Dorothy Book Scholar and Associate Dean of Research David Takeuchi and Assistant Professor Samantha Teixeira have co-edited a special edition issue of the W.E.B. Du Bois Review, a journal based at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The topic of this fall’s installment of the review is race and environmental equity. Lisa Sun-Hee Park of the University of California Santa Barbara and Yonette Thomas, from the Association of American Geographers, were also editors of this special edition.
“We have long been admirers of the Du Bois Review and its mission to provide an ongoing, current forum for important conversations on race and society from a social science perspective,” explains Takeuchi. “To date, those of us in the social sciences haven’t studied the role of the environment as much as we should. But we hope that this issue will open collective eyes with regards to the real intersections between environmental equity and race, while inspiring further research at its crossroads.”
According to the editorial team, it makes sense that this kind of inquiry should take place in the forum of a journal named after Du Bois. “While the science at the turn of the twentieth century explained behavior and social positions with genetic or cultural theories,” writes Takeuchi in his introduction to the special issue, “Du Bois was one of the few scholars who conceptualized and tested ideas about how racial and economic stratification influenced people’s social circumstances and lives.”
Over the course of ten complementary articles, Takeuchi’s team has curated an edition that seamlessly weaves together research culled from various methodologies. The end goals: to build both a comprehensive view of the real impact of the environment on race today, while also suggesting possible interventions to effect critical change into the future.
There are three main categories of research represented in the journal issue:
- The theoretical analysis of large-scale data sets, including one study focused on Chicago that demonstrates that lead exposure has been a major pathway between racial segregation and African American disadvantage in the U.S.
- Qualitative work on how people who may be within the communities represented in these data sets respond to the issues they face, such as one study into how the environment shapes identity and belonging among African American coal miners and their families.
- Suggestions for innovative intervention using the environment in positive ways, specifically, through school gardens and parks.
Takeuchi and Teixeira are both uniquely qualified to tackle this budding area of inquiry between two issues not frequently linked in the greater body of academic research to date. Takeuchi is co-founding director of the Research and Innovations in Social, Economic, and Environmental Equity (RISE 3) initiative at Boston College, and he has published widely on the social, structural, and cultural contexts that are associated with different health outcomes, especially among racial and ethnic minorities. Teixeira’s research focuses on how neighborhood environmental conditions affect youth, and how youth can be engaged in creating solutions to the environmental problems that plague their own communities.
Teixeira is hopeful that this journal issue will feature the emerging field of environmental justice, and help to provide a more holistic and nuanced understanding of just what this field is, and what it can be.
“Historically, when people say environmental justice, they think of recycling,” she explains. “We need to broaden the scope, and when I say we, I mean social workers in particular. We sometimes forget that we have a rich history of environmental work in our profession. It’s time to get back to our roots, and change the way we think about how the environment can play a major role in how we provide services to those who are living on the margins, in various communities across the globe.”