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Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice Essay

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2022

The environment in New York has been subjected to high pollution from various emissions. The politicization of asthma as an environmental justice issue in New York City contributes partly to demonstrating the racial discrepancy of the disease.

Julie Sze’s chapter revolves around the activities of the Environmental Justice movement and their activist role in politicizing asthma as a major disease in New York City that is brought majorly by environmental pollution. Childhood asthma is mainly used as a powerful tool in the campaigns to demonstrate the prejudice of race and gender of the malady. Julie shows how the campaigns were used to prove that the communities were exposed to unproportioned outdoor pollution levels and relationally racial prejudice. This chapter scrutinizes why and how power, race, and gender issues interact in modern asthma politics. For example, the chapter reveals that childhood asthma affects the low-income children of African Americans at a higher level than the other races, which is discriminatory. This is significant in explaining how economically disadvantaged neighbors are affected by the pollutants and consequently asthma. Sze optimizes the precautionary principle to explain how and why asthma affects a specific group of people. The principle seems to counter the norm of personalizing a disease and goes ahead to politicize it, arguing that the problem results from collective issues. I think this is a better approach since the genetic makeup that determines race and gender is not used to show disease prevalence that could be discriminative.

Julie analyzes the unfairness brought about by asthma and centers her discussion on childhood asthma within New York City. I agree with Julie that the problem of pollution brings about adverse effects to the poor urban blacks compared to the elite group in society. Conversely, the discrepancy on a gender basis in cases seems veiled to me. Unless scientifically, one gender is superiorly resistant to pollutants that cause asthma, his argument is not convincing. The campaigns by activists against the setting up of new pollution facilities are celebratory. This is because it is always better to prevent than to cure. The effects of asthma range from high management costs, emotional and mental trauma, and social stigmatization. For example, the costs of treatment of asthma are high, which negatively impacts the general well-being of the families and, therefore, contributes to poverty. This is a characteristic feature of many low-income earners in society.

However, I find it traumatizing when the images of poor children of color are used in campaigns in the communities. When their pictures are portrayed, and the same children look at them, who knows what conclusions can be drawn in the minds of the young ones concerning their weaknesses, financial levels, and so on? The other children of the other races would be encouraged to despise and prejudice the poor children of color in terms of race and superiority, which has adverse effects. Family-wise and community-wise, depression can easily stem from these activities and make them live in insecurity, which hinders their overall productivity. I suggest that they could have used different portraits with words that do not show a direct reflection of poor children of color if the message is not explicitly targeted in any way. Therefore, it is paramount that firms, government entities, establishments, communities, researchers, and other relevant bodies must espouse a precautionary approach to all human actions to have a definitive solution.

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