By Ashley Jahja, Program and Campaign Intern, and KR, Executive Director
We’re going rogue with this year’s Think Before You Pink® campaign and connecting the dots between environmental racism, fossil fuel divestment, and the politics of breast cancer.
This week we’re focused on environmental racism: how it impacts breast cancer, why we must address and end disparities in order to take on the breast cancer crisis, and how aligning our understanding of these concepts will provide the impetus to take ACTION to stop breast cancer before it starts.
Environmental racism is a type of inequality whereby Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities face a disproportionate burden of toxic exposures and environmental hazards through systematic and structural violence. It includes policies and practices that have disparate impacts (both intended or unintended) on individuals and communities based on race, and unequal access to a clean and healthy environment.
Environmental health researchers have consistently shown that environmental injustices disproportionately impact communities of color. These communities are more likely to live in neighborhoods categorized as low-income, the result of decades of disenfranchisement and exclusion from generational wealth building. And poorer neighborhoods bear the brunt of air, soil, and water pollution, due to decisions made by industry leaders and legislators as to where corporations can do things like dump waste, refine chemicals, and drill for oil and gas.
Additionally, marginalized communities are the first to experience the consequences of climate change caused by environmental injustices, like extreme weather events, which make toxic exposures more frequent and more pervasive.
We see the further intersections between race, climate justice, and environmental justice, and class, when we consider that socioeconomic status is an added risk factor for breast cancer, given that people with lower socioeconomic standing have fewer resources to address the environmental and economic inequalities that influence their health.
Because BIPOC and poor communities are on the frontlines of these types of exposures and inequalities, it is no surprise that race is one the most determinative predictors of health in America, and that Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by breast cancer, as well as other health outcomes. When we track race as an indicator of health and health risks, what we are really tracking is the impacts of rac-ism on health and health risks. And according to the latest statistics, Black women with low socioeconomic standings face the highest risk of developing breast cancer. [Read more on how environmental racism contributes to the breast cancer crisis…]
At Breast Cancer Action we’re committed to centering those with the furthest relationships to power, because if we work to address and end breast cancer by stopping this disease before it starts, by eliminating cancer-causing environmental exposures, we will remove disparate burdens faced by communities that are hit first and worst. The impacts will reverberate outwards, producing broad public health benefits for all communities.
A person’s zip code or skin color should never determine their quality of health. Join us in collective action as we work toward a world in which people and communities thrive because they are healthy, liberated, and free from breast cancer.