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Female leaders focus on racism, its effects on Southern Dallas communities

DENISHA McKNIGHT | 11/19/2017, 7:01 p.m.
Environmental racism has impacted the city for years, and not many residents are aware of it or how it affects ...
Darciea Houston talks about environmental racism in Southern Dallas’ Black communities. Denisha McKnight

The Dallas Examiner

Environmental racism has impacted the city for years, and not many residents are aware of it or how it affects the city.

“Environmental racism is so real that it is hindering the quality of life in the Southern Sector,” said Darciea Houston, lead farm hand at Paul Quinn Farms and environmental scientist.

During a Female Leadership Forum on Oct. 21, Houston explained what environmental racism is, how it affects African American neighborhoods in the city and solutions in hopes of encouraging a cycle of future helping hands in Southern Dallas.

“If my environment is not correct or upstanding then I don’t get to stand up right either,” she said.

Racial discrimination has always impacted low-income Black communities in several ways: food deserts, lack of sidewalks, water contamination in the schools and the construction of landfills in close proximity to apartment complexes and homes.

“I learned that people were buying up stuff in Highland Hills and [other low-income areas] just to hold on to it,” Houston said as she described the process of how this discrimination takes place. “They’re just holding on to this even though this could be a commercial land and used for grocery stores and many different things, it is bought and allocated and nothing could come to the city. What used to be a thriving community that had grocery stores in their environment now doesn’t have any sidewalks or access to food, and community members have to go to Valero gas station as their shopping source.”

The young audience – ranging from fifth to 12th graders from within the Desoto, Cedar Hill, Duncanville and Red Oak corridor of Southern Dallas – displayed shock and confusion. Many of the youth heard for the first time about food deserts and South Dallas’ struggles along with the many problems plagued by African Americans in inner cities.

“When the average family gets off work in the Southern Sector around 6:30 p.m., they would pick up their children and use public transportation to go to store,” Houston explained to her audience. “They get home around 9:45 p.m. and still have to feed their family, go to sleep and do the same thing again [the next day].”

Various consequences stem from this volatile concept such as disease, increased poverty from overpriced health options, and troubling survival tactics, whether legal or illegal. The environmental scientist also revealed that governmental programs that may help those suffering from these issues are problematic due to them giving people “a taste of something without herding them to the real thing.”

“When we’re talking about environment, we’re also talking about if you want to improve, a behavioral change has to happen from when things are introduced,” she explained.

There are 8.6 million STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – careers in the U.S., with women and African Americans being the least represented in these fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Through these career fields, young adults in the community could greatly influence local low-income areas and possibly prevent environmental racism.

Houston encouraged all students who want to pursue a career in medicine, engineering, computer technology and science to use their passion to help people in deprived areas and show them the importance of a healthy environment.

“I urge you all that you implement behavioral changes in each of your fields, because you can tell somebody what they are supposed to do all day long with their body, but if they don’t know how, they won’t do it,” she expressed.

The farm hand ensured that the young ladies understood that before they can implement these changes to others, they must apply these apply these changes to themselves.

“It starts with you first,” Houston said. “Once you believe who you are everyone else falls into that.”