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Free «Environmental Racism and Healthcare» Essay Sample

For centuries, oppressed minorities have been struggling against racism. At some levels of social life, it reduced, but exacerbated at others. Because of the poverty, degraded quality of life, and routine of everyday survival, middle-class African-Americans and Native Americans are ignorant and simply do not know how to defeat their rights. Dominant society takes advantage of it and use the residences inhabited by the poorest social groups as a rubbish-heap for the hazardous waste products of their farms and industries. Oppressed minorities suffer from poor health, short life spans, bad healthcare and higher mortality. In addition, they have no access to a good education, even rare transportation, and considerable economic opportunities. All these driving forces make them live a degraded life on heavily polluted areas in substandard homes with no hope for a better future, but even appropriate medical treatment and care. Poor people, racial minorities and migrants are also more likely to work as farm workers, what endangers the health of their families twice, but still separates them from beneficial society opportunities.

The traits of modern transformed racism manifestation are clearly showed by these facts. Such a manifestation can not exist in the society, which claims to be humane and democratic.



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Environmental Racism Understanding

Environmental racism is commonly known as the intentional setting hazardous waste sites and pollution industries in communities inhabited by working poor ethnic and racial minorities. This term appeared and became widely spread after the environmental justice movement of 70’s and 80’s in the USA. In 1971, the Council of Environmental Quality presented "Annual Report to the President". It was the first report that concerned and indicated the direct correlation between the risk of exposure to pollutants, race and poverty. Irwin Weintraub in his article “Fighting Environmental Racism: a Selected Annotated Bibliography” formulates precise definition of racism manifestation, he identifies, that

Environmental racism is racial discrimination in environmental policy-making and enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the presence of life threatening poisons and pollutants for communities of color, and the history of excluding people of color from leadership of the environmental movement (Weintraub, 1994).

According to this description, environmental racism is not limited by environmental hazards and negative influences of industrial procedures, but has deeper roots, which lie down in negative impacts of environmental policies and intentional targeting and zoning of toxic facilities in minority communities. Foresaid is evident manifestation of discrimination, which may lead to the total extirpation of ethnical and racial minorities.

African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and migrant farm workers are victims of environmental racism in America today. Dr. Deborah M. Robinson in the article, which concerns environmental racism, established supporting facts of this statement ''Native American lands and sacred places are home to extensive mining operations and radioactive waste sites. Three of the five largest commercial hazardous waste landfills are located in predominantly African American and Latino communities'' (Robinson, 2000).

With global industrial development and high social consumption, the need of places for waste products utilization and hazardous workplaces expressed. This need was quickly satisfied. Residences of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans became a radioactive and harmful rubbish site, while the residents themselves were hired for dangerous low-paid job with no additional compensations.

Environmental Racism as Manifestation of Oppression

Pollution and exploitation of villages and towns became accepted while remained to be strongly defeated in cities and megalopolises. The lack of information and political power is the main point in almost all analogous cases. Unintentionally is no excuse for this issue because even unintentional racism, although that is a question that remains to be racism.

African Americans organized the first environmental campaigns in 1980s. They aimed at avoiding intoxication of farm workers with pesticides, inner-city children with lead, decease of pollution from industrial complexes and incinerators, isolation of the zoning of toxic facilities (landfills). Native Americans also questioned the location of nuclear waste dumps on their native reservations. Interested in the issue activities, scholars and policymakers started research investigation and tried to link race question with exposure to environmental hazards. Taylor Dorceta connects that period with two substantial studies and  explores the problems in relationship— '' one by the U.S. General Accounting Office (US GAO) and the other by the United Church of Christ (UCC) —found that African-Americans and other people of color were more likely to live close to hazardous waste sites and facilities than whites'' (Dorceta, 2000). UCC also indicated the existence of ''explicit connection between race and the increased likelihood of being exposed to hazardous wastes'' (Dorceta, 2000) and illustrated its bigger salience in communities of color. Robert Bullard gives bright examples of such a salience

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Native Americans have to contend with some of the worst pollution in the United States Workers of color are especially vulnerable to "job blackmail", because of the threat of unemployment and their concentration in low-paying, unskilled non-union occupations. For example, a large share of the non-union contract that workers in oil, chemical and atomic fields is persons of color. Over 95 per cent of migrant farm workers in the United States are Latino, African-American, Afro-Caribbean and Asian. Workers of color are overrepresented in high-risk blue collar and service occupations, where there is more than an adequate supply of replacement labor (Bullard, 2004).

