If you’ve ever had the misfortune of catching even a split second of oldies radio, you may have heard a terrible song by The Hollies that contains the following chorus:
Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
And to love you
However, for ethnic minorities, the air that they breathe is often filled with crap, so I guess they just have to settle for the ability to love you.
You see, a recent study has shown that “pollution, much like wealth, is not distributed equally in the United States.”
Specifically, “air pollution is disproportionately caused by white Americans’ consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic Americans.”
Basically, white Americans have more money and therefore buy more stuff. This consumer demand for products, in turn, increases air pollution. However, the shitty air doesn’t linger in white neighborhoods. It tends to concentrate in poorer neighborhoods, where ethnic minorities often live.
The result is that “minority communities are exposed to pollution that they bear less responsibility for.” In fact, when the researchers crunched the numbers, they found that “whites experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce … while blacks and Hispanics bear 56 and 63 percent more air pollution, respectively, than they cause.”
The inequity and murderous irony of this situation can be summed up thusly: Blacks and Latinos are less likely to buy junk they don’t need, but they are far more likely to inhale the toxic garbage that comes from creating that junk.
Now, certain commentators — such as the overprivileged offspring of ignorant bigots — have mocked these results by claiming that the study has created the ludicrous concept of “racist air.”
Of course, it’s a well-known conservative ploy to dismiss complex concepts with short, catchy phrases that mislead and misinterpret the data, which also has the convenient effect of provoking distrust and even contempt for facts, science, and anything resembling fancy book-learnin’ by bleeding-heart eggheads.
Remember “death panels”?
However, as many real-life experts have pointed out, such smug condescension “contradicts what we know, and it’s based in ignorance.” Furthermore, such a dismissive attitude “is no joke,” except to rich jerks who “think structural inequality and environmental racism aren’t real because they are as invisible to them as the air they breathe.”
In the reality-based world, “scientists and policymakers have long known that black and Hispanic Americans tend to live in neighborhoods with more pollution of all kinds than white Americans.” In addition, “because pollution exposure can cause a range of health problems, this inequity could be a driver of unequal health outcomes across the U.S.”
Those are the facts of the matter. And smirking about “racist air” will not make them go away.
So will the propagators of such lies, misinformation and scientific illiteracy ever stop embracing this vile tactic?
Don’t hold your breath.
Featured image: Isengardt/Flickr