Black Lives Movement Urges Action on Environmental Racism

By Rachel Leven

Aug. 1 — Policy makers must fix historic and systemic environmental injustices affecting largely low-income communities or communities of color, the Movement for Black Lives said in a policy platform released Aug. 1.

Evidence of environmental racism is everywhere—from where toxic waste dumps are located to areas that lack access to clean and safe water, the coalition of more than 50 groups said in its policy paper released alongside its platform. Disproportionate exposure to pollution leaves communities of color at a higher risk for health issues such as asthma and must be addressed through steps such as increasing federal funds for renewable energy infrastructure, the coalition said.

“We recognize that not all of our collective needs and visions can be translated into policy, but we understand that policy change is one of many tactics necessary to move us towards the world we envision,” the platform said. “This agenda continues the legacy of our ancestors who pushed for reparations, Black self-determination and community control; and also propels new iterations of movements such as efforts for reproductive justice, holistic healing and reconciliation, and ending violence against Black cis, queer, and trans people.”

The policy paper and platform come as race issues are garnering increasing national focus, for example, tensions in debates and protests surrounding shootings of black individuals and police officers. Environmental racism specifically has come into the spotlight in Flint, Mich., where a city of primarily black residents was exposed for more than a year to lead-contaminated drinking water stemming from an inappropriately executed water source switch.

The Movement for Black Lives Platform Demands

•End the war on black people



•Economic Justice

•Community Control

•Political Power

Historical Context

The policy paper, which focused on the “right to restored land, clean air, clean water and housing,” was housed in the broader platform's demand for economic justice. The platform was split into six sections or “demands,” which also included the issues of political power and reparations.

The movement in its policy paper on environmental issues sought specifically to put environmental racism in historical context. Iit said environmental racism is “largely a result of our dispossession and lack of control over land, resources, and decision making abilities in our communities.”

Most broadly, the movement said toxic waste can no longer be dumped in these communities, and waste burners should be closed. “Poisoned water” must also be cleaned up and waterways must be protected from toxic waste, they said.

The movement proposed a number of policy solutions. The federal government, for example, must strictly and consistently enforce environmental protection rules, while states must make clean water available for everyone “without restriction based on inability to pay,” it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

The platform is available at

The policy paper is available at

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