Faith and Public Policy 2017 WDCImmersions

Environmental Racism on Capitol Hill

“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.”  ~Dr. Howard Thurman

Gratitude: I am extremely grateful for new knowledge, un-alternative truths, and wisdom.

On this sterile, robotic hill of patriarchal white men with stressful and bitter glares of sheer hatred, even the squirrels are privileged as they run freely around the parks like domesticated dogs fearing no one as they busily store away an abundance of acorns. Whizzing to the left and to the right of me at record-breaking speeds, I catch so many glimpses of Armani and Brook Brothers suits of deceitful armor, I have whiplash. Taxpayers and voters, stay alert.

But what happened to all the disinherited people of a past Washington, D.C. Uptown or the once-predominantly black communities of Northwest D.C.?  Sadly, you know the age-old stories happening all over the world. As the land of communities of color and poor people becomes desirable and sought-after by developers and real estate companies, the privileged eventually push every person on that land out to outlying, less-than-desirable locations.  Usually, most families end up in race-based, heavily polluted industrial superfund sites next to major incinerators or toxic waste sites that are highly contaminated with decades of toxic emission.

Racial Injustice=Economic Inequity=Social Injustice=Environmental Injustice=Greed

Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), after diligent advocacy and relentless pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nevertheless, a program is not a program if it is not properly funded or enforced.  Despite the EPA’s ongoing efforts of holding the federal government and polluters accountable for enforcing Superfund sites cleanup, Superfund sites are rapidly increasing and only eight sites were cleaned in 2014.

Running out of oppressed areas to keep dumping toxic waste and building Superfund sites, Prince George County, Maryland, one of America’s wealthiest African American communities, is fighting to remove a trash dump incinerator and to prevent additional toxic waste areas from suddenly appearing in their neighborhoods. Right here in our own backyard, several cities have growing Superfund sites and other cancer-causing clusters where asthma rates increase and lives are sacrificed daily.

The City of Richmond, a predominantly African-American, Hispanic, and Latino city, is within a ring of five oil refineries, three chemical plants, eight Superfund sites, two rail yards, ports, marine terminal and multiple highways.  Per http://california.hometownlocator.com/ca/contra-costa/richmond.cfm, the median household income in Richmond is $53,708, while the median income of the Bay Area is $75,900.

Do not be fooled for one minute. Environmental injustice is racial injustice, social injustice, and economic inequity. Are you mad yet? Well, get mad and do something! We still have the power at our local levels to impact the lack of engagement or concerns at the federal and national levels. Hold your local officials accountable for enforcing regulations and laws in your communities, write letters, and make phone calls and office visits everyday if you need to.  Become visible.  Become collective memory makers, share your personal stories with advocates and policymakers, and please pass your stories and history on to your children and their children.