During Black History Month, it’s easy to get lost in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as his dream reminds us this month, and every month, that we must be deliberate in how we celebrate African-American culture and history. We’re honoring the contributions and achievements of successful black Americans. And we must also celebrate the life of every black person, as every life deserves attention and respect.
African Americans suffer from the effects of climate change
Studies show that African Americans tend to live and work in areas disproportionately exposed to pollution. Therefore, they suffer greatly from the effects of air pollution. According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, black communities are more likely to breathe in toxic air than other communities. And when a company doesn’t want to clean up its polluted mess – like during Hurricane Katrina – asthma, cancer, and other diseases associated with the detrimental effects of extreme weather events take a higher toll on African-American communities. Many black families affected by the hurricane could not afford to leave New Orleans during the storm. This is a prime example of climate injustice.
Climate justice for all
Climate justice is at the intersection of the ethical and the political issues that result from the impact of global warming. Yet those seeking justice often never feel the comfort of its embrace in the wake of the loss from climate change. Justice for communities of color means making environmentally-friendly changes to benefit them. These changes often depend on political intervention, and when politicians deny that climate change is real, these communities get caught in the political cross-hairs and suffer the health consequences.
For those of us who advocate for the health of our families, and the health of our planet, we need to understand that we’re fighting for people from all walks of life.
The face of climate justice, sustainability, and the path to healthy living is perceived as all-white and well-to-do. BIPOC (black and indigenous people of color) aren’t acknowledged as widely as their white peers in the search for climate solutions. Thus, solutions are created by a monolithic community that typically does not benefit an overall diverse group.
History also shows us that black environmental activists, such as John Francis and Majora Walker, have created platforms to share their environmental activism, and that helped to pave the way to more environmental awareness. But even when environmental injustices don’t have a personal impact, it is still important to advocate for those whose lives are directly altered by the results of global warming.
Be an ally for climate justice
- Support activists, organizations, and congressional bills and resolutions that promote climate justice and environmental justice.
- Listen to BIPOC (black and indigenous people of color) environmental activists, acknowledge and believe them, and support their message by sharing their content, learning from it, and amplifying it when you talk about sustainability with anyone.
- Do your own research on the subject, and be as committed to fighting for climate justice as you are for clean air overall.
Moms Clean Air Force’s Community Rx Environmental Health Justice program is one way to stand up to environmental discrimination, hold legislators accountable for lack of resources, educate communities on their rights and their issues, stand with impacted communities, and fight for clean air and climate solutions to promote healthy children and healthy communities.
Have you used your platform, your voice, your privileges to advocate for clean air this Black History Month?