Environmental racism is a problem where environmental hazards have a larger impact on groups that are discriminated against based on race. This can happen in housing, occupations, and a variety of other areas where there can be discrimination against specific groups.
Often, underlying policies and systemic racism contribute to the problem, disproportionately exposing minority communities to hazards. To combat racist environmental policymaking, an environmental justice lawyer from Ben Crump Law, PLLC can pursue cases to obtain compensation for victims.
Institutionalized Racism Leads to Environmental Inequality
According to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, many communities of color in the 1980s uncovered that existing social, economic, and political relationships put their communities at a greater risk of harm from environmental hazards and decisions. This is largely due to high levels of environmental racism over decades of discrimination. The U.S. has a long history of struggling with fair representation in all areas, including how communities are developed or affected by business and government decisions.
While great strides in improving racial equality and racial equity have been made, environmental racism is more pervasive than most people realize. It is a systemic problem that continues to affect people today even if they are not directly targeted in the same way that groups in the past were. To address the problem, these groups are turning to legal action as a means of changing the status quo.
Understanding Environmental Racism
According to the State of Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, when a government or industry fails to act in an appropriate way, the outcome can cause negative environmental impacts that specifically and disproportionately harm people on the basis of race or the color of their skin. This is how environmental racism works. The government should provide equal protection for everyone but has routinely failed to do so. As a result, specific groups are targeted and suffer greater impacts from environmental problems.
Consequences of Environmental Hazards on People of Color
The types of problems that people of color can experience include:
- Health risks
- Housing discrimination
- The impact of natural disasters
- Exposure to pollution
- Proximity to waste disposal systems and facilities
- Lead exposure
- Water contamination
Environmental racism has a lasting and systemic effect on minority groups, causing birth defects, long-term illnesses, and poverty. Unfortunately, these effects are deeply integrated into communities and can take generations to fix. However, there are more people than ever trying to fix these problems on all levels. Work should continue to yield positive results.
For example, according to the American Public Health Association, the intentional discrimination of Native American miners has dramatically increased respiratory diseases in this population, specifically because of the lack of ventilation and dangerous working conditions. Renewed awareness of this issue and action taken through the environmental justice movement can help combat this example of environmental racism.
Environmental Justice Laws
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the laws about environmental justice state that everyone should have the same protection, access, and involvement related to environmental laws and health hazards, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or national origin.
Difference Between Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice
Although they are connected, environmental racism and environmental justice are two different concepts. Environmental justice can cover a variety of health hazards caused by pollution, contamination, and climate change. One example is the Camp Lejeune water contamination case, which exposed residents around the Marine Corps base to toxic chemicals.
Environmental racism is a problem where racism exposes minority groups to worse effects of environmental issues. An example would be the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the majority of victims were low-income, minority residents. Environmental justice is the movement to overcome environmental racism and fight the consequences of environmental hazards that disproportionately affect some communities over others.
In environmental justice, the core concept is that everyone should be equally represented in the decisions that affect their community. If fully established, environmental justice would eliminate environmental racism. This is why there are many groups taking legal action to push environmental justice forward and to have a bigger influence on communities.
Seeking Compensation for Environmental Racism
If you are the victim of environmental racism, it is possible to seek compensation from the party responsible. This can be from a government organization, company, building manager, or individual. In some cases, you might be able to hold multiple parties responsible for the environmental injustice. It depends on the specific nature of the case.
In addition, the amount of compensation will vary based on each case. No lawyer can guarantee that you will receive any money at all for your case. However, there is one universal truth: you will not receive any compensation if you do not go through the process.
You Deserve Protection from Environmental Injustice
You have the right to live your life free of environmental racism. When this right is infringed upon, you have the right to seek justice, either alone or with the help of an environmental justice lawyer. If the situation involves more than one party, such as all the tenants of a large apartment complex, it is possible to file a lawsuit with all of those impacted individuals. These cases can be even more effective at encouraging positive action and moving toward environmental equity.
Speak to a Lawyer About Your Environmental Justice Case
There are many communities across the country that have been affected by environmental racism. Fortunately, you can take action to protect your community. With legal guidance, it is possible to stop or reverse decisions that could continue to hurt your community long into the future.
If you or a loved one is the victim of environmental racism, you could potentially be entitled to compensation. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 959-1444 to learn more about your options. You may have options available to you that can hold the party responsible for their actions.