I don’t have words to describe how disturbing this is:
A radioactive waste processing company in Memphis, Tenn. recently agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit charging it with exposing African-American workers to higher radiation levels than white workers.
The legal action was brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against RACE, which stands for Radiological Assistance, Consulting and Engineering. The company, which processes radioactive waste from hospitals, laboratories and nuclear power plants, was purchased in 2006 by the Swedish waste processor Studsvik, which points out that alleged incidents occurred prior to the sale.
“Some of the discrimination alleged in this case is unusually extreme because of the physical danger it created for African American employees,” said EEOC Acting Chair Stuart J. Ishimaru. “It is deeply disturbing that this kind of race-based discrimination could be inflicted upon innocent workers.”
The full story is here from the Institute for Southern Studies’ Facing South site.
What is Environmental Racism? Here’s a description from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities for the siting of polluting industries, or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies.
Since the term “environmental racism” was coined, researchers have investigated why minorities are more likely than whites to reside in areas where there is more pollution.
Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization and decentralization are examples of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism.
In the United States, the wealth of a community is not nearly as good a predictor of hazardous waste locations as the ethnic background of the residents, suggesting that the selection of sites for hazardous waste disposal involves racism. These minority communities may be easier targets for environmental racism because they are less likely to organize and protest than their middle or upper class white counterparts. This lack of protest could be due to fear of losing their jobs, thereby jeopardizing their economic survival.
In brief, environmental racism is the idea that black communities, because of their economic or political vulnerabilities, are targeted for the placement of noxious facilities, locally unwanted land uses, and environmental hazards.
The main victims of environmental racism have been poor black areas in the South. The ground breaking book Dumping in Dixie by Dr. Robert D. Bullard was one of the first to provide details on this disturbing phenomenon.
Bullard’s book was written in 1990. Fast forward to 2009, and it doesn’t look like things have changed at all. In December of last year, there was a huge spill of toxic coal ash around Kingston, Tennessee. The clean-up effort – you guessed it – seems to include a lot of dumping in Dixie.