by Kyle Yu '22
During the expansion of the Interstate Highways in the 1950s and 60s, highways were planned through cities. Those who had money and political power, like people in Greenwich Village, were successful in stopping highways from being constructed in their neighborhoods. But poorer black communities did not have the same power and highways were built right through. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed to build these highways. For instance, in the city of Detroit, the formerly thriving neighborhoods of Paradise Valley and Black Bottom were demolished, replaced with an interchange and highways.
Just how bad are highways for these communities? In Orlando, a predominately black housing project in the Parramore neighborhood is surrounded by three highways. Soot and dust fill the air here. 41% of children in the neighborhood suffer from a chronic disease. This community was created deliberately, as highways followed railroad routes which had already segregated Orlando.
In general, people of color are exposed to more transportation pollution than white people. Race has been shown to be the main factor in whether or not a community is exposed, not income.
What can we do? We should advocate for policies which take cars off the road and expand public transportation. We should also tear down highways and replace them with greenspace to help mitigate the lack of parks in these communities. Lastly, we must amplify the voices of people in these communities and resist destructive highways.
Beep beep! Highways have divided and destroyed marginalized communities. People of color are much more likely to live near highways and suffer from transportation pollution than white people.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/florida-poor-black-neighborhood-air-pollution_us_5a663a67e4b0e5630072746e Huffington Post
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/14/us-people-of-color-still-more-likely-to-be-exposed-to-pollution-than-white-people The Guardian
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