Environmental racism was one of the most surprising concepts I encountered during my undergrad. It had just never occurred to me that where and how we polluted our environment would be intentionally arranged to affect some racial communities more than others.
After the Second World War, for example, Chicago kindly provided African American veterans the opportunity to live in a housing community built atop an abandoned landfill. After serving their country and surviving the war these veterans came home to Altgeld Gardens Homes, a community that would have significantly high cancer rates because of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Then, in the 1970s and 80s, there was the Warren County PBC Landfill case, when the state of North Carolina decided to bury soil that had been contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls in Warren Country, a community with primarily black residents and a much lower income rate than the rest of the state.
With the very likely possibility of their drinking water being contaminated by the toxic material, residents, civil rights groups, environmental leaders, and clergymen all joined together to protest the state’s decision…
…and then got arrested.