Environmental justice quote?
November 8, 2018 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a particular quote about environmental justice (or even better, the original video), only I can't remember who said it and what the precise quote was.

I remember seeing an interview with a prominent scholar of environmental justice (male, POC, maybe Ben Chavis or Bob Bullard?) talking about how hazardous waste facilities and other kinds of toxic exposure had this amazing ability of finding where all the poor and brown and black people are and being there.

In essence, the comment was meant highlight, somewhat sardonically, the systematic placement of toxic risks disproportionately near vulnerable populations, specifically in terms of race and class.

I recall a digression in the interview where the the guy joked about not even being aware that there were historically black communities in West Virginia ("who knew?"), but when he looked more closely, lo and behold, there was the hazardous waste. Ringing any bells for anyone? Thanks!
posted by eagle-bear to Education (2 answers total)
The bell that's ringing for me is for Dr. Bullard, because of his research and his book Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality; not an interview, but excerpts from a talk he gave around the time of the book's third reprinting:

Now, a lot of people don't even know there are black people in West Virginia. Union Carbide found them. Now, these people have been there since 1865, when West Virginia broke away from Virginia. Black folks went with freedom. I'm not staying with slavery. Don't take me back. They left and they went with West Virginia, and they settled along the Canar River Valley in this little area here. And West Virginia, in 1880s, needed a place for its Jim Crow school, because they were creating the University of Virginia, so they created West Virginia Colored Institute. That's how Institute gets its name. This is 1880.

So, if I get a question of chicken and egg kind of thing, I'm going to tell you, West Virginia State College was there and Institute was there before Union Carbide came in there in the 50's. This is unique in that the plant that killed all those people in Bhopal, India (1983-84), the prototype for that Bhopal plant, where do you think it was? Institute. The only place that manufactured methyl isocyanate (MIC), the only place that manufactured that in this country, where do you think it was? Institute. Methyl isocyanate is what killed all those people. They've had explosions, they've had accidents. In 1984, they had an eruption that sent 300 people to the hospital. One way in, one way out.


The first lawsuit that we were able to win was filed in 1991 and we won it in 1997. I'll go through that briefly. This is a company that's British, German, American. They want to build a uranium enrichment plant, get this, in the middle of these two little black communities in Louisiana. We don't need any more enriched uranium. We're not building more power plants. We've got enough enriched uranium at DOE and the Soviet Union. It's lying around. You want some enriched uranium? Hey, how much do you want. We don't need any more. This plant was going to be built one-half mile from the nearest resident. In the EIS, the draft and the final, they said the closest resident, now this is their sign, they said the closest resident was five miles away. And we proved them wrong, because the closest resident was a half-mile away, because these two black communities were not on anybody's map.

Forest Grove and Center Springs, these communities have been there since the 1860's, but map makers didn't put them on the map because they are unincorporated, and when the person that was selecting the site drove through the area, they saw a few boarded up houses, they didn't go into the little dirt roads and alleyways and find the people. They saw boarded up houses so they assumed that there was nobody there. You understand that poor people in the winter time sometime board up their windows with plyboard because they don't have central heat ... and they're trying to keep warm. You do that by boarding up the windows. I tried to explain that to this company and they said, well I don't see how that could be. I said, why you've never been poor.

They said, "we did a scientific process of picking this site and we picked the best site. We looked at the whole United States as our target." And what we did was said, "Okay. Thirteen percent of the United States is African American." Then they said, "we narrowed it down to the southern United States." We said "okay, they narrowed it down. Twenty percent of the southern states is African American." And they said, "we picked Louisiana." And we said, "Okay. Louisiana is 31 percent black." Can you see the pattern? Then they said, "we picked northwest Louisiana." We said, "it's 35 percent black." They said, "we picked Claiborne Parish." Forty-six percent black. We started doing this, and we did this systematically.

When we did a GIS analysis, geographic information system analysis, and we started to draw one circle one mile radius around all these sites that they said they were selecting. They came up with 78 sites in northwestern Louisiana. And we did a GIS and we found that 28 percent of the population at least in a one-mile radius were African American. When they narrowed it down to 37 sites, the black population increased from 28 percent to 36 percent. You see the pattern.

If you're sure the quote you're looking for is from a one-on-one interview, maybe look for Bullard appearances tied to his book publishing/promotion dates? (The Houston resident was also interviewed during and after Hurricane Harvey, but in those the focus is narrower.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:05 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]

That's it! Thank you :)
posted by eagle-bear at 4:36 AM on November 18

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