A Tale of Two Brownfields in the Midwest

There are over 450,000 Brownfields in the United States, unevenly located near Black, Brown, and poor communities. Brownfields are properties that are under remediation for future development purposes. This story is about two of these communities, one, predominantly Black and the other, white.

Vignettes of the two communities illustrate that some towns are able to move forward and evolve after contamination has been exposed and cleaned up, and their neighbors across the river can’t even get a soil test to know for sure if their backyard is safe to garden. Financial investment, racism, and skepticism of governmental agencies and scientific practices help explain why one town cannot completely transition into an inclusive home for all of its residents. This won't happen until the local government addresses sins of the past and gains trust from the people who have been on the receiving end of injustice for over 100 years.

This story highlights dwindling trust and faith in public institutions and looks at why it’s happening in this particular situation. Once trust is lost or if it is never gained, objective practices such as science are seen as relative and the possibility of healing and progress becomes an unlikely future.