CIESIN Reproduced, with permission, from: Bullard, R. D. 1990. Dumping in Dixie: Race, class, and environmental quality. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality

WESTVIEW PRESS Boulder * San Francisco * Oxford


Race, Class, and the Politics of Place

The southern United States, with its unique history and its plantation-economy legacy, presents an excellent opportunity for exploring the environment-development dialectic, residence-production conflict, and residual impact of the de facto industrial policy (i.e., "any job is better than no job") on the region's ecology. The South during the 1950s and 1960s was the center of social upheavals and the civil rights movement. The 1970s and early 1980s catapulted the region into the national limelight again, but for different reasons. The South in this latter period was undergoing a number of dramatic demographic. economic, and ecological changes. It had become a major growth center.

Growth in the region during the 1970s was stimulated by a number of factors. They included (12) a climate pleasant enough to attract workers from other regions and the "underemployed" workforce already in the region, (2) weak labor unions and strong right-to-work laws, (3) cheap labor and cheap land, (4) attractive areas for new industries, i.e., electronics, federal defense, and aerospace contracting, (5) aggressive self-promotion and booster campaigns. and (6) lenient environmental regulations [1] Beginning in the mid-1970s, the South was transformed from a "net exporter of people to a powerful human magnet."[2] The region had a number of factors it promoted as important for a "good business climate," including "low business taxes, a good infrastructure of municipal services, vigorous law enforcement, an eager and docile labor force, and a minimum of business regulations."[3]

The rise of the South intensified land-use conflicts revolving around "use value" (neighborhood interests) and "exchange value" (business interests). Government and business elites became primary players in affecting land-use decisions and growth potentialities. The "growth machine," thus, sometimes pitted neighborhood interests against the interests of industrial expansion. However, economic boosters could usually count on their promise of jobs as an efficient strategy of neutralizing local opposition to growth projects. Harvey Molotch emphasized the importance of jobs as a selling point in growth machine politics:

Perhaps the key ideological prop for the growth machine, especially in terms of sustaining support from the working-class majority, is the claim that growth "makes jobs." This claim is aggressively promulgated by developers, builders, and chambers of commerce; it becomes part of the statesman talk of editorialists and political officials. Such people do not speak of growth as useful to profits---rather, they speak of it as necessary for making jobs.[4]

Competition intensified as communities attempted to expand their work force and lure new industries away from other locations. There was a "clear preference for clean industries that require highly skilled workers over dirty industries that use unskilled workers."[5] Many communities could not afford to be choosy. Those communities that failed to penetrate the clean industry market were left with a choice of dirty industry or no industry at all. These disparities typify the changing industrial pattern in the South.

Before moving to the next section, we need to delineate the boundaries of the South. We have chosen to use the U.S. Bureau of the Census South Region, sixteen states and the District of Columbia, as the study area (see Figure 2.1). The South has the largest population of any region in the country. More than 75.4 million inhabitants, nearly one-third of the nation's population, lived in the South in 1980.[6] All of the southern states experienced a net in-migration during the 1970s. The South, during the 1970s and 1980s, also grew at a faster rate than the nation as a whole---a factor that had important economic, political, and ecological implications.

The South also has the largest concentration of blacks in the country. In 1980, more than 14 million blacks lived in the region. Blacks were nearly one-fifth of the region's population. In the 1970s the region's black population increased by nearly 18 percent. In 1980, six of the southern states had black populations that exceeded 20 percent (35.2 percent of the population in Mississippi, 30.4 percent in South Carolina, 29.4 percent in Louisiana, 26.8 percent in Georgia, 25.6 percent in Alabama, and 22.4 percent in North Carolina).

Consequences of Uneven Development

The South has gone to great lengths to shed its image as a socially and economically "backward" region. However, slick public relations and image management campaigns have not been able to hide decades of neglect and underdevelopment. Many of the old problems remain, while new problems were created as a direct result of the new growth. Migrants to urban areas and incumbent residents who had marginal skills generally found themselves in the growing unemployment lines.[7] Individuals who do not have the requisite education often become part of the region's expanding underclass.

The South's new prosperity was mainly confined to metropolitan areas. Growth in the urban South heightened status differences between rich and poor and between blacks and whites. Poverty coexisted amid affluence. Poverty, however, represented a source of cheap labor. The large pool of docile and nonunionized labor was part of the so-called "good business climate."[8]

William Falk and Thomas Lyson described the uneven economic development and plight of rural southerners in their book High Tech, Low Tech, No Tech. The authors wrote:

Not all citizens have benefited from the upturn in the southern economy. In fact, many may not have benefited at all. Blacks, women, and people living in rural areas have, in varying degrees, received little or none of the job opportunities and economic affluence that has washed over the region. The quality of life and opportunity for improvement for these "people left behind" have remained essentially unchanged over the last fifty years.[9]

Development disparities are heightened by business policies that direct jobs away from minority communities through the systematic avoidance of urban ghettos and rural blackbelt counties. The blackbelt represents geopolitical power (or the potential for empowerment). It also represents the epitome of American apartheid with its rigid segregation practices, second-class status for blacks, and staunch white resistance to black majority rule. Falk and Lyson studied 147 southern blackbelt counties (a band of counties with 40 percent or more black population extending from North Carolina to Louisiana) and discovered these areas lagging far behind other counties in the region, partly because of the concentration of unskilled, poorly educated workers. The authors summed up their findings by writing:

