Tonight, Temple University hosts Dr. Robert Bullard, a lauded environmental justice advocate, author and scholar, for their 5th Annual Kelch Lecture. His most recent book, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities, is the latest in a life-long body of groundbreaking work. Dr. Bullard and his co-author B.H. Right examine how poor communities and people of color disproportionally bear the costs and poor health that result from misguided public policy, proximity to industrial development and poorly executed disaster response. “My talk is to look at building just and sustainable communities for all. It’s a presentation that looks at environmental justice, sustainability, and building healthy, livable communities.” says Dr. Bullard.
Dr. Bullard’s work on the subject began in 1979, when his wife, attorney Linda McKeever Bullard decided to represent black communities in Houston, TX that were being unfairly targeted as waste disposal sites. Dr. Bullard served as expert testimony in the case, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc., which became landmark legislation. Dr. Bullard’s later book Dumping on Dixie: Race Class, and Environmental Quality is a seminal text in the environmental justice movement.
Dr. Bullard’s message is clear. “It’s important to understand that in America, every institution in our society is impacted by racism,” he says. “Because we have not erased racism from our psyches or from our society … to think that somehow it doesn’t play a big part is a bit naïve. I think when we talk about public policies, oftentimes that may give the appearance that it’s neutral and objective, in many cases those policies—whether intended or unintended—hit people of color and poor people hardest. That’s what we’ve been doing over the last three decades is documenting those disproportional impacts and adverse impacts of environmental policies on people of color and poor people.”