For a multitude of reasons the life expectancy of African Americans is the lowest of any other demographic in the United States. It is obvious that institutionalized racism plays a huge role in the daily lives of African Americans and environmental racism is the most common yet least recognized. This study investigates the historical context of environmental racism and why it has been such an overlooked issue. There is a correlation between race, income, and presence of environmentally dangerous facilities. In the U.S. there is also a correlation between race and income, disproportionately having a negative effect on minorities. Historically, power dynamics have allowed those in charge to make the choices are different demographically than those being directly affected by these choices. By enabling big businesses to place their industries in areas of cheaper land where minorities primarily live, economics encourages the exploitation of the people who live in these areas who are dependent on the jobs provided. Additionally, the normalization of structuralized racism makes it very easy to place blame on other factors such as intelligence or work ethic for shorter life expectancy and living conditions rather than the history of the U.S. In order to address environmental racism, a representative democracy must be fit and fair and those in office must share many of the same characteristics as the people they govern.
Teia Horton is a first semester Senior pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Policy and Advocacy. As a Black American that has been raised primarily in the Southern United States, she is passionate in issues regarding intersectionality such as race, class, and gender, and how these identities affect people's overall livelihood. She has spent the Spring Semester interning under Dr. Katharine Blackwell as a Media Researcher and conducting her work-study with Dr. Susan Harding for the Office of Student Wellbeing, both at Salem College. After graduating in December, Teia plans on traveling before she begins preparing for law school.