If the SMSA counties are seen as the "pride of the South," the Black Belt can be viewed as the "Sunbelt's stepchild." The industrial growth and development that has washed over the region has left the 147 Black Belt counties with a residue of slow growth and stagnant and declining industries.... High tech industries have virtually ignored the Black Belt.... In short, by any yardstick of industrial development, the Black Belt remains mired in the backwater of the southern economy.[10]

The persistent problem of uneven development and economic disparities caused many writers to challenge the existence of a "New" South. Chet Fuller, a black journalist, traveled across the region in the late 1970s and discovered that "the much touted progress of some southern cities is more illusion than reality."[11] The region was portrayed as booming with industrial growth and expanding employment opportunities that were once closed to the black masses. The New South was promoted as a changed land where blacks could now share in the American Dream. Fuller argued that "power has not changed hands in the South, not from white hands to black hands."[12] What is "new" about an area where blacks are systematically denied access to jobs, housing, and other residential amenities?

Black communities still suffer from institutionalized discrimination. Discriminatory practices occur at various levels of government and affect the location of polling places, municipal landfills, and toxic-waste dumps. Discrimination, thus, involves a "process of defending one group's privilege gained at the expense of another."[13] Black communities and their inhabitants must defend themselves against hostile external forces that shape land-use decisions and environmental policies.

Why focus on the South? The South has always been home for a significant share of the black population. More than 90 percent of black Americans lived in the southern states at the turn of the century. A little more than one-half (53 percent) of all blacks were living in the region in 1980, the same percentage as in 1970.[14] In an effort to improve their lives, millions of rural blacks migrated from the South to other regions of the nation. From the mid-1940s to the late 1960s, nearly 4.5 million more blacks left the South than migrated to it. Beginning in the mid-1970s, however, the number of blacks moving into the South exceeded the number departing for other regions of the country. For the period 1975-1980, over 415,000 blacks moved into the South, while 220,000 left the region (or a net immigration of 195,000 blacks), thereby reversing the longstanding black exodus. More than 411,000 blacks migrated to the South during the 1980-1985 period while 324,000 moved out of the region, a net in-migration of 87,000 blacks.[15]

As industry and jobs relocated to the region, job seekers followed. More than 17 million new jobs were added in the South between 1960 and 1985, compared to 11 million jobs added in the West, and a combined total of 13 million jobs added in the Midwest and Northeast.[16] The challenges that the South must face rest with how its resources---housing, jobs, public services, political representation, etc.---are shared with blacks who historically have not gotten their fair share of the region's amenities. The major reason for this discrepancy has been the location preferences of businesses. Industries that relocated to the South generally built new factories where they could find surplus white labor and "avoided places with a high ratio of poor and unskilled blacks."[17] The plight of millions of blacks has been exacerbated by the combination of economic recession (and depression-like conditions in many black communities), federal budget cuts, growing tension among individuals competing for limited jobs and other scarce resources, and the federal retreat on enforcement of civil rights and antidiscrimination laws.[18]

The social climate of the South was changed dramatically by the civil rights movement. Some gains were also made in the political arena. Most of these gains were made after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There were 1,469 black elected officials in 1970, 4,912 in 1980, and 5,654 in 1984.[19] The number of black officeholders increased to 6,681 in 1987. There were twenty-three blacks in the U.S. Congress in 1989. This number represented only 5.3 percent of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. There were no blacks in the U.S. Senate.

Only four blacks from the Deep South were serving in Congress (Harold Ford of Memphis, Mickey Leland of Houston, John Lewis of Atlanta, and Michael Espy of Yazoo City, Mississippi) in 1989. Espy and Lewis were first elected in 1986. Espy became the first black elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction. Although some 53 percent of the nation's blacks live in the South, 62 percent of the black elected officials were found in the region.[20] In spite of the progress that has been made since the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, blacks remain underrepresented as political officeholders.[21] They are also underrepresented in policy-making boards and commissions, including industrial and environmental regulatory bodies. The interests of all-white industrial boards, zoning commissions, and governmental regulatory bodies may run counter to those of the black community. Until these policysetting institutions are made more inclusive, we are likely to find an intensification of locational conflicts and charges of racial discrimination.

Endangered Environs

Millions of urban and rural blacks are physically trapped in inner cities while the job centers, especially for white-collar and service occupations, are moving to the suburbs. Housing discrimination, residential segregation, and limited public transportation severely limit the access of urban blacks to the job-rich suburbs. Many black workers must settle for nearby manufacturing jobs---the ones that have not moved out of the inner city. Because of their proximity to polluting industries, black communities have the most to gain from effective environmental enforcement mechanisms.[22]

Unlike their white counterparts, black communities do not have a long history of dealing with environmental problems. Blacks were involved in civil rights activities during the height of the environmental movement, roughly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many social justice activists saw the environmental movement as a smoke screen to divert attention and resources away from the important issue of the day--white racism. On the other hand, the key environmental issues of this period (e.g., wildlife and wilderness preservation, energy and resource conservation, and regulation of industrial polluters) were not high priority items on the civil rights agenda.

