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COMMENTARY: Environmental Racism is Real, Destructive and Deadly

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The problem with racism and society’s response to it is that we have failed to see this most basic thing: that in order to do that much damage to a community, one must so thoroughly objectify and dehumanize the people in it that they become things that can be discarded and forgotten about,” said Dr. Deborah J. Cohan, an associate professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

For many, Earth Day stands as a reminder of everyone’s role as stewards of the planet.

It’s a time to reflect and to plan ahead for a cleaner and healthier environment.

Still, for many others, it’s also a stark reminder about how African Americans and other minorities are often forgotten when it comes to the protection of their communities.

A March 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that whites experience 17 percent less pollution caused by their consumption of goods and services.

On the other hand, Blacks and Hispanics experience 56 percent and 63 percent, respectively, more pollution than their consumption would generate.

Whites experience a “pollution advantage” while Blacks and Hispanics experience a “pollution burden.”

On his global issues blog, Dr. Robert Bullard said the study builds on a growing body of environmental justice literature showing racial and ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure.

It shows that particulate matter exposure in the U.S. is disproportionately caused by consumption patterns of whites and inhaled by people of color minority, said Bullard, the former dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the founding director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.

Known as the father of Environmental Justice, Dr. Bullard currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University.

“Our Environmental Justice movement has been trying to change this and related environmental inequities for the past four decades,” Bullard said.

While the study takes a somewhat different approach in examining disparities in air pollution exposure by examining consumption of goods and services, “its findings once again reveal blacks and Hispanics bear a disproportionate ‘pollution burden’ or costs, while whites experience ‘pollution advantage’ or benefits,” Dr. Bullard said.

“There is a clear disparity between the pollution white people cause and the pollution to which they are exposed,” he said.

The study concludes that “pollution inequity is driven by differences among racial-ethnic groups in both exposure and the consumption that leads to the exposure.”

There’s a name for this inequity, Dr. Bullard said. “It’s called environmental racism,” he said, noting a term coined by NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Chavis, whose also known as the “Godfather of the Environmental Justice Movement,” first coined and defined the term environmental racism in his 1983 work, “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.”

Chavis said environmental racism is racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the presence of life threatening poisons and pollutants near communities of color and the history of excluding people of color from leadership of the environmental movement.

The civil rights leader also noted that there are different forms of racism, “yet environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.”

“Environmental justice is the corrective antidote to the reality and prevalence of environmental racism,” Chavis said.

While studies like the one performed by PNAS continue to reveal that race is a major predictor of exposure to goods and services to air pollution, conditions aren’t helped when politics come into play.

A recent press release from the nonprofit Earth Justice said President Donald Trump’s policies continue to “chip away at the shield against environmental racism.”

Particularly, the NEPA Act has come into the cross hairs of the president.

The NEPA ACT requires review of federal projects before they proceed – among other things to assess environmental, human health and socioeconomic impacts on communities.

Properly implemented, it gives every person a voice in decisions affecting the wellbeing of their local community, from providing comments on project design to pointing out how a project could harm clean air and water, according to Earth Justice.

It’s far more than an obscure environmental statute: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe made use of the law to fight back against the Dakota Access Pipeline project in 2017.

And today, advocates are charging that the Trump administration is violating core NEPA protections in its quest to build its border wall.

Simply put, NEPA is one of the most effective tools in the fight against environmental racism.

It is essential to ensuring that communities of color, who so often bear a disproportionate pollution burden, get a say in the decision-making processes that are most likely to affect their health, resiliency, and vitality, environmental experts said.

And without robust NEPA requirements, policymakers are left to make decisions that will have real impacts without a full understanding of the consequences.

“The underlying message of environmentally racist tactics and strategies is that certain neighborhoods and certain people matter less than others, and that geographical vulnerability is inevitable when in fact it is socially constructed to be this way,” said Dr. Deborah J. Cohan, an associate professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

“The problem with racism and society’s response to it is that we have failed to see this most basic thing: that in order to do that much damage to a community, one must so thoroughly objectify and dehumanize the people in it that they become things that can be discarded and forgotten about,” Cohan said.

“People’s ability to thrive under these hostile conditions is greatly compromised,” she said.

Extensive data show that low-income communities of color still breathe the worst air and have excessive rates of pollution-related illnesses like asthma and other respiratory problems, Bruce Mirken a spokesman for The Greenlining Institute, said in an earlier interview.

“As we move away from oil, coal and gas to fight climate change, we must consciously bring clean energy resources and investment into communities that were for too long used as toxic dumping grounds,” Mirken said.

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Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision. “We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to more than 9 years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.

Her lawyers called the verdict a disappointment and vowed to appeal.

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.

Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 American dollars on the basketball star.

Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has been detained since then.

Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden-Harris administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

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Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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NNPA Newswire

NEW YORK – The Southern Prisons Coalition, a group of civil and human rights organizations, submitted a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the devastating consequences of incarceration on Black people throughout the southern United States.

With the long-term goal of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, including the carceral system, the report describes the widespread, disparate harms resulting from the arrests, harsh prison sentences, and incarceration on Black communities.

The report also cites the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, prison labor, the school to prison pipeline, and incarceration of parents on Black families.

On August 8, 2022, the UN will review the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the first time since 2014.

Among the ongoing stark racial disparities throughout prisons in the southern United States, Black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, where Black communities comprise 38% of the total population, Black individuals account for as much as 67% of the total incarcerated population.

While incarcerated, Black people are more than eight times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, and they are 10 times more likely to be held there for exceedingly long periods of time.

By submitting the report to the United Nations, the Southern Prisons Coalition hopes to solicit concrete recommendations from the UN Committee as well as commitments from the United States delegation about their plans to address systemic issues in the United States prison system, particularly in the South.

According to the report, several states in the United States have also failed to meet several of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of incarcerated people, including:

  • Work should help to prepare incarcerated people for their release from prison, including life and job skills;
  • Safety measures and labor protections for incarcerated workers should be the same as those that cover workers who are not incarcerated;
  • Incarcerated workers should receive equitable pay, be able to send money home to their families, and have a portion of their wages set aside to be given to them upon release.

“The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We hope the Committee will help to shine a light on these very dark truths and prompt the U.S. to take its obligation to make significant improvements more seriously.”

“The abuses of forced labor are inextricably tied to racial discrimination in our nation,” said Jamila Johnson, Deputy Director at the Promise of Justice Initiative.

“In Louisiana, for instance, people are still sent into the fields to labor by hand in dangerously high heat indexes, for little to no compensation, and with brutal enforcement reminiscent of slavery and the era of ‘convict leasing’.”

“This report reveals the suffering of Black people in southern U.S. prisons, whose stories of marginalization and discrimination echo the racial subjugation of slavery and convict leasing during our country’s most shameful past,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

“Despite widespread knowledge of the longstanding racial inequalities in the criminal legal and carceral systems, the United States continues to allow egregious human rights violations to persist for Black incarcerated people in violation of international law. This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go.”

Read the full report here.

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Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

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By Angelina Liu, Entertainment Editor of The Trendsetter / Texas Metro News

Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

1. Chocolate Secrets

At Chocolate Secrets, located at 3926 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, you can celebrate your birthday by getting one free piece of candy under their candy cases.

2. WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”

Head to WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”, located at 684 W Pioneer Pkwy Suite 100, Grand Prairie, Texas 75051, to claim a free small personal daiquiri on your birthday. Quench your thirst with signature flavors such as “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Bahama Mama.”

3. Sephora

Sign up for a free, Beauty Insider account and receive your choice of 250 bonus points, Laura Mercier, Amika or Tatcha sets on your birthday. The choice of powders, lipsticks and skincare is bound to make you look fabulous for your special day.

4. Starbucks

Need a quick pick-me-up on your birthday? Starbucks has it covered! Join the Starbucks Rewards Program seven days prior to your birthday and make one purchase. Starbucks will then email you a coupon for a free food or beverage item two days before your birthday. The birthday reward qualifies for anything on the menu, including any size handcrafted drink or food item.

5. Jersey Mike’s

In the mood for a sub? Head over to Jersey Mike’s and receive a free sub and drink. Make sure to sign up for the Jersey Mike’s Subs Email Club prior to your birthday to receive this reward. Nothing tastes quite like melted cheese and meat in between a toasted baguette, along with an icy cold drink.

6. The Cheesecake Factory

Celebrating with friends? Tell your server it’s your birthday and receive a free treat as well as a song. It may be mildly embarrassing, but hey, it’s free!

7. Culver’s

Need something cold and sweet to beat the Texas heat? Head to Culver’s for a free sundae when you sign up for their rewards program. The sweet creaminess will surely not disappoint.

8. IHOP

Want to indulge in a sweet breakfast before birthday festivities? Join the International Bank of Pancakes rewards program to receive a free stack of pancakes on your birthday. Pair your pancakes with a choice of chocolate chips, syrup, fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream.

9. McDonald’s

Need a snack before embarking on your next birthday adventure? Download the McDonald’s app and join MyMcDonald’s Rewards to receive free large fries. Mmm, the taste and smell of fresh, perfectly salted french fries.

10. Smoothie King

Want to celebrate your birthday with a healthier option? Enjoy a birthday smoothie at Smoothie King. Download the Smoothie King app to receive this offer.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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