LA Times Claims White Drivers Subject People of Color to Environmental Racism

The study is a “stark reminder of the need for climate solutions that benefit everyone,” said LA Times writer Sammy Roth.

  • LA Times writer Sammy Roth shared a study from USC alleging that those who drive more throughout LA County are subject to less air pollution than those who drive less.
  • “It may sound like a paradox, but it’s not. It’s a function of the racism that shaped this city and its suburbs, and continues to influence our daily lives — and a stark reminder of the need for climate solutions that benefit everyone,” wrote Roth.
  • The study, titled “Local Inequities in the Relative Production of and Exposure to Vehicular Air Pollution in Los Angeles,” purports that carcinogenic “fine particulate matter” that citizens of a particular LA County are exposed to decreases by about 0.62% for every 1% increase in miles driven by those going to and from their workplace.
  • Roth spoke with the lead author of the study and a professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy who suggested “it largely comes down to the shameful history of Los Angeles County’s low-income communities of color being torn apart to make way for freeways — a history that has been extensively documented by The Times,” Roth wrote.
  • “Today, many residents of the county’s whiter, more affluent neighborhoods — who were often able to keep highways out of their own backyards — commute to work through lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods bisected by the 10, 110, and 105 freeways and more,” Roth continued.
  • The study explains its research and findings solely through the lens of racism.
  • “We found that, all else equal, tracts whose residents drive less are exposed to more air pollution, as are tracts with a less-White population,” the study claims.
  • “Commuters from majority-White tracts disproportionately drive through non-White tracts, compared to the inverse. Decades of racially motivated freeway infrastructure planning and residential segregation shape today’s disparities in who produces vehicular air pollution and who is exposed to it, but opportunities exist for urban planning and transport policy to mitigate this injustice.”
  • The study also claimed that “tracts with a larger non-White population proportion—whether high- or low-income—experience more air pollution than do Whiter but otherwise similar tracts.”
  • “Dismantling decades of racially-motivated transport planning and segregation requires concerted effort by planners and policymakers to redress past harms and envision a more equitable future,” the study concluded.
  • While the study calls for equity in air pollution, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also pushing for equitable farming practices.
  • In its latest interim report, the USDA described its goal to “reduce disparities and advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities.”
  • “Equity is now at the core of what USDA does; institutionalizing diversity and equity is a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter in response to the report.