Social justice, political empowerment, equal education, fair employment practices, and open housing were major goals of social justice advocates. It was one thing to talk about "saving trees" and a whole different story when one talked about "saving low-income housing" for the poor. As a course of action, black communities usually sided with those who took an active role on the housing issue. Because eviction and displacement are fairly common in black communities (particularly for inner-city residents), decent and affordable housing became a more salient issue than the traditional environmental issues. Similarly, unemployment and poverty were more pressing social problems for African Americans than any of the issues voiced by middleclass environmentalists.

In their desperate attempt to improve the economic conditions of their constituents, many civil rights advocates, business leaders, and political officials directed their energies toward bringing jobs to their communities by relaxing enforcement of pollution standards and environmental regulations and sometimes looking the other way when violations were discovered. In many instances, the creation of jobs resulted in health risks to workers and residents of the surrounding communities.

Industrial policies remained paternalistic toward those who were less well-off. Polluting industries were brought into poor communities with little input from local community leaders.[23] When questions were raised by concerned citizens. the argument of jobs for local residents was used to quell dissent. Environmental risks were offered as unavoidable trade-offs for jobs and a broadened tax base in economically depressed communities. Jobs were real; environmental risks were unknown. This scenario proved to be the de facto industrial policy in "poverty pockets" and job-hungry communities around the world.

The South's unique history, traditions. and laws institutionalized employment, education, housing, and other forms of discrimination. A plethora of civil rights legislation was enacted to remedy inequities of Jim Crow laws and de facto segregation. Beginning in the 1970s the region was transformed into an economic "mecca."[24] Industrial growth was hailed as a panacea for the decades of neglect and second-class status accorded the region.

Even with the economic transformation, many of the region's old problems that were related to underdevelopment (e.g.. poor education, large concentrations of unskilled labor, low wages, high unemployment, etc.) went unabated. New environmental problems were created with the influx of polluting industries. For example, in the 1970s four of the five states that led the nation in attracting polluting industries such as paper, chemical. and waste disposal firms were located in the South. These four states, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida, are not known for having strong environmental programs.[25]

Many industrial firms especially waste disposal companies and industries that have a long history of pollution violations, came to view the black community as a "pushover lacking community organization, environmental consciousness, and with strong and blind pro-business politics."[26] These communities were ripe for exploitation. Residents of economically impoverished areas---intimidated by big corporations and deserted by local politicians---were slow to challenge private and governmental polluters of their neighborhoods. Moreover, the strong projobs stance, a kind of "don't bite the hand that feeds you" sentiment, aided in institutionalizing risks at levels that are unacceptable in the larger society.[27]

According to nearly every quality-of-life indicator, black communities are worse off than their white counterparts. Environmental and land-use regulations are enforced on a less-than-routine basis in black communities. Because a large share of inhabitants in these communities are renters (many from low-income households) rather than home owners, it is difficult to organize and mobilize residents. This marginality also makes it hard for people to donate their time or money to fend off threats to the community. Logan and Molotch summarized this problem:

Ghettos are organized less as attempts to defend the ongoing structure and institutional patterns of a specific neighborhood and more as assaults on the larger social order that denies basic resources to all deprived places and the people in them. It is organization around victimization.... [T]he special vulnerability of black neighborhoods to outside penetration and the difficulties of organizing around turf issues are caused by racist patterns of exploitation, exclusion, and stigma.[28]

There is, of course, a "direct historical connection between the exploitation of the land and the exploitation of people, especially black people."[29] Southern historian David R. Goldfield sees southern ecology as being tied to the race issue. Goldfield predicted that "as race relations continue to improve, so will Southern ecology."[30] Southern ecology has been shaped largely by excessive economic boosterism, a blind pro-business climate, lax enforcement of environmental regulations, and industrial strategies that had little regard for environmental cost. Rapid and unrestrained development has ruined or threatened the region's unique habitat. A classic example of this ecological destruction is the transformation of the life-giving Mississippi River into a "deadly mixture of sewage, industrial waste, and insecticides below fire-belching Baton Rouge."[31] Public Data Access, Inc., in a study commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace, discovered some startling facts on the pollution problem in the East Baton Rouge parish, as counties are called in Louisiana:

East Baton Rouge parish had more violators of emissions permits, commercial toxic waste facilities, employees in petrochemicals, and toxic waste generation than any other county along the [Mississippi] River, and, in addition, ranked second or third for 6 toxic emissions measures, 3 toxic discharges measures, and for toxic waste landfills and incinerators.[32]

The entire Gulf Coast region, especially Mississippi, Alabama. Louisiana, and Texas, has been ravaged by "lax regulations and unbridled production."[33] Polluting industries exploit the progrowth and pro-jobs sentiment exhibited among the poor, working-class, and minority communities.[34] Industries such as paper mills, waste disposal and treatment facilities, and chemical plants. searching for operation space, found these communities to be a logical choice for their expansion. Polluting smokestacks, to some individuals, were visible signs that plants were operating and employing people.

The smell of industrial operations was promoted as economic "progress." What civic-minded individual would advocate against economic progress? For example, a paper mill spewing its stench and poison in one of Alabama's poverty-ridden blackbelt counties led Governor George Wallace to declare: "Yeah, that's the smell of prosperity. Sho' does smell sweet, don't it."[35] Similar views have been reported of public officials in West Virginia's, Louisiana's. and Texas's "chemical corridor."[36]

Growing Black Militancy

Blacks did not launch a frontal assault on environmental problems affecting their communities until these issues were couched in a civil rights context beginning in the early 1980s. They began to treat their struggle for environmental equity as a struggle against institutionalized racism and an extension of the quest for social justice.[37] Just as black citizens fought for equal education, employment, and housing, they began to include the opportunity to live in a healthy environment as part of their basic rights. Moreover, they were convinced that disparate enforcement of environmental policies and regulations contributes to neighborhood decline much like housing discrimination, redlining practices, and residential segregation do.