Poor oppressed people can do nothing but try to survive. They are afraid to lose their working place and lead their families to barrenness. It is necessary to cease hazardous waste sites money, time, information, knowledge of global strategies and potential influence. As a rule, minorities do not have places to meet and discuss their actions, access to private and public records, sponsoring. That is why they are unable to challenge the oppressing society, which ruins not only their sacred places, culture, lands, livelihoods and primary conditions of life, but takes the lives of unborn children and infants, shortens their life spans and make them feel worth. According to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, ''over half (56%) of the residents in neighborhoods with commercial hazardous waste facilities are people of color. Thus, percentages of people of color as a whole are 1.9 times greater in waste facility host neighborhoods than in non-host areas'' (AHRQ, 2012), what once again proves that racism is a weighty factor in separating people into their physical environments. Robinson D.R. calls this modern concept “old wine in a new bottle” (Robinson, 2000) and accents that it is nothing else but “a new manifestation of historic racial oppression” (Robinson, 2000). Living in the 21st century, even a child of primary school will agree that no nation or community can be a dumping ground for other people’s hazardous wastes, but, unfortunately, society as a whole still does not practically accept it.

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Mortality, Short Life Spans and Poor Health as the Evidences of Environmental Racism

Oppressed minorities, which are used to careless treatment, might ignore disrespect if it does not concern health risks and slow dying out of their cultures. Facts speak for themselves:

pollution from industries is shown up in the Akwesasne mothers’ milk in New York, where Native American reservations are under siege from radioactive waste; African-American children are five times more likely to suffer from lead poisoning than white children; over 4.8 million asthma sufferers are children, and asthma tends to strike poor inner-city residents the hardest. For example, African-Americans and Latinos are almost three times more likely than whites to die from asthma (Bullard, 2004);

African Americans’ life expectancy at birth is persistently five to seven years lower than European Americans; low birth weight is more prevalent among African Americans and American Indians than other groups and affects the long-term health of the developing infant (CERB Working Group).

The residents of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos minority communities are segregated in hazardous jobs. Most of them are farm workers and are considered to be the second most harmful work in the US. Robert Bullard provides us with statistics "pesticide exposure causes farm workers and their families to suffer between 10,000 and 20,000 immediate illnesses annually and countless thousands of illnesses later in life" (Bullard, 2004). Farmers use in their work 25 pesticides, 5 of which are toxic for the nervous system, 18 irritate eyes, skin and lungs, 11 cause cancer, 17 lead to genetic damage and 10 result in reproductive problems. Robert Bullard underlines that "137 American workers die from job-related diseases every day" (Bullard, 2004).

In 1897, Commission of Racial Justice established that three out of five Latino-Americans and African-Americans live in districts with forgotten toxic waste sites. Considering that 25 percent of all preventable illnesses are directly caused by environmental factors, the conclusion that higher mortality of minority social communities is caused by greater pollutant influence that can be reached.

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People, who spend their lives in territories, which are the prime targets for landfills, incinerators, garbage dumps and risky mining operations, are physically destroyed, whenever they are in workplaces, at home, near playgrounds or even in the neighborhood.

The worst polluted places in America are inhabited by Native Americans, what confirms that color people and people with low-income bear higher environmental and health risks than the rest of the society. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, concluded, that "people of color and low-income communities are exposed to higher levels of pollution than the rest of the nation, and experience certain diseases in greater numbers than more affluent white communities" in 1999 (Bullard, 2004).

All aforesaid information detects that destructive exploitation of land mirrored on considerable and killing exploitation of people. Those, who suffer from poverty and have limited life opportunities, are destined to suffer from severe pollution, what force them lie in the bottom of the society and lead to degradation and disappearing of their culture.

