When considering the city of Chicago, there’s so much that you can credit to the Windy City — Harold’s Chicken, Garrett Popcorn Shops and RSVP Gallery are just some of the local gems.
However, one thing no one wants to associate with Chi-Town is pollution, which unfortunately has been a huge problem for residents on the Southeast Side with the relocation of a polluting business.
Now, a federal investigation has determined that inhabitants of the predominately Black and Latino neighborhood where the waste is being pumped out at had their civil rights violated.
The fight for clean air in Chicago dates back for months following the ousting of scrap metal facility General Iron from a primarily white neighborhood on the North Side. According to NBC News, a two-year-long federal investigation led to a discovery by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that confirmed in a letter of its findings a “broader policy of shifting polluting activities from White neighborhoods to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite the latter already experiencing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms.”
More on how this is affecting POCs on the outskirts of the Windy City below, via NBC News:
“For the advocacy groups that spurred the federal government’s investigation, Tuesday’s findings came as a colossal victory.
‘The tide of segregation and environmental racism in Chicago has been devastating Black and brown communities for far too long,’ the groups said in a joint statement. ‘This federal investigation from HUD shows without a doubt that systemic racism in Chicago is creating sacrifice zones and putting the most vulnerable in harm’s way. All eyes are now on the Mayor’s office and City Council to take accountability and end the systems that allow the dirtiest industries to pile up in our communities.’
HUD is urging the city to voluntarily enter into an agreement and adopt an ‘enhanced fair housing planning process that includes planning for overcoming disparities in environmental impacts.’ If it declines, Chicago may face losing hundreds of millions in federal housing funds and potential enforcement by the Department of Justice.”
Surprisingly enough, the office of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot denied the claims made in the letter that was also presented to them, stating publicly, “Unfortunately, HUD leaked their letter, as they have done in the past,” also adding, “We will respond given the opportunity but any allegations that we have done something to compromise the health and safety of our Black and Brown communities are absolutely absurd; we will demonstrate that and prove them wrong.”
The fact that General Iron wasn’t welcomed at all in the predominately-white Lincoln Park, where it got cited at least 11 times for pollution in a three-month period, it should’ve been obvious that giving it a new branding as Southside Recycling and throwing it in Black and Brown quarters wasn’t the way to go.
City Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez calls the HUD letter an “urgent call,” elaborating by adding, “General Iron was a textbook example of environmental racism, but these violations aren’t unique to the South Side. The apathy and complicity at the city level must change.”