Up now on NYU Press’s From the Square blog, “Flint’s Sorry Legacy of Environmental Racism.”
In observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, I’m leading a talk at Pratt Institute Jan. 20. Details below.
Led by Professor Carl Zimring, this Black Lives Matter at Pratt event will feature a talk on the deep links between race and sustainability; how to think about environmental racism and environmental justice in the broad scope of telling American history. The event will begin with a 30 minute lecture before opening up for questions. LOCATION TBD – please check back after the New Year.
When Joe Biden attempted to compliment Barack Obama by calling him “clean and articulate,” he unwittingly tapped into one of the most destructive racial stereotypes in American history. This book tells the history of the corrosive idea that whites are clean and those who are not white are dirty. From the age of Thomas Jefferson to the Memphis Public Workers strike of 1968 through the present day, ideas about race and waste have shaped where people have lived, where people have worked, and how American society’s wastes have been managed.Clean and White offers a history of environmental racism in the United States focusing on constructions of race and hygiene. In the wake of the civil war, as the nation encountered emancipation, mass immigration, and the growth of an urbanized society, Americans began to conflate the ideas of race and waste. Certain immigrant groups took on waste management labor, such as Jews and scrap metal recycling, fostering connections between the socially marginalized and refuse. Ethnic “purity” was tied to pure cleanliness, and hygiene became a central aspect of white identity.Carl A. Zimring here draws on historical evidence from statesmen, scholars, sanitarians, novelists, activists, advertisements, and the United States Census of Population to reveal changing constructions of environmental racism. The material consequences of these attitudes endured and expanded through the twentieth century, shaping waste management systems and environmental inequalities that endure into the twenty-first century. Today, the bigoted idea that non-whites are “dirty” remains deeply ingrained in the national psyche, continuing to shape social and environmental inequalities in the age of Obama.
2015 is now history, and it’s time to look ahead to 2016. The year should feature a few publications of mine, starting January 8 with the official release of Clean and White. I will give a few talks on the book this year, including in NYC, New England, the Midwest, and West Coast. (Watch this space for details.)
Also due out this year are an article on Bubbly Creek’s past, present, and future I co-wrote with Mike Bryson, and an H-Environment roundtable discussion of Catherine McNeur’s Taming Manhattan. The Bubbly Creek article is part of a special issue of IA, The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology on waste I co-edited with Fred Quivik. Discard studies scholars may find the variety of articles we’d included of interest. And though it’s too early to say if that will be out in late 2016 or early 2017, I am putting the finishing touches on Aluminum Upcycled for Johns Hopkins University Press.