From Slave to Poor: How Institutional Racism Has Furthered the Effects of Jim Crow on America’s Deep South

Evan McCauley, Spencer McClellan, Nathan Sarachick, Parshon Sorornejad, Joshua Woodruff

Professor San Martin

Topics in Environmental History

“Environmental Racism Revisited”

 

 

Dr. Robert Bullard is a highly recognized author, professor, and activist best known for his work commenting on the state of the environment as it relates to social issues. Author of eighteen books on the topics of environmental racism, climate justice, and sustainable development, Bullard is often referred to as the “father of environmental justice”. A co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium, he regularly advocates for the policies that govern environmental sustainability in all communities.

 

“Environmental Racism Revisited” is a chapter book written by Dr. Robert Bullard. Bullard is known for being an environmental activist and in this chapter of the book, he describes the history and politics of southern states in relation to institutional racism and how it affects these communities.

 

The main argument of the chapter is that institutional racism causes differences in environmental quality between minority communities and white communities in the United States. Bullard uses the southern states as his main area of focus for this argument, for he describes that “southerners, black and white, have less education, lower incomes, higher infant mortality rates, and lower life expectancy than Americans elsewhere” (Bullard 97). Despite these shared conditions among southern black and white communities, Bullard describes how institutional racism causes unequal environmental protection among minority groups compared to the protection given to white communities. Bullard proposes that institutional racism, rooted in the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, has contributed to today’s environmental racism. Bullard proceeds with an in-depth analysis of the concept of environmental racism, a concept that he describes as the following: “any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color” (Bullard 98).

 

Throughout this chapter, Bullard utilizes substantial statistical evidence to support his arguments about institutional racism and other environmental policy issues within the South but fails to provide examples of or comparisons to similar issues in other regions.  Bullard makes a series of arguments against the environmental and social policies of the Southern United States, claiming that “It is the U.S. Third World,” (Bullard 97) in his opening statement. He also states that “Southerners, black and white, have less education, lower incomes, higher infant mortality rates, and lower life expectancy than Americans elsewhere” (Bullard 97). However, these accusations against the South are not backed by factual evidence in comparison to the North or any other region of the United States.

 

Steinberg 2001, “Environmental Leadership in Developing Countries” also focused heavily on the idea of environmental racism. We only had access to the first 26 pages, and the introduction usually just sets the stage of discussion and does not get particularly deep into the actual evidence supporting their claim, as such we cannot judge the work as a whole. We can, however, see that Bullard, R. 1990 Ch. 5 does not share Steinberg’s lack of explanation as to what makes the issue one of racism in particular and not just of social class. Bullard goes into why institutionalized environmental racism is a problem by giving statistics such as that independent of social class, minorities are more heavily impacted by environmental pollution hazards such as lead poisoning and air pollution. Steinberg 2001 does not explain what in particular makes this a problem of racism rather than classism (this, of course, resulted in a sizable discussion as to whether or not it really was racism in class). Bullard, R. 1990 Ch. 5, on the other hand, goes to great lengths to explain why it is a problem of racism.

 

Dr. Bullard’s work continues to inspire the pursuit of justice in the environmental world. An analysis of the ways in which minority communities are disregarded when discussing environmental policy, his work targets institutionalized racism that dominates American society and inhibits its progression. Bullard’s claims and exemplars bring up the true nature of such injustice and provoke a conversation about the changes that have been made, and where the United States needs to refocus.

 

Works Cited

Bullard, R. D. (1990). Dumping in Dixie Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Boulder: Routledge.

 

Bullard, Robert. “BIOGRAPHY.” Dr. Robert Bullard : Father of Environmental Justice,  drrobertbullard.com/biography/.

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