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Ben Johnson

A Primer on "Environmental Racism"

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Posted on September 10 2009 4:07 pm
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Following President Obama‘s speech last night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly interviewed the race-obsessed academic Marc Lamont Hill. In a side point, Hill used the term “environmental racism,” a phrase O’Reilly seemed never to have heard before. Lucky him.

Environmental racism is the profitable invention of litigious leftists. It is a form of “racism” caused by neither malice nor design, which is usually brought on by the very conditions “civil rights” leaders sued to create. For decades, they complained of a lack of industrial jobs and public transportation in the inner city. Now they and the Democratic architects of urban blight complain minorities “disproportionately” suffer from the pollution these industries create — and shake down businesses for remuneration.

I discussed the myth of “environmental racism” in my first book on Teresa Heinz (Kerry), who awarded Peggy Shepard a 2003 Heinz Award (and its honorarium of $250,000) for her work popularizing the concept. Shepard heads the West Harlem Environmental Action, which she inexplicably abbreviates “WE ACT”:

Shepard and WE ACT’s seemingly only project of note is a multi-year struggle against the Manhattan Transportation Authority. At issue is the fact that six of the MTA’s eight bus depots are located in Northern Manhattan, an area primarily populated by minorities. Shepard alleges…[the increased diesel emissions constitute] a form of “environmental racism.” According to WE ACT:

“Title VI of the Civil Rights Act states that no agency receiving Federal funds shall administer a program that discriminates against people on the basis of race. If an agency’s actions have the effect of discriminating, the agency is in violation of Civil Rights law, even if discrimination is not intentional. ‘The MTA would not get away with putting the diesel depots and diesel bus parking lots in other neighborhoods in Manhattan,’ said Ms. Shepard.”

She summed up, “We believe it’s discriminatory because [MTA officials] are spending their money to place a disproportionate burden on low income communities and communities of color in New York City.” Inverting 40 years of civil rights rhetoric, Shepard interpreted increased government spending in “communities of color” as “discriminatory” – a calamity to be remedied by ratcheting up governmental regulation and expanding public health programs. And awarding financial reparations to aggrieved communities and their legal counsel, like Ms. Shepard…

Obviously, cities situate bus depots in those areas most likely to use them, and studies have shown minorities disproportionately avail themselves of public transportation. Indeed, civil rights organizations have accused cities of racism for failure to locate more buses in minority neighborhoods. In other words, Shepard’s group has cried racism and filed a federal lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Transportation, because New York City is too attentive in providing taxpayer-subsidized services to minorities. No good deed goes unpunished.

So, “environmental racism” is a myth, but it is not Hill’s invention.

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