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Why Elizabeth Warren Just Mentioned Redlining at a Climate Forum

At the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice Friday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren didn’t shy away from how the environment is directly related to other issues that people of color in the U.S. face—like housing. During her time on stage, she called out the legacy of segregation and slavery in the U.S.

More specifically, she mentioned redlining, the practice where the Federal Housing Authority discriminated against black and brown communities by deeming them risky investments. And that’s got everything to do with the environmental injustice communities face today.

“[Redlining] created a black-white wealth gap that continues even to this day because of the generational effects,” Warren said.

That’s not all redlining did. Research presented at the Annual Thoracic Society Conference earlier this year shows that redlining may be behind the disproportionate health issues communities of color face. In California, some communities with a history of redlining, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, suffer from higher asthma emergency room visits, this research found.

Anthony Nardone, a medical student at the University of California at San Francisco and Berkeley’s Joint Medical Program who has studied this, believes history has everything to do with the current public health crisis communities of color face. Black people are more likely that other groups to die due to asthma, per the Office of Minority Health. That’s not by accident. People of color face disproportionate exposure to power plants and dirty vehicles, and that has everything do with the way the federal government divided communities based on their skin.

“We’ve got to acknowledge the past wrongs that are still felt today, the past official discrimination of the United States government that is still felt today,” Warren said during the forum, “and we gotta take steps toward making that right.”

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