Teaching Activities (Free)

The Big Red Dot of Environmental Racism

Teaching Activity. By Alma Anderson McDonald.
A teacher looks back on her childhood to discover the meaning of environmental racism. Linda Christensen offers ways to teach about this story with students.

Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001 - Present
Themes: African American, Economics, Environment & Food, Racism & Racial Identity
Michele Roberts, environmental justice coordinator | Zinn Education Project

Michele Roberts, environmental justice coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, D.C. Source: www.dicksimon.com.

By Alma Anderson McDonald

Since Hercules closed its doors in 2009, there had been talk around town that there could possibly be a lawsuit filed by the city against the company for environmental pollution. So it came as no surprise to me when in 2013 I received my letter to attend a meeting for a class action lawsuit against Hercules and its parent company, the Ashland Company.
The meeting was two weeks later on a Thursday at Lake Terrace Convention Center. When we entered the building, we were directed toward two lines: one for just property owners and one for property owners with medical claims. Though non-property owners with medical conditions were allowed to come to the meeting, this phase of the suit was only for property owners with or without medical claims. Non-property owners could not file a claim on this case and would have to wait until a secondary lawsuit was filed in the future. I was glad my claim was just as a property owner without a medical condition.

Once I made it to the front of the line, the lady at the table asked for my address.

“203 West 7th Street,” I said.

At which she let out a long “Oooo,” and said, “Yeah, you’re right in the area.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. So, I signed my name and took the forms that she handed me and went into the large conference room.

The number of people who were there surprised me. We all had this look on our faces that was a mixture of hope, fear, concern, and anger. As we waited for the meeting to begin, I overheard some telling stories of their experiences or those of relatives who had lived in Hattiesburg their whole lives.

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