Last week they ran an excerpt of the book Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots, in which the authors interviewed Van Jones, a black environmental justice activist. It's a great interview and a very quick read, so I encourage all of you to take a second to read it. Jones talks about sprawl and its ties to racism, through fear-mongering, media distortion, and classism, and what this means environmentally for people left behind in the city.
He then brings together (in my opinion, at least) two of the scariest things facing black people right now: environmental racism and the prison industry. The amount of money spent on sending disproportionately huge numbers of people of color to prison on trumped up charges could easily be spent thwarting off the environmental throwdown--or at least make cities decent places to live. He uses California as an example--there's a lot of talk in California about energy efficiency, but there's also things like Proposition 184, the Three Strikes Law [the link is a pdf].
If you don't read the interview, please at least read this gem, because it's a situation we all know too, too well:
Those folks [environmentalists] often speak about working together through "outreach" -- outreach in the sense of "outreaching to" these people or those people. Outreaching to the black community: "Well, we outreached to them so 'they' could hear our agenda and get onboard with what we are saying." This, as opposed to saying "let's go make some friends," building relationships, creating relationships. Figuring things out from a place where everyone's views are included. Relationships are give and take, mutual aid and help. Outreaching is the white thing, it's about bringing folks into what you are doing, and does not necessarily convey understanding. [emphasis mine]
My only beef is with what Jones says at the very end, about pushing the federal government into action--two things which I find absolutely antithetical. But, I suppose the anarchist people of color post is one for another day.
The comments, however, are disheartening. According to some, suburbs were not built on racism, and white flight is a thing of the past. Classism is the running theme. None of them are worth quoting here, but if you want to see how much history one can plainly deny while trumpeting their Liberal badge, take a look and keep a barf bag handy.