THE STATE OF EMERGENCY
Robert D. Bullard
We are in a state of emergency. The hard-fought gains of the modern civil rights and environmental justice movement are being gradually chipped away by the radical right and their hurtful policies.
* The attacks are well-financed and coordinated.
* A proactive national black response is needed.
We must finish Dr. King's Dream. Hardly a day passes without us discovering some black community or black neighborhood fighting a garbage dump, landfill, incinerator, chemical plant, highway, or some other health-threatening facility.
* Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis in 1968 on an environmental and economic justice mission for the striking black garbage workers. The strikers were demanding equal pay and better work condition. Dr. King was assassinated before he could complete his mission.
* The concept of environmental justice had not registered on the radar screens of environmental, civil rights, or social justice groups.
It is time for blacks to stand up and be counted. We need to flex our political and economic muscle to turn back the conservative attacks. We are many. And we are not as poor as some people would want us to believe.
* Blacks now number over 40 million or 13 percent of the U.S. population.
* We have an annual purchasing power nationwide of more than $440 billion.
Still, it has been difficult for blacks in segregated neighborhoods to say "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) if they do not have a backyard. Blacks and whites do not have the same opportunities to escape unhealthy physical environments.
* Homeowners are the strongest advocates of the NIMBY positions taken against locally unwanted land uses or LULUs such as garbage dumps, landfills, incinerators, sewer treatment plants, recycling centers, chemical plants, and other polluting facilities.
* Discrimination denies a substantial segment of the black community a basic form of wealth accumulation and investment through home ownership.
* Only about 59 percent of the nation's middle-class blacks own their homes, compared with 74 percent of whites.
* Some $50 to $90 billion dollars a year in tax subsidies underwrite suburban homeowners.
* This middle-class entitlement is by far the broadest and most expensive welfare program in the United States.
Racial discrimination is immoral and illegal. Discrimination is also costly.
* Racism places a "discrimination tax" on black households.
* Each black person must an average discrimination "tax" of roughly $3,700 per person. That amounts to over $3 billion per year for all Black households, owners and renters.
* The current generation of blacks have lost $82 billion due to discrimination. Of this total, $58 billion was lost as a result from lack of housing appreciation, $10.5 billion from paying higher mortgage rates, and $13.5 billion from the denial of mortgages.
Many white insurance companies routinely redline black neighborhoods. Redlining hits black people where we live.
* Black communities that do not have insurance are communities without hope.
* Redlining accelerates the flight of full-service banks, food stores, restaurants, and other shopping centers from black neighborhoods.
* One of every two black homeowners meets discrimination in insurance coverage and premium rates.
* Redlining undermines the stability and health of black communities and black people.
The Environmental Justice Executive Order attempts to address environmental injustice within existing federal laws and regulations. In response to growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence, President Clinton on February 11, 1994 issued Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations."
* Executive Order 12898 reinforces the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, which prohibits discriminatory practices in programs receiving federal funds.
* The Order also focuses the spotlight back on the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.
Equal environmental protection is the Law of the Land.
* The federal EPA is mandated to enforce the nation's environmental laws and protect all Americans---not just individuals or groups who can afford lawyers, lobbyists, and experts.
* Environmental protection is a right, not an "unfunded mandate" or privilege reserved for a few who can "vote with their feet" and escape environmental health threats.
All communities are not created equal.
* If a community happens to be black, poor, and working class it receives less environmental protection.
* Many black communities have become "sacrifice zones" for polluting industries.
* Many of the 450,000 "brownfields" sites are located in or adjacent to black and poor communities.
* Brownfields redevelopment does not mean lowering clean-up standards and compromising public health.
Our health is imperiled. Blacks spend over $12.9 billion a year on health care. Still, we make up a sizable share of the 40 million Americans who have no health insurance.
* Blacks experience higher mortality rates than whites even in areas with equivalent levels of urbanization.
* Black women are twice as likely as white women to give birth to low-birth-weight infants.
* Black women experience an infant mortality rate two and a half times higher than that experienced by white women with the same level of education.
* In general, blacks have borne greater environmental and health risks than the society at large in their neighborhoods, workplace, and playgrounds, and experience certain diseases in greater number than the more affluent, white communities.
Corporate welfare is hazardous to our health. Black people subsidize corporate welfare with their health and the environment.
* Having an industrial facility in one's community or back yard does not automatically translate into jobs for nearby residents.
* Corporations routinely pollute the air, ground, and drinking water while being subsidized by tax breaks from states.
* Many industrial plants are located at the fence line with black communities-but yield few jobs for nearby residents.
* In the 1990s, Louisiana, for example, wiped off the books $3.1 billion in property taxes to polluting companies. The state's top five worse polluters received $111 million dollars over the past decade.
Lead poisoning is still a silent killer of black children. The average blood lead level has dropped for all children with the phasing out of leaded gasoline.
* Lead poisoning is the number on environmental health threat to children.
* Lead poisoning is preventable.
* Black children tare lead poisoned at more than twice the rate of white children at every income level.
* Instead of a haven, home takes on the meaning of hostile environment.
We have a right to breathe clean air.
* Blacks and Latinos are more likely to live in areas with reduced air quality than are whites.
* Specifically, 57 percent of whites, 65 percent of blacks, and 80 percent of Hispanics live in counties with substandard air quality.
Air pollution contributes to the asthma epidemic in the black community. Ground-level ozone exacerbates health problems such as asthma.
* The annual age-adjusted death rate from asthma increased by 40 percent between 1982 and 1991, with the highest rates being consistently reported among blacks.
* Blacks are two to six times more likely than whites to die from asthma.
* The asthma hospitalization rate for blacks is 3 to 4 times the rate for whites.
* Asthma is the number one reason for childhood emergency room visits in most U.S. cities.
Transportation policies and practices are linked to air pollution, rising respiratory illnesses, economic isolation, and segregation. For more than a century, and since Plessy v. Ferguson, blacks have struggled to end transportation racism.
* The modern civil rights movement has its roots in transportation. From the legendary Rosa Parks to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Freedom Riders, all roads pointed to a frontal attack on racist transportation policies and practices.
* Today, transportation is no less a civil rights and quality of life issue. We only need to follow the money.
* Billions of dollars are being spent on the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century or TEA-21.
* Blacks needs to press for more balanced spending on public transit and other transportation alternatives that will improve their mobility, access to jobs, and improve air quality.
* Having a seven-lane freeway next door is not a benefit to someone who does not even own a car.
Transit racism kills. Transit racism killed 17-year-old Cynthia Wiggins of Buffalo, New York because some official decided not to build a city bus stop at an upscale suburban shopping mall.
* The black teenager was crushed by a dump truck while crossing a seven-lane highway because Buffalo's Number Six bus, an inner-city bus used mostly by African Americans, was not allowed to stop at the suburban Walden Galleria Mall (located in Cheektowaga, NY).
* The Wiggins family and other members of the black community charged the Walden Galleria mall with using the highway as a racial barrier to exclude some city residents.
* The high-profile trial, argued by attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., began on November 8, 1999 and was settled ten days later for $2.55 million.
Suburban sprawl is making some of us sick.
* Many of the nation's environmental, housing, transportation, and land-use policies contribute to more pollution, more congestion, more wasted energy, more segregation, more urban core disinvestment, and more sprawl.
* Sprawl is pushing development into the "exurbs" and rural communities outside metropolitan (and away from black population concentrations) areas where public transportation is inadequate or nonexistent.
We do not have time to debate whether or not there is a crisis. The emergency is real. We must act now. We should not have to go into the next millenium carrying the baggage of racism and injustice.