Poverty and Environmental Racism as Tiredly Connected Phenomenon

Most poor people are isolated from rich men’s opportunities on account of poor or even absent schools, unemployment, low-paid jobs, bad transportation system, and lack of economic investment. Because of all foresaid reasons, people are unable to improve their health and status. Concerning poverty concept in environmental discrimination, it is worth to admit that poor citizens of cities suffer more than rich resident. Suburbanization, gentrification, gentrification and decentralization have led to discriminatory policies. It can be proved by the fact that non-minorities live in safer, cleaner, and less expensive suburban locales, when poor groups of population dwell in the inner cities, which are in physical proximity to poisoned industrial zones. In these areas, unemployment is high and businesses are less likely to invest in area improvement, what creates poor economic conditions for residents and the raise of racial inequality. Generally, young generation has little opportunities to escape health ruining routine of their families.

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Studies indicate that "poverty rates in waste facility neighborhoods are 1.5 times greater than in neighborhoods" (Weintraub, 1994). That means that social minorities are safer. Poor income, lack of medicine care, strong affect of pollution and marginality create conditions of survival for the fittest. 20 percent of children, it means two in ten, in the most needy regions across the globe will not celebrate their fifth birthday, mainly because of pollution-related illnesses.

Besides, continual outer destruction, minority communities often live in neighborhoods isolated from the institutional and cultural resources, which are vital in their health promotion. Major oppressed communities feel lack of grocery stores with fresh, low-cost fruits and vegetables, what eliminates their chances to improve their health and force immune system. The studies showed that white Americans are five times more likely to live in census tracts with supermarkets than black Americans, the firsts also have three times greater access to private transportation in comparison with the black Americans in similar communities.

Poverty, constant work and struggle for everyday survival procrastinate and neglect education matter, when it concerns minority communities. This ensues inability to challenge proposals and seek financial compensation for environmental and health damages or even thought knowledge on self-help and care appliance. Mental degradation of communities of color have terminated in limited mobility, reduced area options, decreased environmental alternatives and diminished job conveniences for the representatives of these communities.

"Poor people around the world routinely contend with unclean and often polluted air and drinking water, and with facilities, such as municipal landfills, incinerators and hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities owned by private industry, government and even the military," writes Bullard (Bullard, 2004). Substandard housing, disproportionate access to environmental services, such as garbage removal, decreased ability to regulate humidity and temperature of their home places, no protection from noxious pollutants and allergens, such as dust mites, lead and smog, are common in poor, segregated communities. Lack of recreational facilities, such as parks, gymnasiums, and swimming pools in these neighborhoods leads to their dying out and supports their degradation.

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Those, who survive, do not win the struggle. Being polluted by environment, exhausted with poor nutrition and weak with ancient life conveniences, people with the lack of education to help themselves and lack of healthcare to secure their children, continue ruining their damaged heath and work as farmers, endure substandard wages and work conditions.

Without hesitating, poor people accept such harmful jobs to have more chances to survive tomorrow. It is nothing else, but social oppression and total segregation that force them to accept risks associated with toxic waste and hazardous jobs, polluted air breathing and radioactive water drinking that more affluent people can refuse.


Race has played an important role in the systems of medical care formation in the United States of America. In spite of federal efforts to end segregation, the divided health orderliness did not change much and, unfortunately, healthcare remains to be widely isolated, what exacerbates and distorts racial inequality. At the same time, minority communities in the United States are socially, economically, and politically deprived, what raises their health risks and leads to the conclusion that environmental factors but not genetics are the causes of most of the differences.

In many cases, racial inequality is caused by low income, which results in health insurance. Taylor Dorceta provides us with 2009 year statistics, which reveals that

Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of Hispanic adults aged 19 to 64 (15 million people) were uninsured at some point during the past year, a rate more than triple that of working-age white adults (20 percent). One-third of working-age black adults (more than 6 million people) was also uninsured or experienced a gap in coverage during the year. Blacks had the most problems with medical debt, with 61 percent of uninsured black adults reporting medical bill or debt problems, vs. 56 percent of whites and 35 percent of Hispanics. Compared with white women, black women are twice as likely and Hispanic women are nearly three times as likely to be uninsured (Dorceta, 2000).

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All this happens, when access to quality care is critical to the health of ethnic and racial minorities in the USA.

Disparity and minorities oppression is obvious even if insurance question is rejected. The National Healthcare Disparities Report of 2006 examined that

Access for some groups, such as African Americans and American Indians, was the same or worse than for whites. Latinos experienced the greatest access problems of all ethnic groups; they received equivalent care as whites in only 17% of the measures, while the remaining access measures were overwhelmingly poorer for Latinos (83%). When examined over time, the study found that access to care was improving on most measures for African Americans, American Indians and Asian Americans, but that access to care worsened for Latinos on 80% of study measures (CERD Working Group).

