A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind

A "powerful and indispensable book" on the devastating consequences of environmental racism--and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities.

Did you know...

Middle-class African-American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes less than $10,000.

When swallowed, a lead-paint chip no larger than a fingernail can send a toddler into a coma. One-tenth of that amount will lower IQ.

Nearly two out of every five African-American homes in Baltimore are plagued by lead-based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered lead poisoning from 2003 to 2015 were African-American.

From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country--cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening the health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power.

The 1994 publication of The Bell Curve and its controversial thesis, catapulted the topic of genetic racial differences in IQ to the forefront of a renewed and heated debate. Now, in A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington adds her incisive analysis to the fray, arguing that IQ is a biased and flawed metric, but that it is useful for tracking cognitive damage. She tears apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, using copious data that instead point to a different cause of the reported African American-white IQ gap: environmental racism--a confluence of racism and other institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and insufficient sanitation services. She investigates heavy metals, neuro-toxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and even pathogens as chief agents influencing intelligence to explain why communities of color are disproportionately affected--and what can be done to remedy this devastating problem.

Featuring extensive scientific research and Washington's sharp, lively reporting, A Terrible Thing to Waste is sure to outrage, transform the conversation, and inspire debate.

Title:A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind
ISBN:9780316509435
Format Type:

    A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind Reviews

  • Ben Babcock

    The common reaction to people seeing what I was reading with A Terrible Thing to Waste was, “Environmental racism? What’s that?” So I explained it to them, fairly succinctly I think, because it ...

  • Lois

    This was incredibly well researched and while the subject matter is weighty, the writing style is easily accessible.This is critical reading to understand the IMPACT of the IQ myth of the Black Commun...

  • David Wineberg

    There is a (perhaps) lesser known aspect of American racism whereby people and institutions assume blacks are dumber than whites, that they are untrainable and don’t deserve as much pay for the same...

  • Kelsey Grode

    Excellent book on environmental racism in America and the effects felt by people both directly and indirectly. Her information about how environmental racism impacts IQ was fascinating and easy to und...

  • Cathy

    The issue of environmental racism is one that many are sadly unaware of. There is a great deal of ignorance around the fact that where you live can have a significant impact on your potential for succ...

  • Corvus

    Harriet Washington is known by many as the author of the harrowing and important "Medical Apartheid" in which she details a long history of medical and scientific abuse of Black individuals and commun...

  • Chasity

    This is insane. I live in Anniston Alabama and while she states the legal side of the whole Monsanto situation and pcbs.. wherever she got her info on the nature of the city is very... VERY.. innacura...

  • Bayley

    Being a science communicator is hard. You have to be able to walk the incredibly fine line of not talking down to the people who are experts in the field while simultaneously trying to convey exactly ...

  • Jake

    The book begins with a scathing attack on scientific racism. This is the view that certain races are more intelligent than others based on their genetic makeup. Intellectuals like Charles Murray and F...

  • Marian P

    Harriet Washington’s A Terrible Thing to Waste is a chock-full study of the impact of environmental racism on communities of color in the United States. Washington, a science writer and ethicist, ha...