Skip navigation

Category Archives: racism

CHECK THIS OUT: the Root website has a nice wrap of an ABC television experiment about racism. Using hidden cameras, the ABC crew recorded the responses of passersby to a young white man and a young black man who were each appearing to steal a bicycle.  The reactions were profoundly different . Only one or two people out of a hundred challenged the white kid, but the black kid was called out almost immediately and a couple of times an antagonist crowd started to form. You can see the tape here:

My thoughts:
Just yesterday I was driving through a small town in Southern Maine when I passed a police patrol car in a parking lot. The cop abruptly pulled out and followed me until I left town…I didn't get stopped as I knew that  road had a 25 mph limit and I offered him no excuse. That's because I have learned to be careful in these places– Indeed when I first started coming to this region a few years ago virtually every town–about 8 or 9 in the area –pulled me over, though I never got a ticket…..I finally figured out the offense was 'driving while black.'

In the arena of  the environment, things are not usually as obvious. So imagine what it is like in a case of disproportionate toxic exposure where the options for the authorities are more complex. 

Pretty much all the folks on the bicycle thief tape  were unaware of their racist prejudices. They believed that they were acting on facts, not attitudes.

So when it comes to a black neighborhood that is choked with pollution and poor transit patterns, does society tolerate that because it what people expect to see? Do they think it is a natural fact that black people live under such conditions, or do they understand that environmental injustice is a function of attitudes? 

My guess is that it's most often the former, rather than the latter, but what do you think? And what do you think could be done?

The Environmental Justice Resource Center of Clark Atlanta has found in an analysis that the waste caused by the BP oil spill is being dumped into majority black neighborhoods.  BP’s spill waste summary has claimed that it has disposed of 39,448 tons of oil waste as of July 15th in landfills located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  Five out of the nine of those landfills are located in majority black neighborhoods.   Dr. Robert Bullard, who authored the analysis, has called the BP waste plan “a haunting pattern of environmental racism.”  The landfills that the tar balls and oily sand and boom are being dumped in are the same municipal landfills that house diapers, demolition debris and food waste.  BP is trying to quell fears of the hazard waste by telling residents the waste is not toxic or dangerous.  However, residents in these areas are concerned that the petroleum sludge will seep into groundwater and contaminate the drinking supply. 
Oily water is handled differently than oil solids.  The oil solids are bagged by BP contractors and shipped to the nearest landfill.  Oil sheen (what you see on the surface of the Gulf) is mixed with ash and turned into solids.  Oily water is usually processed for fuel.  BP claims that it has collected 836,000 barrels of oil water from the Gulf of Mexico.  The oil giant alleges that for every 17 gallons of seawater, they can produce one barrel of oil.  The money that is generated by this recovering process will be donated to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Photo by: MSN


I’ve recently spotted an atypical case that may top all the water cooler bully squabbles of the past.
A man in Oxford, England sued AND won a bid to appeal against his former company for discriminating against his right to discuss man-made climate change. Tim Nicholson, a former engineer for Grainer plc – a realty company in the United Kingdom – has taken his former employer to court for “unfair dismissal under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations Act of 2003,” according to BBC News. This Act covers religious as well as philosophical beliefs. But why was he fired in the first place?

Before Nicholson pressed charges, he was the head of sustainability at Grainger. He wanted to set up a “carbon management system” for his company, in an attempt to measure its carbon footprint. However, Grainger refused to grant Nicholson the proper information to make an investigation on the company this past March. He was then released on some suspect “structural” and “operational” grounds.  Was Grainger covering something up? With looming climate bills to be passed to make companies clean up their day-to-day proceedings, there’s no telling what “the UK’s largest listed residential landlord with approximately £2.3bn of assets and £3.0bn of assets under management” might be trying to do. On a site search on Grainger’s page, Nicholson’s name is nowhere to be found.

So, what does this mean for other companies?  Well, James Delingpole of The Telegraph is rooting for this guy. He and others think this case marks a trend where other lifestyle choices like veganism, feminism, and humanism might garner the legal benefits of religious choices. Justice Michael Burton of the British High Court’s ruling goes even further to explain why this prediction may become reality someday.

Photo by