Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day which makes this Movement Monday post a no-brainer. Of course I must cite MLK who led the call for environmental justice. I can’t find the particulars surrounding this quote, but his words are powerful and still true today:
“Together we are approaching environmental justice just as what it is: It is a civil rights issue. By examining environmental requirements in conjunction with our civil rights laws, I am confident that we can do a better job of assuring fairness and advancing justice.”
MLK recognized that people living in racially divided communities are exposed to higher rates of pollution and environmental hazards. These are frontline communities, typically BIPOC and poor people. For instance, the people of St. James Parish in Louisiana who are surrounded by petrochemical plants but scored a major victory when courts ruled against Formosa Plastics building a new plant. The people organized and fought for environmental justice.
In September, I highlighted the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, a predominantly Black community. Guess what? Their water troubles continue. The people of Jackson are suffering their third water crisis in two years, this time due to pipes freezing and bursting. They had no running water for Christmas. Last year, the EPA determined the Jackson water system has been in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As a white woman of privilege, I can’t fathom having to boil water before using it for cooking and bathing. I can’t imagine not having access to bottled water and, instead, using buckets to catch rainfall. As an elderly man quoted in that linked article said, “This is no way to live.”
In 1963, MLK led a civil rights march in Jackson following the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. In honor of MLK’s leadership and the people of Jackson who continue to suffer justice, both civil and environmental, I invite you to check out mutual aid organization Cooperation Jackson and make a donation.