Black resistance to environmental threats in the 1970s was confined to local issues and largely involved grassroots individuals. In the 1980s some changes occurred in the way black community groups and national advocacy groups dealt with the toxics issue. This new environmental activism among blacks did not materialize out of thin air nor was it an overnight phenomenon. It did, however, emerge out of the growing hostility to facility siting decisions that were seen as unfair, inequitable, and discriminatory toward poor people and people of color.

Toxic-waste disposal has generated demonstrations in many communities across the country.[38] The first national protest by blacks on the hazardous-waste issue occurred in 1982. demonstrations and protests were triggered after Warren County, North Carolina, which is mostly black, was selected as the burial site for more than 32,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The soil had been illegally dumped along the roadways in fourteen North Carolina counties in 1978.

What was the source of the PCBs? The PCBs originated from the Raleigh-based Ward Transfer Company. A Jamestown, New York, trucking operation owned by Robert J. Burns obtained the PCB-laced oil from the Ward Transfer Company for resale. Faced with economic loss as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban on resale of the toxic oil in 1979, the waste haulers chose the cheap way out by illegally dumping it along North Carolina's roadways. Burns and Ward were subsequently sent to jail for the criminal dumping of the tainted oil.[39]

This dumping was the largest PCB spill ever documented in the United States. More than 30,000 gallons of PCB-laced oil was left on 210 miles of roadway in the state for four years before the federal EPA and the state of North Carolina began clean-up activities. In 1982, after months of deliberations and a questionable site selection exercise, North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt in 1982 decided to bury the contaminated soil in the community of Afton located in Warren County. Local citizens later tagged the site "Hunt's Dump."

The Afton community is more than 84 percent black. Warren County has the highest percentage of blacks in the state and is one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. The county had a population of 16,232 in 1980. Blacks composed 63.7 percent of the county population and 24.2 percent of the state population. Per capita income for Warren County residents was $6,984 in 1982 compared with $9,283 for the state. The county ranked ninety-second out of 100 counties in median family income in 1980. The county unemployment rate was 13.3 percent in 1982 and 1983. More than 42 percent of the county's workforce commute out of the county for employment. Although the county lags far behind the rest of the state on a number of economic indicators, over three-fourths of Warren County residents own their homes. More than 78 percent of the whites and 64 percent of the blacks own their homes (nationally only 45 percent of blacks are home owners).[40]

Why was Warren County selected as the PCB landfill site? The decision made more political sense than environmental sense. In Science for the People, Ken Geiser and Gerry Waneck described the Warren County PCB siting decision:

The site at Afton was not even scientifically the most suitable. The water table of Afton, North Carolina, (site of the landfill) is only 5-10 feet below the surface, and the residents of the community derive all of their drinking water from local wells. Only the most optimistic could believe that the Afton landfill will not eventually leach into the groundwater. Unless a more permanent solution is found, it will only be a matter of time before the PCBs end up in these people's wells.[41]

Black civil rights activists, political leaders, and area residents marched and protested against the construction of the Warren County PCB landfill. Dr. Charles E. Cobb, who was director of the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice in 1982, voiced his strong opposition to the Warren County PCB landfill and other siting decisions that make blacks and the poor bear a heavier burden than other communities. His directive to blacks was clear:

We must move in a swift and determined manner to stop yet another breach of civil rights. We cannot allow this national trend to continue. If it means that every jail in this country must be filled, then I say let it be. The depositing of toxic wastes within the black community is no less than attempted genocide.[42]

Local county residents did organize. They formed the Warren County Citizens Concerned About PCBs. This time local citizens were not standing alone. Grassroots groups were joined by national civil rights leaders, black elected officials, environmental activists, and labor leaders. For example, Reverend Leon White of the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice, Reverends Joseph Lowery and Ben Chavis and Fred Taylor of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, District of Columbia Delegate Walter Fauntroy of the Congressional Black Caucus, and some 500 loyal supporters were able to focus the national limelight on the tiny black town of Afton.

The protests, however, did not stop the trucks from rolling in and dumping their loads. The state began hauling more than 6,000 truckloads of the PCB-contaminated soil to the landfills in mid-september of 1982. Just two weeks later, more than 414 protesters had been arrested. The protest demonstrations in Warren County marked the first time anyone in the United States had been jailed trying to halt a toxic waste landfill.[43]

The Warren County protesters even got encouragement from the chief of EPA's hazardous waste implementation branch, William Sanjour. He urged the demonstrators to "keep doing what you are doing."[44] The EPA official questioned the disposal method selected over the alternatives (incineration and on-site neutralization) Sanjour's remarks at a rally at John Graham School in Warrenton reinforced what many of the protesters had suspected all along:

Landfilling is cheap. It is cheaper than the alternative. The people who like to use landfills such as chemical industries are very powerful. No amount of science, truth, knowledge or facts goes into making this decision. It is a purely political decision. What they listen to is pressure.[45]

Residents of Warren County were searching for guarantees that the state was not creating a future "superfund" site that would threaten nearby residents. Of course, no guarantees could be given since there is no such thing as a 100-percent safe hazardous-waste landfill--one that will not eventually leak. The question is not if the facility will leak but when the facility will leak PCBs into the environment.

