The fight for Black people to get their share of protection under the Clean Air Act (CAA) has been going on since, 1963, the year the CAA was introduced. The CAA was the first federal law that had embedded in it a statue to control air pollution, not just observe air pollution, but control it. The CAA in 1970 created and then directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set minimally safe acceptable standards for pollution activities by corporations and individuals.
The EPA does not have a strong racial equity policy in regards to enforcing the CAA, not amongst the people who get the contracts to build and design homes and buildings and not amongst the Black community that is still highly impacted by racist policies that have the Black community living in neighborhoods with the most unclean air in the United States.
The EPA did not open an Environmental Justice office until 1992 and as we have come to learn, justice is not equity. Justice attempts to make things fair right now, equity makes up for what was unfair in the past and makes up for those past injustices.
To quote the Rose Joshua, Esq, President of the NAACP, Southside of Chicago branch, “Equity is reparations.”
The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office has Section 3:
Wherever HUD financial assistance is expended for housing or community development, to the greatest extent feasible, economic opportunities will be given to Section 3 residents and businesses in that area.
That is the beginning of equity, there is no such language at the EPA.
And this matters, because in the United States safety begins with the white community while experiments are initiated in the Black one.
Your race does determine the air that you breath. In the study “National patterns in environmental injustice and inequality: outdoor NO2 air pollution in the United States” by Clark, Millet, Dylan & Marshall, it was found that your race had a larger impact on the air you breathed than your income.
A high-income POC is exposed to more deadly pollutants than a low-income white person.
This study examined Twin Cities, New York and several other big cities throughout the United States.
Racism in the implementation of policy has created scenarios such as experienced what was experienced by Linda Daniels.
Daniels was a senior who died in Newark in a heat wave last month. It was not an anomaly. It was sadly a trend.
A trend we call by various names — heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, a trend that can be caused and exacerbated by heat and exposure to indoor pollutants.
Heat and indoor pollution kills African-Americans inside their homes disproportionally compared to other racial groups. Seniors and kids die of all racial groups, Black seniors and Black kids die more.
The average person in the US spends 93% (EPA) of their life indoors.
Indoor air pollution can be up to ten times worse than outdoor pollution owing the fact that once pollution gets into your home, it builds up and it’s harder for it to leave the space.
“Non-Hispanic blacks are consistently overrepresented in communities with the poorest air quality.” from Miranda, Edwards, Keating, & Paul (2011). Making the environmental justice grade: The relative burden of air pollution and this is the fact even among African-Americans who are not poor, because even middle class African-Americans are hyper-segregated into polluted death traps.
African-Americans are more likely to die from heat stroke than any other racial group according to the report Deaths Attributed to Heat, Cold, and Other Weather Events in the United States, 2006-10 by the CDC.
Black people can take the heat more than other racial groups is not only a stereotype, but a deadly stereotype.
Radon which is the second leading cause of lung cancer is also disproportionately in African-American homes. A study of housing tracts in DeKalb County Georgia found higher proportion of African Americans had radon in the homes in comparison to the rest of the county (82% versus 47%).
Sustainability includes air conditioning, in addition to lead and asthma, it’s about your comfort now, not just about preventing you from getting cancer 20 years from now and it’s also about who gets to build in our communities. White supremacy has show its ass to us for more than 40 years, even when it’s green and hippy, it still can’t provide our communities with justice. We need justice in our homes, businesses, and air and we need equity.
by Lark Lo