Communities that have a good school district, low crime rate, nearby hospital, grocery store and entertainment amenities that provide comfort and relaxation hold a special reverence in America’s heart. For the most part, they are thought of as special and as traditional as apple pie. But these communities are not as homemade as grandma’s pie. Rather the public benefits they offer are shaped by land use and housing patterns, public policy and infrastructure development. The impact of who gets what and where has created public benefits for some and public burdens for others.
Not all communities are created equally. Industrial policies have shown to be paternalistic towards depressed communities of color with a high concentration of unskilled labor and low educational attainment. Polluting industries see these communities as easy marks and city planners who wrestle with decades of neglect and underdevelopment disparities in depressed communities see an opportunity to strengthen their tax base. Industries provide much needed jobs but they also produce pollutants that can considerably contaminate air, ground and water.
Paper, chemical, and waste disposal firms that are unacceptable in stable all American communities are seen as a welcome trade off in a community where unmet needs are real and “unknown” risk may or may not be evident. In 2000 the Dallas Morning News covered a study from the University of Texas that reported 870,000 of the 1.9 (46%) housing units for the poor sit within a mile of factories that reported toxic emission according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Put it in Blacks’ backyard (PIBBY), the flip side of Not in my backyard (NIMBY), is unjust and a threat to public health and safety. In a world where there is a place for everything and everything has its place, we must remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.