Waste Facilily Siting Disparities

Although the demonstrations in North Carolina were not successful in halting the landfill construction, the protests brought a sharper focus to the convergence of civil rights and environmental rights and mobilized a nationally broad-based group to protest these inequities. The 1982 demonstrations prompted District of Columbia Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy, who had been active in the protest demonstrations, to initiate the 1983 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) study of hazardous-waste landfill siting in the region.[46]

The GAO study observed a strong relationship between the siting of offsite hazardous-waste landfills and race and socioeconomic status of surrounding communities. It identified four offsite hazardous-waste landfills in the eight states that compose EPA's Region IV (i.e., Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). The data in Table 2.1 detail the socio-demographic characteristics of the communities where the four hazardous-waste landfill sites are located.

The four hazardous-waste landfill sites included Chemical Waste Management (Sumter County, Alabama), SCA Services (Sumter County, South Carolina), Industrial Chemical Company (Chester County, South Carolina), and Warren County PCB landfill (Warren County, North Carolina). Blacks composed the majority in three of the four communities where the offsite hazardous-waste landfills are located. Blacks make up about one-fifth of the population in EPA's Region IV. The GAO study also revealed that more than one-fourth of the population in all four communities had incomes below the poverty level, and most of this population was black.[47] The facility siting controversy cannot be reduced solely to a class phenomenon because there is no shortage of poor white communities in the region. One only has to point to southern Appalachia to see widespread white poverty in America. Nevertheless, poor whites along with their more afiluent counterparts have more options and leveraging mechanisms (formal and informal) at their disposal than blacks of equal status.

When the entire southern United States is studied, even more glaring siting disparities emerge. For example, there were twenty-seven hazardous-waste landfills operating in the forty-eight contiguous states with a total capacity of 127,897 acre-feet in 1987 [48] One-third of these hazardous-waste landfills were located in five southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas). The total capacity of these nine landfills represented nearly 60 percent (76,226 acre-feet) of the nation's total hazardous-waste landfill capacity (see Table 2.2).

Four landfills in minority zip code areas represented 63 percent of the South's total hazardous-waste disposal capacity. Moreover, the landfills located in the mostly black zip code areas of Emelle (Alabama), Alsen (Louisiana), and Pinewood (South Carolina) in 1987 accounted for 58.6 percent of the region's hazardous-waste landfill capacity--although blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South's total population. These same three sites accounted for about 40 percent of the total estimated hazardous-waste landfill capacity in the entire United States.[49] Nationally, three of the five largest commercial hazardous-waste landfills are located in areas where blacks and Hispanics compose a majority of the population. These siting disparities expose minority citizens to greater risks than the general population.

It is not coincidental that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) passed its first resolution on the hazardous-waste issue in 1983 after the national protest demonstration in Warren County, North Carolina. Subsequent protest actions were instrumental in getting the New York-based Commission for Racial Justice to sponsor its 1987 national study of toxic waste and race.[50] This national study, like the 1983 GAO report, found a strong association between race and the location of hazardous-waste facilities. Race was by far the most prominent factor in the location of commercial hazardous-waste landfills, more prominent than household income and home values. For example, the commission study found:

Household incomes and home values were substantially lower when communities with hazardous-waste facilities were compared to communities in the surrounding county without such facilities. Mean household income was $2,745 less and mean value of owner-occupied homes was $17,301 less. The minority percentage of the population remained the most significant factor differentiating these groups of communities.[51]

Growing empirical evidence shows that toxic-waste dumps, municipal landfills, garbage incinerators, and similar noxious facilities are not randomly scattered across the American landscape. The siting process has resulted in minority neighborhoods (regardless of class) carrying a greater burden of localized costs than either affluent or poor white neighborhoods. Differential access to power and decision making found among black and white communities also institutionalizes siting disparities.

Toxic-waste facilities are often located in communities that have high percentages of poor, elderly, young, and minority residents.[52] An inordinate concentration of uncontrolled toxicwaste sites is found in black and Hispanic urban communities.[53] For example, when Atlanta's ninety-four uncontrolled toxicwaste sites are plotted by zip code areas, more than 82.8 percent of the city's black population compared with 60.2 percent of its white population were found living in waste site areas. Despite its image as the "capital of the New South," Atlanta is the most segregated big city in the region. More than 86 percent of the city's blacks live in mostly black neighborhoods. As is the case for other cities, residential segregation and housing discrimination limit mobility options available to black Atlantans.

Siting disparities also hold true for other minorities and in areas outside the southern United States. Los Angeles, the nation's second largest city, has a total of sixty uncontrolled toxic-waste sites. More than 60 percent of the city's Hispanic's live in waste-site areas compared with 35.3 percent of Los Angeles's white population. Although Hispanic's are less segregated than the black population, more than half of them live in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods. The city's Hispanic community is concentrated in the eastern half of the city where the bulk of the uncontrolled toxic-waste sites are found.

On the other hand, large commercial hazardous-waste landfills and disposal facilities are more likely to be found in rural communities in the southern blackbelt.[54] Many of these facilities that are located in black communities are invisible toxic time bombs waiting for a disaster to occur.

