'Environmental inequity' caused by 'colonialism,' course claims

Brown University is offering summer courses designed to help students “unpack” their understandings of race and view pollution as a form of “colonialism.”

Leadership for Environmental Justice” is a two-week intensive class taught by Professor Elizabeth Hoover, and is part of the Brown Leadership Institute, a summer program geared towards high-school students as young as 15.

The animating philosophy of the course is “environmental justice,” which the Environmental Protection Agency defines as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

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Environmental justice is a “timely and highly relevant” topic, Hoover asserts in the course description, claiming that “around the world, the brunt of environmental inequality has disproportionately impacted developing countries, low-income communities, and people of color.”

The class will explore issues including toxic chemical exposure and climate change, followed by an examination of their causes, which Hoover says include “regulatory failure, discrimination, colonialism, and the commodification of land and labor.”

By the end of the course, students are expected to develop their own “Action Plan” to advance “practical solutions” to the issues discussed in class. Examples of Action Plans devised for previous course offerings are listed on Brown’s website.

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Brown will play host to a number of other social justice-themed classes this summer, including one related to Black Lives Matter and public health, which Campus Reform has previously covered, and another on racism in America.

Unpacking Race in the U.S.: Theory, Concepts and Lived Experience” is being taught by Shontay Delalue, the Assistant Provost for Global Engagement at Brown, and is focusing on the “social construction of race in the United States.”

Professor Delalue vows to create a “safe space” for students to talk about these issues, especially since race can be a “sensitive topic,” according to the course description.

Delalue argues that it is important to “unpack” race, since “race is often discussed in silos that do not allow for thoughtful analysis of its impact on our daily lives beyond our own lived experiences,” identifying family members, peers, and the media as factors that influence how individuals perceive their own identity.

“Where did the concept of race come from? How and why is it still such a large part of how we identify one another in the U.S.?” the course description asks. “How are racial categories maintained and changed over time?”

[RELATED: UW course to explore ‘The Problem of Whiteness’]

Delalue promises that by the end of the course, students will develop a working knowledge of “Critical Racial Theory” (which argues that racism is “engrained [sic] in the fabric and system of the American society”) and will learn about other forms of racism including white privilege, colorism, prejudice, and colorblindness.  

“Students enrolling in the course have to come with an open mind and willingness to 'unpack' things they may have formerly learned about race,” she declares. “The goal of the instructor is to provide a safe space for all voices to be heard while using historical and contemporary text to frame the conversation in a constructive way.”

Neither Hoover nor Delalue responded to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

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