Do you know what Environmental Racism is?

 Do you know what Environmental Racism is?

In this new special article for the Youth News Agency, Amanda Costa shares her investigations and concerns about what we call environmental racism.

By Amanda Costa / AJN

Hello my tiny organic gardens! I am Amanda Costa and I would like to share with you my latest research topic, Environmental Racism. But before I present the narrative on the topic, I want to show you the importance of investigating Racism as a Structural problem.

During my study, I have heard “Amanda, how boring to talk about racism: we are all humans!”, “Racism is a thing of spoiled people. Who wants it can get it!”, and “You live in such a nice house! You shouldn’t say it’s on the periphery”. Can you believe it?


Silvio Almeida said: “In a world where race defines life and death, not taking it as an element of analysis of the great contemporary issues shows a lack of commitment to science and to solving the world’s great ills.”

Darlings, internalize a truth: racism is always structural, that is, it is part of the social, economic and environmental organization of contemporary society.

This oppressive hierarchy serves as a technology of colonialism against vulnerable people, harming mainly the Black, Indigenous, Quilombola, riverside and all other minority groups that occupy the base of a putative social pyramid.

I decided to make a cutoff for this narrative, approaching this theme from my perspectiveas a black and peripheral woman.

Reflect with me. Why is there a predominance of black people in the slums and peripheries? Why are these places so lacking in education, health, sanitation, and basic structures that enable an abundant and quality life?

We need to break with the schism created in an unequal society and create new civilizing frameworks that place historically subalternized subjects as protagonists of the debate, strengthening their resistance and reexistence!

Now, the phrase “environmental racism” was first addressed to by African-American civil rights activist leader Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr in 1981, in a context of demonstrations by the black movement against environmental injustices.

According to Dr. Franklin, “environmental racism is racial discrimination in environmental policymaking, implementation of regulations and laws, deliberate targeting of black communities for toxic waste facilities, official sanctioning of the presence of life-threatening poisons and pollutants to communities, and exclusion of black people from leadership in ecological movements”.

The term has been expanded and, besides addressing exposure to toxic waste, it includes inundation, contamination from natural and industrial resource extraction, lack of essential resources or exclusion from land and natural resource management and decision-making by local people.

To write about environmental racism is to fight against the neocolonialism exercised by the capitalist system based on and feeding white supremacy, which insists on appropriating the resources of the black, periphery, indigenous, quilombola, and riverside populations.

To address this issue is to highlight the environmental injustices that vulnerable people are subjected to. Indigenous regions not demarcated, slums with high risk of landslides, garbage dumps and urban areas not served by basic sanitation are characteristic examples of the oppression against minority groups.The less socioeconomically favored people are overwhelmed by the environmental damage imposed on their territories. It is time to build an environmentalist practice that is intrinsically anti-racist!

I am tired of hearing that “the environment is a matter for rich, white, middle-class people”. I am here to break patterns! I am black, I come from the periphery of São Paulo and I have taken on climate activism as one of the pillars of my life, challenging the status quo and going against the heteronormative logic that insists on silencing my voice.

As Stehanie Ribeiro said, “genocide is not only death by shooting, but it is the whole logic of exclusion based on our racial identity that causes my life to be discarded within the system”.

Dear reader, I invite you to reflect on this theme, decolonize your thinking and diversify your content curation. How about starting with your Instagram, following black and peripheral environmental activists?

Here are their names and accounts: Raul Santiago is @raullsantiago, Stephanie Ribeiro is @ste_rib, and Karina Penha is @kataflor.

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