Finally, the burden, or negative side, of industrial development has not been equally distributed across all segments of the population. Living conditions in many communities have not improved very much with new growth. Black communities became the dumping grounds for various types of unpopular facilities, including toxic wastes, dangerous chemicals, paper mills, and other polluting industries.

The path out of this environmental quagmire is clearly one that involves more communities in activities designed to reclaim the basic right of all Americans---the right to live and work in a healthy environment. A political strategy is also needed that can draw from a wide cross-section of individuals and groups who share a common interest in preservation of environmental standards. In his keynote address to the 1983 Urban Environment Conference on toxics and minorities, Congressman John Conyers of Detroit pinpointed this strategy. The black congressman saw broad-based groups (e.g., similar to those attending the New Orleans meeting) as having an "opportunity to raise the fairness issue in all dimensions, including the toxic threat to the poor, minority and working class Americans."[55]


Chapter Two

1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Report of the President's Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980), pp. 165-169; John D. Kasarda, "Implications of Contemporary Distribution Trends for National Urban Policy," Social Science Quarterly 61 (December 1980): 373-400.

2. John D. Kasarda, Michael D. Irwin, and Holly L. Hughes, "The South Is Still Rising," American Demographics 8 (June 1986): 34.

3. G. William Domhoff, "The Growth Machine and the Power Elite: A Challenge to Pluralists and Marxists Alike," in Robert J. Waste, ed., Community Power: Directions for Future Research (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1986), p. 58.

4. Harvey L. Molotch, "The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place," American Journal of Sociology 82 (September 1976): 320.

5. Domhoff, "The Growth Machine and the Power Elite," p. 61.

6. US. Bureau of the Census, State and Metropolitan Area Data Book 1982 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), p. xxx.

7. Robert D. Bullard, "Blacks and the New South: Challenges of the Eighties," Journal of Intergroup Relations 15 (Summer 1987): 25.

8. David C. Perry and Alfred J. Watkins, eds., The Rise of the Sunbelt Cities (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1977), p. 77; Robert D. Bullard, ed., In Search of the New South: The Black Urban Experience in the 1970s and 1980s (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989), Chapter 1.

9. William W. Falk and Thomas A. Lyson, High Tech, Low Tech, No Tech: Recent Industrial and Occupational Change in the South (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), pp. 2-3.

10. Ibid., p. 55.

11. Chet Fuller, "I Hear Them Call It the New South," Black Enterprise 12 (November 1981): 41.

12. Ibid., pp. 41-44.

13. Joe R. Feagin and Clairece Booher Feagin, Discrimination American Style: Institutional Racism and Sexism (Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krueger Publishing, 1986), p. 9.

14. William C. Matney and Dwight L. Johnson, America's Black Population: A Statistical View 1970-1982 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983), p. 1.

15. Ibid., p. 2; Isaac Robinson, "Blacks Move Back to the South," American Demographics 9 (June 1986): 40-43.

16. Kasarda et al., "The South Is Still Rising," p. 32.

17. Gurney Breckenfeld, "Refilling the Metropolitan Doughnut," in David C. Perry and Alfred J. Watkins, eds., The Rise of the Sunbelt Cities (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1977), p. 238.

18. See Robert D. Bullard, Invisible Houston: The Black Experience in Boom and Bust (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1987), pp. 2-13; William J. Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 180-181; John D. Kasarda, "Caught in the Web of Change," Society 21 (1983): 41-47; William J. Wilson, "The Black Underclass," Wilson Quarterly (Spring 1984): pp. 88-99; David Beers and Diana Hembree, "The New Atlanta: A Tale of Two Cities," Nation 244 (March 1987): 347, 357-360; Margaret Edds, Free at Last: What Really Happened When Civil Rights Came to Southern Politics (Bethesda: Adler and Adler, 1987), pp. 51-76; Bradley R. Rice, "Atlanta: If Dixie Were Atlanta," in Richard M. Bernard and Bradley R. Rice, eds., Sunbelt Cities: Politics and Growth Since World War II (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984), pp. 31-57; Art Harris, "Too Busy to Hate," Esquire 103 (June 1985): 129-133; Charles Jaret, "Black Migration and Socioeconomic Inequality in Atlanta and the Urban South," Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 14 (Summer 1987): 62-105; Nathan McCall, "Atlanta: City of the Next Generation." Black Enterprise 17 (May 1987): 56-58.

19. Joint Center for Political Studies, Black Elected Officials: A National Roster (New York: UNIPUB, 1984), p. 61.

20. Michael Preston, Lenneal J. Henderson, Jr., and Paul Puryear, eds., The New Black Politics: The Search for Political Power (New York: Longman, 1987), p. vii.

21. Chandler Davidson, ed., Minority Vote Dilution (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1984), 1-26.

22. Bullard, Invisible Houston, pp. 2-13.

23. Robert D. Bullard and Beverly H. Wright, "Environmentalism and the Politics of Equity: Emergent Trends in the Black Community," Mid-American Review of Sociology 12 (Winter 1987): 32-33.

24. Kasarda, "The Implications of Contemporary Trends for National Urban Policy," pp. 373-400; Bullard, Invisible Houston, p. 2.

25. David R. Goldfield, Promised Land: The South Since 1945 (Arlington Heights. Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1987), p. 197.

26. Will Collette, "Somewhere Else USA: Fighting Back Against Chemical Dumpers," Southern Neighborhoods 9 (September 1985): 1--3.

