The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


Conventional narratives of environmental racism paint a “perpetrator-victim” scenario, in which an environmental hazard is forced upon a powerless nonwhite community. This is not always the case. In 1988, a deal was struck to locate an incinerator in an all-Black suburb of Chicago called Robbins. The debate over the Robbins incinerator, which lasted nearly a decade, emerged as a particularly notable incident of environmental racism because of the willingness of Robbins’ Black leadership and residents to accept the plan. Their support was the result of a longstanding history of racialized underdevelopment and political neglect which had left the town destitute and in need of investment of any kind. As a result, I argue that racialized, historical economic inequality and political neglect can incentivize Black communities to perpetuate environmental racism against themselves. I also argue that the Robbins case illuminates the uniqueness of environmental racism as a form of inequality