By Stephanie Younger •
Even though Black youth and youth of color – especially Indigenous youth – are the most affected communities by climate change, and have been combating this issue for a very long time, our voices are always excluded and left out of the conversation and action surrounding climate change. Similar to the fight against gun violence, Black and youth of color are often seen as “divisive” when we speak up about issues that impact these communities at disproportionate rates. The media portrays us in ways that stereotype, ignore, discredit and marginalize our voices and lives, and subjects Black youth and youth of color to heavily criminalization.
GreenAction.Org defines environmental racism as, the “disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.” Environmental racism also happens when the press and political leaders and community members ignore the impact this has on Black communities and other communities of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice.
“Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race. Environmental racism is caused by several factors, including intentional neglect, the alleged need for a receptacle for pollutants in urban areas, and a lack of institutional power and low land values of people of color. It is a well-documented fact that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by polluting industries (and very specifically, hazardous waste facilities) and lax regulation of these industries.”“Environmental Justice & Environmental Racism,” Green Action
While Black youth and Indigenous youth, who have been fighting for liberation for a long time, are often seen as divisive and experience criminalization, white youth, many who recently became “climate activists,” are urging political leaders to take action and are getting positive news coverage. By centering decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, and Black liberation, not only are we protecting the future of our planet, we are also protecting those negatively impacted by climate change and whose voices need to be centered in this movement, and acknowledging the legacies of the Black and Indigenous youth who have been fighting for the climate before us.
Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.