opportunities.
Also, it affects mental health, making people experience trauma, showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and risk of cancer, asthma, etc.
In addition, environmental racism makes communities often face isolation and struggle to get their problems addressed. They lack political power and representation, so their ability to influence community decision-making is limited.
This discriminatory nature of environmental racism impacts individuals’ mental health leading to various psychological issues, such as anger, racial trauma and depression—the scarcity of resources like food and healthcare results in higher rates of chronic diseases and mortality. Clearly showing the significant correlation between physical health and psychological well-being.
A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2005 found that perceived exposure could adversely affect the mental well-being of communities of color. People who reside near industrial activities have psychological repercussions.
How to deal with Environmental Racism
Dealing with environmental racism is not tricky. It can be dealt with by being aware, advocating the rights, and taking collective action. Here are some tips for coping with the burning issue:
1. Educate yourself:
If you want to help others, you first need to learn about the problem. The same is true when it comes to environmental racism. To cope with this injustice, understand its causes and learn about its impact.
This will help unaffected communities understand the situation people live in because of discrimination. They will be able to empathize with them and fight for environmental issues and social justice.
2. Create awareness:
As environmental racism is a social issue, to help people stop being a victim, you can share information about it on social media. You can make your family, friends, and community aware of it. Can organize talk shows and let people know what is happening around them. This will give them a way to look at things in a better way.
3. Support affected communities:
Sitting at home and commenting on things that are good is easy. Environmental racism is wrong. However, if you want to do something, stand in solidarity with communities impacted by environmental racism. Hear them out, make people aware of their experiences, give their voices a platform, and support their initiatives and organizations.
4. Be an advocate for policy change:
Engage in advocacy efforts to promote equitable environmental policies and regulations. Contact your
Take a step for policy change- Engage in legal proceedings to stop environmental racism so that everyone equally benefits.
A Word from CalmSage
Adverse environmental factors harm us physically and even degrade our mental health. Some may not agree as the signs are not instantly visible, but significant challenges can be witnessed over time.
If symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions are noticed among people struggling with environmental racism seek support and try to change the environment and your perception is essential.