27. Bullard and Wright, "Environmentalism and the Politics of Equity," pp. 22-24.

28. John R. Logan and Harvey L. Molotch, Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 138.

29. Goldfield, Promised Land, pp. 211-212.

30. Ibid.

31. Michael H. Brown, The Toxic Cloud: The Poisoning of America's Air (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), p. 161.

32. Public Data Access, Inc., Mortality and Toxics Along the Mississippi River (New York: Greenpeace, 1988), p. 7.

33. Goldfield, Promised Land, p. 197.

34. Max Neiman and Ronald O. Loveridge, "Environmentalism and Local Growth Control: A Probe into the Class Bias Thesis," Environment and Behavior 13 (1981): 759-772.

35. Quoted in Goldfield, Promised Land, p. 197.

36. Ben A. Franklin. "In the Shadow of the Valley," Sierra 71 (May/June 1986): 40-41; Jane Slaughter, "Valley of the Shadow of Death," Progressive 49 (March 1985): 50; David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf, "Jobs and Illness in Petrochemical Corridor," Washington Post, December 22, 1987, p. 1; Brown, The Toxic Cloud, pp. 152-161.

37. Bullard and Wright, "Environmentalism and the Politics of Equity," pp. 32-33.

38. Susan Pollack and JoAnn Grozuczak, Reagan, Toxics and Minorities (Washington, D.C.: Urban Environment Conference, Inc., 1984), p. 20.

39. Ken Geiser and Gerry Waneck, "PCBs and Warren County," Science for the People 15 (July/August 1983): 17; Kimberly French, "A Community Unites Against Toxic Waste," Whole Life Times (January/February 1983), p. 25.

40. Warren County Economic Development Commission, "Warren County Demographic Profile," (March 1984), pp. 1-14.

41. Geiser and Waneck, "PCBs and Warren County," p. 17.

42. Quoted in Urban Environment Conference, Inc., Taking Back Our Health: An Institute on Surviving the Toxic Threat to Minority Communities (Washington, D.C.: Urban Environment Conference, Inc., 1985), p. 38.

43. See Winston-Salem Sentinel, September 15, 1982, p. 13; Durham Morning Herald, September 30, 1982, p. IB; Winston-Salem Journal, September 27, 1982, p. 7.

44. Quoted in Winston-Salem Sentinel, September 27, 1982, p. 7.

45. Ibid.

46. U.S. General Accounting Office, Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities (Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office, 1983), p. 1.

47. Ibid., p. 3.

48. Commission for Racial Justice, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Wastes Sites (New York: United Church of Christ, 1987), p. xi.

49. Ibid., p. 16.

50. Ibid., p. 66.

51. Ibid., pp. 15-16.

52. Michael R. Greenberg and Richard F. Anderson, Hazardous Waste Sites: The Credibility Gap (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research, 1984), p. 158.

53. Commission for Racial Justice, Toxic Wastes and Race, p. 3.

54. U.S. General Accounting Office, Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills, p. 2.; Samuel S. Epstein, Lester O. Brown, and Carl Pope, Hazardous Waste in America (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1983), pp. 33-39; See Adeline Levine, Love Canal: Science, Politics, and People (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1982), Chapter 1; Office of Technology Assessment, Technologies and Management Strategies for Hazardous Waste Control (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983), p. 3. Epstein et al., Hazardous Waste in America, pp. 6-11. Michael H. Brown, Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 267.

55. Quoted in New York Times, November 19, 1983.


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In the 1990s, we are likely to see more minority and working-class communities becoming active in environmental causes. At present, there is no national network of organizations that target environmental problems in minority and poor communities. A comprehensive directory of individuals and groups who are working on environmental equity issues in the United States is needed. Below is a list of the many local, regional, and national groups that are working on minority issues. A list of individuals who are conducting research on environmental problems in minority communities is also provided. These lists are by no means exhaustive.

Local and Regional Groups

Alabamians for a Clean Environment 491 Country Club Road York, AL 36925 Kaye Kiker (205) 392-7443

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation 2111 Mission Street, Suite 401 San Francisco, CA 94110 Luke Cole (415) 863-3520

Center for Community Action P.O. Box 723 Lumberton, NC 28359 Richard Regan (919) 739-7851

Citizens for a Better America P.O. Box 356 Halifax, VA 24558 Cora Tucker (804) 476-7757

Citizens for a Better Environment 942 Market Street, Suite 505 San Francisco, CA 94102 Michael E. Belliveau (415) 788-0690

Earth Island Institute Urban Habitat Program 300 Broadway, Suite 28 San Francisco, CA 94133 John Knox (415) 788-3666

Gulf Coast Tenants Leadership Development Project P.O. Box 56101 New Orleans LA 70156 Pat Bryant (504) 949-4919

Highlander Center Route 3, Box 370 New Market, TN 37820 Paul Deleon (615) 933-3443 Labor-Community Strategy Center 6454 Van Nuys Boulevard, Suite 150 Van Nuys, CA 91401 Eric Mann (818) 781-9922

Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) 203 North Gadsden Street, Suite 5 Tallahassee. FL 32301 Suzie Ruhl (904) 681-2591

Maricopa County Organizing Project 5040 Central Avenue, C-l Phoenix, AZ 85040 Francisca Cavanos (602) 268-6099

