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Racial Segregation and Environmental Injustice

September 2021

Citation: ELR 10773

Author: Shannon Roesler

One legacy of the environmental justice movement is documenting the unequal distribution of environmental harms and benefits throughout American society. These inequalities are inscribed in our urban physical spaces by laws and policies designed to exclude African Americans and other minority groups from lands and spaces constructed and preserved for whites only. This Article traces this history, identifying ways in which laws designed to address racial discrimination fail to provide remedies for structural inequalities; and suggests that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s “equal dignity” approach in Obergefell v. Hodges has the potential to be a necessary first step toward redress. The Article is excerpted from the book Environmental Law, Disrupted, to be published by ELI Press later this year.

Shannon Roesler is a Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law.

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