How does enviromental racism apply to the experiences of Native Americans & African Americans?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question. It is probably best to start off with a definition of environmental racism. 

Environmental racism is a type of racism that is rooted in environmental practices and other variables that handicap a certain segment of society and benefit others. 

When it comes to the experience of Native American and African Americans, we can say that there is the existence of environmental racism. Let me give you a few examples and points of consideration. 

First, those in power create their own ideologies and worldviews. These things, in turn, help them to succeed. In other words, they make up the rules. For this reason, outsiders have a much more difficult time making it. In light of this, outsiders such a Native American and African American right from the beginning were put at a disadvantage. There were language barriers, religious barriers, and social barriers, to name a few. 

Second, even in a free society such as ours, there are environmental factors that play a huge role in helping those in power. Pierre Bourdieu, the great French sociologist, talks about social capital. This is the social benefits that are not easily quantifiable that give people in power great advantages. In other words, social capital is not dispensed evenly. We can call this another example of environmental racism.