AP Reports (poorly) on Environmental Racism in North Carolina

News items regarding environmental racism have appeared and been discarded for the past several decades. Now the AP just released a story on the environmental racism in North Carolina.

First the good news, North Carolina appears to have a slightly lower correlation between race and pollution than the rest of the country:

But while her circumstance is not unique nationwide — African-Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial air pollution is suspected of causing the most health problems — it’s not as common among blacks and other minorities in North Carolina.

According to an Associated Press analysis, African-Americans in North Carolina are 12 percent more likely than whites to live in the 10 percent of the state with the worst industrial air pollution. Hispanics are just as likely as whites to live in those neighborhoods, while Asian residents are 25 percent less likely.

Only eight other states fared better in the comparison between African-Americans and whites, and in seven of those states, whites were more likely to live in those areas. By comparison, black residents are 72 percent more likely to live in the worst areas in South Carolina, 91 percent more likely in Tennessee and more than three times as likely in Virginia.

Now the bad news, North Carolina is the home to 38 neighborhoods that are in the bottom 5% of the nation in pollution:

In North Carolina, 38 census tracts — each the size of a small neighborhood — were among the worst 5 percent of tracts nationwide. The South Park tract had the highest rate of racial disparity in the state.

In Western North Carolina, two Haywood County census tracts — downtown Canton and some areas east of town — were among the 5 percent worst risk in the nation for industrial air pollution, according to the AP’s analysis.

Of course, the article gathers some sparse anecdotal evidence on the health effects of pollution rather than examining the issue and presenting scientific evidence on the matter. After examining the life of a 7-year old that developed asthma after moving to a polluted area, the article concludes with:

Wilmington resident Bill Walsh lives in the Wilmington’s Kings Grant neighborhood, a middle-class subdivision of 20- and 30-year-old homes that’s inside the census tract that registered the highest health risk in North Carolina.

“I don’t see a whole lot of people who are sick,” Walsh said.

But Dr. Debbie Leiner, a Greensboro pediatrician who worked largely with indigent patients for 18 years, said she has seen respiratory problems in her new practice, which includes many whites.

“There’s no question we’re seeing an increase in asthma,” Leiner said. “It is clear to doctors that environmental issues are causing a lot of the problems that we’re seeing now, and I believe it’s going to link to more problems in the future.”

To the current administration this might be inconclusive evidence at best since a doctors statements are contradicted by a layperson that merely lives in the area.


Too bad they don't tell the entire story....

While cities and states many times make decisions to put undesireable facilities in lower income neighborhoods where they will meet with the least resistance, it isn't always true that industries spring up in low income neighborhoods. The neighborhoods spring up around industries where people can live closer to where they work. Many of the mill neighborhoods in this state originally housed low income whites. Were the health issues facing these folks attributed to racism? Of course, not. I doubt anyone cared or noticed. The pollution from the industries that remain in this area isn't directed at the people who now live in these neighborhoods. The pollution is there for all of us to enjoy. (snerk) Most of Charlotte's public housing neighborhoods are not in industrial areas, however low income neighborhoods are. The property values are suppressed in these areas making it easier for the working poor to afford to live there. I don't like the use of the term racism in this situation, simply because much of the problem was created many years ago and it isn't typically directed at a certain race. When publicly selected/funded low income housing is placed in areas away from industry and adequate public transportation is provided it's irresponsible to call this issue/problem racism. It is impossible to completely level the playing field. Just try moving public housing out into the sticks where I live. There is no access to public transportation and I'm not walking distance to anything except my next door neighbor. The air is a bit cleaner, though.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


I wanted to note that Environmental Racism is a term used by others to describe the phenomenon.
I think that the bigger issue can generally be related to wealth/poverty distinctions. Although there have been some instances in the past where there was documented discussion by all-white boards to place high polluting activities in black areas, in general, I think/hope we are past that historical period.

It's almost always about money...

Usually when a municipality locates an undesireable facility in a low income area it's because they too want to get the land as cheaply as possible. (That AND it will meet with the least resistance.)

I realized you weren't calling it racism...sorry if it seemed I was ranting against you.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Lest we forget

much of this pollution would be done away with if our Democratic Majority in the House, Senate, and White House had acted in 1992-1994 or forced through some changes in the six years after that. Or, if the current Congressional Democrats were not such cowards.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.