Native Americans for a Clean Environment P.O. Box 1671 Tahlequah, OK 74465 Vicki McCollough (918) 458-4322

Southwest Organizing Project 1114 7th Street, N.W. Albuquerque, NM 87102 Richard Moore (505) 247-8832

Service Training for Environmental Programs (formerly Student Environmental Health Project--STEPH)

Center for Health Services Station 17 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 37232 Hubert Dixon (615) 322-6278

Tools for Change P.O. Box 14141 San Francisco, CA 94114 Margo Adair (415) 861-6838

West County Toxics Coalition 109 MacDonald Avenue Richmond, CA 94801 Henry Clark (415) 237-4996

National Groups The CEIP Fund, Inc. 68 Harrison Avenue Boston, MA 02111 Lavatus Powell (617) 426-4375

Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy 733 6th Street, S.E. Washington, DC 20036 Norris McDonald (202) 543-3939

Center for Third World Organizing 3861 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Oakland, CA 94609 Alfredo DeAvila (415) 654-9601

Citizen's Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste P.O. Box 926 Arlington, VA 22216 Lois Gibbs (202) 276-2020

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. 1004 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. Washington, DC 20003 Arthur Johnson (202) 675-6730

Eco Justice Task Force, United Methodist Church 100 Maryland Avenue, N.E. Washington, DC 20003 J.D. Hansen (202) 488-5649

Eco Justice Working Group, National Council of Churches 474 Riverside Drive New York, NY 10115 Dean Kelly (212) 870-2483

Environmental Consortium for Minority Outreach 1001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 827 Washington, DC 20036 Gerry Stover (202) 331-8387

Greenpeace 1436 U Street Washington, DC 20009 Peter Bahouth (202) 462-1177

Human Environment Center 1001 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 827 Washington, DC 20036 Andrew Moore (202) 331-8387

Labor Occupational Health Program Institute of Industrial Relations University of California Berkeley, CA 94720 Daryll Alexander (415) 642-5507

Migrant Legal Action Center 2001 S Street, N.W., Suite 827 Washington, DC 20009 Shelly Davis (202) 462-7744

National Rainbow Coalition 1110 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Suite 410 Washington, DC 20005 Sasha Natapoff(202) 728-1180

National Toxics Campaign 37 Temple Place, 4th Floor Boston, MA 02111 John O'Connor (617) 482-1477

National Wildlife Federation 1400 16th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20036 David Hahn-Baker (202) 797-6800

The Panos Institute 1409 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314 Dana Alston (703) 836-1302

Scenic America 216 7th Street, S.E. Washington, DC 20003 Joan Moody (202) 546-1100

Sierra Club, Delta Chapter 616 Adams Street New Orleans, LA 70118 Darryl Malek-Wiley (504) 865-8708

United Church of Christ, Commission for Racial Justice 475 Riverside Drive, Room 1950 New York, NY 10115 Charles Lee (212) 870-2077

Individual Research on Minorities and the Environment Conner Bailey Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Auburn University Auburn, AL 36849 (205) 844-5632

Conducting statewide environmental surveys in Alabama and analysis of noxious facility siting in the mostly rural, sparsely populated blackbelt. Bunyan Bryant School of Natural Resources University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ml 48109 (313) 763-2470

Co-directing a Detroit metropolitan area survey on the environment and minority concerns. Robert D. Bullard Department of Sociology University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 92521 (714) 787-5444

Conducting research on environmental dispute resolution, environmental justice, and strategies for diversifying the global environmental movement. Michel Gelobter Energy and Resources Group University of California Berkeley, CA 94720 (415) 642-1640

Graduate student working on differential impact of the federal Clean Air Act on poor and minority communities. Cynthia Harris Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Mail Stop E32 1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30333 (404) 639-0631

Directing a research project that focuses on health impacts of minorities who live near National Priority List (NPL) toxic waste sites and organizing a national minority health conference. Director of Research United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice 475 Riverside Drive, Room 1950 New York, NY 10115 (212) 870-2077

Co-authored the commission's toxic waste and race study. Working on strategies to combat environmental racism and broader social justice issues. Paul Mohai School of Natural Resources University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (313) 763-4598

Co-directing a study on environmental issues and concerns in the Detroit metropolitan area. Ivette Perfecto School of Natural Resources University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (313) 764-2550

Working on the problem of pesticide dumping in Latin America with special emphasis on pollution problems in Puerto Rico. Dorceta Taylor School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Yale University New Haven, CT 06511 (203) 562-0065

Graduate student working on environmental activism models and strategies to enhance minority participation in traditional environmental organizations. Harvey White School of Public and International Affairs University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (412) 648-7666

Conducting research in the area of toxics in southeast Louisiana's "chemical corridor" with emphasis on problems facing the mostly black Scotland-ille and Alsen communities located in East Baton Rouge parish. John Gaventa Department of Sociology University of Tennessee, Knoxville Knoxville, TN 37916 (615) 974-6021

Working on economic and environmental blackmail issues in Appalachia and the South. Don Snow The Conservation Leadership Project Box 8569 Missoula, MT 59807 (406) 543-3502

Working with a minority roundtable group in exploring strategies that traditional environmental and natural resources management organizations might use to increase the level of participation from people of color. Beverly Wright Department of Sociology Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC 27109 (919) 759-5495

Working in the areas of minority health, workplace hazards, and environmental justice.