President Trump: People of color need seat at table on climate change
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With President Trump giving big polluters and rich white men nearly all the seats at his decisionmaking table, it is more important than ever that the racially diverse defenders of our communities are heard at this table.

Too often decisionmakers overlook the needs of targeted and racially diverse communities, like we saw in Flint, Mich. The impacts of climate change are also disproportionately affecting communities of color.

We often say that climate change hits these communities first and worst.

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People of color hold four of 24 Cabinet positions in the Trump administration, none of whom are in his inner circle. In addition to Trump’s unmistakable devaluing of racial diversity, his administration has proven hostile to advisers of color.

 

Within one month of Trump taking office, 16 of 20 members on his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders resigned, many of whom signed a letter deeming his policies and portrayal of communities of color to be destructive.

As the Trump administration erroneously devalues expertise and institutional knowledge by handing over core leadership positions to the inexperienced, by disgustingly elevating nepotism, by downplaying conflicts of interest and by allowing access in a pay-to-play style, openly favoring those with a higher social economic status, members of Congress of color are defending progress on the issues that matter most to our families — environmental protection and creating safeguards to grow healthy communities.

Our families deserve a voice in Washington and leadership that reflects the fabric of their being, their cultures, and their desire to protect Mother Nature. Last month, the League of Conservation Voters unveiled a special report, the 2016 National Environmental Scorecard Report on Congressional Caucuses of Color, which, through new analysis of their Scorecard data, shows that members of Congress of color are among the strongest supporters of public health and the environment.

Through their strong environmental voting records, our congressional members of color are taking a stand, ensuring the needs of low income and communities of color are heard at the dais, on the floor, and all throughout Congress.

Today we thank the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for backing our climate and environment.

Thank you for making it clear to our youth and nation that a person’s skin color and zip code must not determine the quality of the air they breathe, the cleanliness of the water they drink or their access to special places.

When our leaders reflect the mosaic of cultures and communities across the country, we are far more likely to have protections for ALL of the country.

The White House, on the other hand, is shutting out our voice. This was especially apparent as the Trump administration pulled the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

With the privilege this administration affords big polluters and the all-too-frequent racist undertones of their decisions, Trump’s modus operandi has been to roll back common sense public health and environmental safeguards that place people first. When he signed an executive order undermining the Clean Water Rule, which protects the drinking water of one in three people in this country, he placed polluters ahead of our clean water.

When he proposed a budget that slashed EPA’s funding by 31 percent, he placed polluters ahead of our environmental safeguards. When he signed a sweeping executive order that included dismantling the Clean Power Plan, the largest step our country has taken to fight climate change, he placed polluters ahead of our clean air. And the grievances don’t stop there.

At every turn, Trump has failed to value the people of this country and the dignity we deserve, and along the way, few Republicans in Congress have rebuked this agenda.

We in the resistance know this administration lacks critical perspectives from our communities, allowing an extensive list of anti-environmental initiatives to become priorities.

This further proves the importance of shared power across all communities and adequate representation of those with diverse life experiences and perspectives, across genders, religions and races.

We need a seat at the table. We should not have to bring our own chairs and we should not have to elbow our way in. This is the reality of the Trump administration.

Together, with members of Congress of color leading the way, we will fight for justice, by working to act on climate change at the international, national, state and hyper local levels, demanding that every person is provided with clean air, clean water, and even clean street corners.

At the same time, we are going to hold decisionmakers at every level accountable for their actions.

We may not be invited to this table, we may not have seats at this table, but we need to be heard. More importantly, our words needed to be acted upon. A seat at the table is not sufficient if our words do not turn into action.

We need to be heard in the White House and by congressional leadership, especially as our bedrock environmental laws and progress on climate are regularly targeted.

Our communities, in particular, low income and communities of color, bear the greatest burdens of climate change and pollution. These perspectives are integral to finding solutions that will address the climate crisis and make this country a safer, healthier place for all.

We will not be silenced.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, is a minister, community activist and tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice. Cristóbal J. Alex is the president of the Latino Victory Fund, an effort to build progressive Latino political power so that the voices of Latinos are reflected at every level of government and in the policies that drive our country forward.  Both Yearwood Jr. and Alex are on the board of directors for the League of Conservation Voters.


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