At 501CTHREE, we understand that historic and systemic barriers keep people of color from accessing things like voting, food, and water but we also know that racial inequality doesn't stop there. The racial gaps go way deeper, multiplying injustice into lesser known areas (like clean energy and the internet) and harming the wellness, safety, and success of millions of Black, LatinX, and Indigenous people every day. "Race X" is about understanding the intersections between race and access everywhere, and taking action to change things, no matter how hard the challenge may seem. Communities of color have been facing racial problems in the shadows for too long, and it's time for us to shine a light on solutions. We're going to use our voices, our platform, and our resources to make an impact and empower people of color across the world, starting at Race X:
Where does your drinking water come from? Most Americans can't answer that question1, and that's actually not such a bad thing, because it means they're not worrying about their water source. But for many, where the next glass of water comes from is an all-consuming question that shapes daily life - some people have to haul container for hours, dig their own wells, or buy hundreds of bottles just to have access to water. All people, no matter their race, religion, or identity, have a human right to clean drinking water, but one in every three people globally doesn't have access to safely managed water2, and more than one third of Black and Hispanic adults are inadequately hydrated in the U.S3. Problems with water access can be complex, but one thing is clear: Race X Water are deeply connected.
Unequal water access isn't coincidental, it's historical. In the early 1900s, segregated Black communities in the US had less access to water, fewer sewage linkages, lower water pressure, and smaller water mains, among other inequities. Today, those issues live on. African-American and LatinX households are about twice as likely to lack complete plumbing than white households, and Native American households are 19 times more likely4. Communities of color face challenges like lead-laden pipes5, bacteria-contaminated water6, or, sometimes, no existing water system at all7. Old infrastructure, old politicians, and old debts are keeping many cities from improving their water access, and that needs to change.
Race X Water is about connecting communities of color back to their drinking water. While we work on long term policy and infrastructure solutions to close the water access gap, people still need water to drink. No matter the issue, the first step toward progress is empowering people to trust their water and reconnect with it at the source. Our Water Boxes are doing just that.
The surprising thing about hunger is that there's enough food to feed everyone in the world. And yet, two billion people globally still don't have access to healthy food8. In the United States, minority households are statistically more likely to experience food insecurity: Black households experience food insecurity at a rate of 21.8% and Hispanic households experience food insecurity at a rate of 19.5%, both almost double the national average of 10.9%9. There isn't a production problem. There isn't a consumption problem. There's a distribution problem, and it's a racial problem, too.
"Food deserts" are low-income urban areas where people don't have access to healthy and affordable food. What's even worse than the fact that people of color are more likely to live in food deserts is that people living in food deserts also pay more money for the less-healthy food they get at convenience stores10. Supermarkets, where prices are low and healthy foods are more available, are four times more likely to be found in white neighborhoods compared to Black neighborhoods11. Many low income people in food deserts don't have cars, making it even harder to get healthy food, and eventually leading them to give up cost and quality for convenience12. Communities of color have to pay more, commute more, and endure more, just to have the same food on their plates.
The Race X Food issue also becomes a Race X Health issue. Research shows that a decrease in grocery store access is associated with an increase in obesity, diabetes, and other diseases13. In addition to food insecurity, minority neighborhoods also are more exposed to advertisements for tobacco and alcohol and fewer pharmacies with fewer medications. 35.2 million people are food insecure in the US, and over half of those food insecure households are home to children14. Race X Food isn't just an issue, it's a crisis.
The distribution problem of food deserts requires a distribution solution. Good food is medicine, and if we can provide communities of color with quality food, we can start to improve the quality of their health. We have to increase access to healthy food in low income communities of color as quickly as possible. That's why 501CTHREE is building a Food & Water Box to provide safe water and food security in food deserts. It's made out of repurposed shipping container, and will be relocatable, accessible, and scalable for communities of color across the country. We're transforming food deserts into food oases, one community at a time.
The sun doesn't discriminate where it shines, but solar power does. In a time where minorities are more likely to support climate positive policies15, they're also more likely to be hurt by their implementation. When it comes to solar, Black, Hispanic, and Asian communities in the United States have fewer solar panels installed in their homes than areas with no racial majority, while white communities have 21 percent more rooftop solar panels16. The clean energy revolution is just getting started, and now is our chance to make sure that everyone, regardless of race, can experience the warmth of solar power.
Communities of color endure more environmental problems, so it's time to make sure they benefit from green solutions17. In 2017, solar power was less than half the price of coal18, putting it on track to become the most affordable for of clean energy in the next 10 years. Solar power also gives low-income people (who pay a much higher portion of their income for energy19) control over their energy bills. If solar power is cheaper and better, it should go to those who need it the most, but right now, it doesn't.
Step 1 to harnessing solar power: be a homeowner. Because minority communities have lower rates of homeownership20, they also have low rates of adopting solar. When one person in a community goes solar, their neighbors are more likely to do the same, known as "seeding". Seeding in Black communities actually leads to significantly higher rates of solar installation than in other communities. There's light at the end of the panel - once we overcome the issue of financing, we can give underserved communities a chance at spreading solar power faster than ever before.
501CTHREE is dedicated to shining a light on Race X Solar, so we're working on it now. By partnering with local communities of color and jumpstarting solar seeding, we have the power to change the course of clean energy.