Years passed, but till 2012 racial and ethnic minorities receive a lower quality and intensity of health care than white patients. It happens even when they maintain the same level of insurances and pose with the similar types of health problems. It is reported that African-American heart patients receive less diagnostic procedures than European Americans, for example, thrombolytic therapy and revascularization procedures, even when they have similar patient characteristics. Black and Latino patients seldom receive aspirin upon discharge following a heart attack, rarely are provided with the appropriate care for pneumonia, and very often are not treated to release the pain. The Facts accent that minorities receive undesirable treatment more often than whites, such as limb amputation for diabetes. Even poor women of color feel disproportional deficit in prenatal care. White women gain access to prenatal care even in their first trimester, when black hardly receive it on the second. Furthermore, women of color often receive fewer services and insufficient health-promotion training during their prenatal procedures.

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The greatest pity here is that causal factor not only include the policies and practices of health care system and its legal and regulatory context, but the behavior of people involved in their organization and practice. Thus, like access to good education, pure environment and well-paid jobs, health care for minorities has been suffering from government inattention too.

Environment Racism is a Matter of Healthcare

Strict industrial development and global mechanization are the main factors of environmental pollution. Many industries are unable to work ecologically safely and lead waste-free production process. Thus, areas, where poisoned waste should be located, are needed. Intentionally or unintentionally the territories inhabited by minor communities and poor groups of society are proved to be the most polluted. People, who hardly earn money for bread and water, have low incomes to buy medical insurance and no time to study the law and defeat their rights. Dominant society continues oppressing of the minority with indifference to its rights infringement and hazard pollution of their residences.

The issue of environmental racism in the USA is not possible to be settled in a short period of time, but it is possible to improve the terrible treatment of discriminated people thanks to healthcare system reformation. It is obvious that no one will remove hazard and radioactive waste to other territories now. It is clear that no harmful factory with high incomes will be ruined in the name of justice, but medical system can and must be improved. Dominant race ruins health of minority communities by its waste, so it has to maintain and recover it. Oppressed people should be provided with additional healthcare services. Moreover, these services have to concern not just the treatment of the illnesses, but also their prophylaxis. Special organs should control ruinous and unhealthy work conditions, appropriate payment and medical care of suffering social-groups.

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Statistics of many studies indicate that oppressed minorities have shorter life spans, higher infant mortality, lover life expectancies and poor health. Healthcare factor is the one, which can not exacerbate the problem, as it does nowadays, but ease it. Most of deaths and health connected problems of poor people concerns the lack of appropriate medical services access.


Environmental racism separates people by race and ethnicity, status and power, work conditions and life places. As a rule, poor people of color live in the most polluted territories, follow dangerous occupations and earn less money. In 21st century, such a slave-holding condition of life severely deprives them of appropriate health access, education, transportation and common life abilities. It results in total poverty, degraded life, poor health, higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy. Poverty, which entails degraded level of life, is the main factor of minority communities’ oppression. Feared to lose their jobs, these people work with pesticides, bring enormous weights and accept work conditions, which break all the rules of Labor Laws. Earning pitiful wages, they can not afford a good education for their children, which remain to be destined to yoke like their parents.

The lack of information, knowledge of law and political support stand in their way. Too exhausted physically and too pressed morally, they rarely challenge such an oppressed treatment and just humbly observe their children’s deaths and culture extinction.

The only way to tolerate the oppressed groups of the community now is to supply them with necessary healthcare and primary life conveniences accessibility. Unfortunately, statistics show the opposite results: poor people and people of color do not receive even elementary healthcare because of medical insurance lack. No one cares to provide them with necessary free medical services, which will ease their desperate situation. Conversely, most of minority ethnical and racial groups receive careless medical cure and less innovative treatment techniques, what accents and makes the fact that minor communities are oppressed by dominant society undeniable.

Racism and environmental racism as its component is a long-term notion. It takes its root in a distant past and it is difficult to remove, but must be even damaged. Healthcare reformation and compensative system implementation can play the leading role in it.


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