Being a young African-American male in today’s society causes me to question my worth as a human being. I question my worth because of the way that African-American people have been treated in this society over the past years. On a daily basis, African Americans are treated differently because of their skin tone and how certain people feel about us. I know that our lives matter and are just as important as any other ethnic group. We have a history and stories waiting to be told about our lives.
The history of African Americans has always been plagued by a triple-edged sword including race, class, and gender. As slaves, our ancestors were treated as animals and their living conditions were deplorable, little space and fresh air. They were placed in areas that were unsanitary and that were shared with rodents and insects that carried disease. But, that was long ago right, wrong.
Unfortunately, there are still places in the United States were African American communities are living in less than adequate conditions. This existence I thought was, to quote Reynolds, 2003, “is about real human beings who have thoughts, feelings, and emotions, who are not merely names and numbers… people who hurt, who care, who are connected to all of us, when one hurts, we all hurt, one way or the other”, p. 51. This I must admit was my naive way of viewing the world.
As I look back over the history of Hyde Park, it is astonishing the amount of eco-racism the community has experience in my lifetime and since its conception. The land was initially swampland that was filled with well, swamp creatures. To generate more money and fatten the pockets of the mostly male white society, the swamp was drained and filled and the land was set aside to be sold to “Negros” who dreamed of owning land.
These Negros were descendants of sharecroppers and this opportunity was golden. Many families that bought land in Hyde Park had jobs working at the many surrounding factories, so the location was perfect and their children would be able to attend the prestigious Lucy Craft Laney High School. With these opportunities, the hope of Hyde Park began.
Little did I know that an African American neighborhood between two railroad tracks, surrounded by a four-lane highway, dirt roads, and no county water was set aside as an island, a no-man’s land, a place for “others”. Why would the city of Augusta allow companies such as Georgia Power, a recycling center, a salvage yard, Thermal Ceramics, Georgia Southern Railroad, and other environmentally hazardous companies affect human beings, a human population, to be poisoned?
Since the civilization of man, the world has been based on oppressive acts that have been majorly forced upon people of color. These people of color have become the different races that are portrayed as lower beings of the socio-economical ladder. These races of people include African Americans, Hipic, Latino, Native Americans, West Indian, and the list can go on. Due to the low socio-economic status of these people, they are often situated in areas of environmental degradation, which results in an increase in health problems.
These living conditions are not the fault of the residents, but are the repercussions of the capitalistic society in which we live; a society in which human life has little value, especially if the pigmentation of the skin is hued, and having this type of skin places them in social construction. Therefore, we can conclude that after a careful examination of history there is a pattern of hatred toward our race. Not only is it the place that I hold dear to my heart is in such degradation but this environment is going to be left for the many children that will inherit this Earth along with its environmental issues.
Being that community has lost its luster, it is now termed a ghetto and therefore its existence has been devalued by society. Shelby (2006) makes this observation about the criteria for American ghettos, “American ghettos are marked by three core characteristics—race, space, and poverty. Specifically, ghettos are (1) predominantly black, (2) urban neighborhoods, (3) with high-poverty rates. “, (p. 6), and unfortunately for the residents of Hyde Park, it fits these characteristics.
Also, where ever there is a major environmental crisis there is a prevalence of crime and drug usage. These types of social problem are due to the devaluation and dehumanization of the human life. It seems as if the color of our skin is compared to leapers; to be put away, hidden from society becoming, dependent upon the “scraps’ of those who oppress as if we have no ability to think.
Environmental racism is as to the environment as malignancy is to the United States, deadly. One might think that the United States after its historical Civil Rights movement would be the last to succumb to such inhumane plights, but it has. Racism has never failed to exist in our society; it has just been transformed and redirected.
The blatant “whites only” signs and public lynching’s have been replaced by the agonizing realization that “they don’t really care about us” as we wonder about our unspoken crime in this world, our race. We have been victims of colonization to where we question our culture, families, and contributions without collectively questioning society. Regardless of what we have been accused of as a people, it is not our industries that lay waste in the environment all for the name of profit.
Racism has been linked to environmental planning and has been found to be a common practice in governmental policies that weave its intricate web through mainstream society, which includes the high exposure to health risk in minorities. Unfortunately, minorities are at an economic disadvantage and their quality of life is threatened; therefore, their only recourse is to fight for their lives.
We all share the environment; it provides our natural as well as our physical world everything is interconnected. All human beings are affected by the degradation of land, water, air, and their health. When this degradation is intentionally directed at people of color the ugly head of racism is once more unearthed and environmental racism is perpetuated.
In particular, African American communities are finding themselves in the throes of this crisis. Several studies have concluded that the practice of environmental racism is prevalent and disturbing echoing a critical analysis of how society views African Americans. Although African Americans are members of society, they are often faced with more social injustices than any other race, especially in the southern United States.
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