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If You Care About The Environment, Then You Should Care About Black Lives

The majority of black communities are microcosms of all the environmental injustices white environmentalist claim to oppose.

In honor of Earth Day, I propose that we remind some white activist, or, perhaps, inform them for the first time, that the environmental justice movement and movement for black lives intersect one another. They’re inseparable, actually.

Said more bluntly, if you don’t care about black people, well, you pretty much don’t care about the environment.

Related: What Donald Trump’s Presidency Means for Climate Change and Environmental Justice

And, before you say anything, yes I’m implying that one (the environment) implicates the other (black lives). No, I’m not saying that blacks are the only group of people in our country ravaged by environmental ills. No, I’m not suggesting that we ignore poor, white communities who reside in environmentally unsafe cities and neighborhoods.

However, for far too long, we have pretended that we could fight to protect our environment without involving ourselves in the struggle to redress the racial grievances of Americans of African descent.

But, here’s the rub, and this is crucial to keep in mind. There is no, I repeat, there is no, group in America that environmental issues pose more a danger to than blacks. Of that, I can assure you.

Environmental risks and hazards like air pollution, lead exposure and poisoning, and the proliferation of landfills disproportionately impact Blacks.

Blacks disproportionately lack access to such basic, fundamental ecological necessities as clean air and water.

Corporations deliberately target black communities when scouting for sites to construct noxious facilities and, at the same time, refuse to support policies that would obligate them to detoxify poor and working class black neighborhoods and contain toxins at the point of production.

And while we’re on the subject of black communities as the preferred target of environmental injustice, lets not forget that the majority of America’s black population live in low-income neighborhoods, or ghettos, within which stands abandoned brick husks and dilapidated infrastructures — vacant lots coupled with decrepit residential and commercial districts lined with boarded-up buildings, litter, and unkept natural landscape.

With inferior housing and inferior public facilities comes inferior technological systems, and the latter forecloses employment options and opportunities, as well as the overall health and wellbeing of black residents.

And no black community, urban or rural, is immune from the deleterious effects of these destructive, profit-driven processes.

In fact, taken together, the majority of black communities become microcosms of all the environmental injustices white environmentalists claim to oppose.

Which, to circle back, only means one thing: without a concern for black lives, there is no environmental justice movement, or, at least, not one worth its salt.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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