L.A. Times: White Drivers are Polluting Air for Black, Latino Residents

Vehicles drive on the 110 Freeway towards the Los Angeles skyline at the Judge Harry Prege
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Times published an article Thursday claiming that white drivers are disproportionately to blame for local air pollution that affects black and Latino residents of the city.

The article, by Sammy Roth, comments on a recent study by schoalrs at the University of Southern California who found that “all else equal, tracts whose residents drive less are exposed to more air pollution, as are tracts with a less-White population.”

The study blamed urban planning that put freeways through black and Latino neighborhoods (though there may be a cause-and-effect problem, as neighborhoods with freeways may be more affordable and convenient for black and Latino households migrating to the city to find jobs and opportunities). It concluded:

Commuters from majority-White tracts disproportionately drive through non-White tracts, compared to the inverse. Decades of racially-motivated freeway infrastructure planning and residential segregation shape today’s disparities in who produces vehicular air pollution and who is exposed to it, but opportunities exist for urban planning and transport policy to mitigate this injustice.

The Times‘ Roth wrote to “consider my own complicity” in this ongoing example of systemic racism [emphasis removed]:

Today, many residents of the county’s whiter, more affluent neighborhoods — who were often able to keep highways out of their own backyards — commute to work through lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods bisected by the 10, 110 and 105 freeways and more.

As a white guy who’s lived on L.A.’s Westside for most of my life, I’ve benefited from the region’s sordid history as well. Much as I try to do my part — taking the train a couple times a month, walking to local coffee shops and restaurants instead of driving across the city — there’s no question I contribute to the inequitable air pollution that Boeing’s study describes.

Overall, though, the map shows how residents of whiter, wealthier communities disproportionately drive to work through lower-income Latino and Black neighborhoods, spewing pollution. Residents of those neighborhoods can’t do much about it.

Roth describes several possible solutions, including promoting electric vehicles, building more apartments in wealthier neighborhoods, and encouraging people to work from home.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has focused attention on “racist” highways. Recently, a major cargo freeway expansion was canceled in L.A. due to the supposedly racist effects of building it, despite the possible negative effects on the local economy.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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