Environmental Racism in Louisiana
by Courtney Johnston
Environmental racism is a sensitive
subject because it is something that concerns many people and it is happening
within the United States. “Environmental racism is an issue of political power:
The negative externalities of industrialization – pollution and hazardous waste
- are placed where politicians expect little or
no political backlash” (Ross & Soloman, 2016). This is because the
demographics of these communities tend to be those living in poverty and who
are mostly African American.
There have been studies conducted that show that
poor, in particular poor African Americans, “are more likely to live near
industrial plants and are exposed to toxic pollutants at a rate much higher
than more affluent whites” (Lee, n.d.). These residents do not have the power
to stand up for their communities and those who are in power do not want to
listen to them.
One huge example of environmental racism is Cancer Alley, which
is “an 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is home to more
than 150 plants and refineries” (Lee, n.d.). This area is also the most toxic
area in the United States (Allen, 2006). The most well known plant that is
located here is Exxon Mobil, “the 11 largest oil complex in the
world” (Lee, n.d.). These areas are so contaminated that most of the residents
have to leave or they eventually become sick, hence the name of Cancer Alley.
Of those who live close to the river, “35% suffer from respiratory problems,
21% from allergy problems, and 17% from other sinus problems, in addition to
claims of elevated cancer rates” (Allen, 2006). This is a huge problem because
people in this area do not have a lot of money so they cannot afford to move.
They are stuck in this area and they are becoming sick because of it.
why there may be so many problems with the pollution is because of
underreporting. The companies are not reporting the correct amount of how much
pollution they are actually emitting (Lee, n.d.). The area that is now named
Cancer Alley used to be safe and clean and residents could play outside and
have fun, but now the factories and plants have changed all of that. “’It’s not
just health we’re talking about, we’re talking about transformative wealth
being stolen by property values being devalued because of environmental
racism,’” (Lee, n.d.).
Environmental racism is very real and it is unfair and
dangerous. More people need to become aware of the problem so change can start
to happen. Companies need to recognize the damage that is being done to the
people and they need to change how they run their company so that future
problems can be avoided. Stricter policies and regulations need to be created
by health officials to eliminate these problems in the future. Creating change
may not change the past but it can help create a difference for the future.
Allen, B. L.
(Jan 2006). Cradle of a revolution? The industrial transformation of
lower Mississippi River. Technology and
Culture, 47. Retrieved from