Watch and listen to the two of them letting loose on politics, race, religion, inequality, sports, and the media,
In an exclusive video for Mic, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Common, Chris Rock, Taraji P. Henson, Van Jones and others describe the mundane actions that cost black Americans their lives. Watch below:
For the full post from Mic's Jamilah King, click here
(CNN) The entire political class is united in expressing outrage at Donald Trump's latest diatribes that promote discrimination against Muslims overseas. Rightly so! But many of those same politicians are quietly tolerating -- and even abetting -- another kind of discrimination, right here at home.
A white man and a black woman both go to buy a car. They have similar credit histories, and are purchasing the same type of vehicle from the same place. Common sense says they should be charged the same interest rate, right?
Well, common sense is missing from the auto market today.
There is solid evidence that black, Latino, and Asian-American car buyers are charged higher interest rates than white Americans with similar credit histories. Instead of putting a stop to it, Republicans in the House of Representatives are going the extra mile to allow car dealers to discriminate. Most disappointingly, they are being aided and abetted by far too many Democrats.
In the 1990s, lawsuits documented hidden kickbacks that rewarded dealers for making up the interest rate on many of the loans hey arranged for car buyers. This practice consistently led to higher rates African-Americans and Latino borrowers, more than for white borrowers with similar credit. Because the higher cost is hidden in the interest rate, this discriminatory lending leads to some consumers paying hundreds or thousands more -- without even knowing.
In fact, the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau estimates the total cost to society in the tens of millions. That is one reason why the agency stepped in to recommend that banks abandon the sales model that gave dealerships so much control over interest rates. The Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also reached settlements with Ally Bank, Honda Finance, and Fith Third Bank, which have agreed to pay $140 million including returning millions to overcharged consumers.
So companies lie and cheat, the cops on the beat step in, and consumers get their money back. Sounds like government at its best to me.
But for lots of folks in Washington, anything that hurts Wall Street banks' unbridled addiction is bad news. In late November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill calling on federal regulators and prosecutors to back off and essentially ignore the problem of discriminatory auto lending.
Progressives champions like Americans for Financial Reform, the NAACP, the Urban League, the National Council of La Raza, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus all opposed the bill. So did the National Association of Minority Auto Dealers, a key trade group. But hundreds of Republicans supported it, as well as 88 Democrats, including the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Make no mistake, a vote in favor was a vote to allow businesses to charge higher rates to minorities. In 2015, that is unacceptable, especially from the Democratic Party and its supposed standard-bearer.
I realize that car dealerships are in every district and thus have oversized clout. But minority communities are still in crisis. Millions lost massive wealth in the economic crash after being steered into higher-cost mortgages. Congress banned kickbacks in the mortgage market, why not do the same for the second biggest family purchase?
Worst of all, this bill could make it far easier for businesses of all types to discriminate. The core of the argument in favor is that it is not enough for policies to have a disparate impact; they must be deliberately racist. In other words, the Justice Department should not be looking to see whether practices are resulting in higher rates for some communities, they must instead find some auto dealer willing to raise his hand and declare himself a racist.
Instead of changing the standard, we should continue the approach that has been used since anti-discrimination laws were first enacted approximately 50 years ago; after all, even this conservative Supreme Court affirmed the use of disparate impact in a housing discrimination case this summer.
By a 3 to 1 margin, according to one recent poll, the public strongly supports action to crack down on discriminatory auto lending practices. But not only did a bill in favor of discrimination pass the House, it will also quite possibly be included in an end of year compromise package.
Out in America, people oppose discrimination by overwhelming margins. In the halls of Congress, a bipartisan group voted in favor of it. The next time the intense voter anger and lack of enthusiasm flummoxes those Republicans and Democrats, I suggest they should look in the mirror.
Written by Richard Branson and Van Jones, exclusively for the A3A criminal justice blog series.
From the perspective of philanthropic institutions and individuals, criminal justice is not a distant problem that primarily concerns governments. The failures of the criminal justice system, from mass incarceration to egregious racial inequalities, have had such profound corrosive impacts that they can no longer be ignored.
With 2.3 million people in the US prison system, 7 million on parole or probation, and 1 in 3 African-American men expected to go to prison at some point in their lifetime, we are facing a crisis of dramatic proportions. The system is so fundamentally broken that its very capacity to deliver justice has to be called into question. Equality before the law, the right to a fair trial and due process are frequently and often quite deliberately violated, tipping the scales to a point that conviction or acquittal are no longer a question of guilt or innocence, but rather a matter of socio-economic status and race. If you can’t pay for a good defence, the odds are stacked against you. If you are black or Hispanic and can’t pay for your defence, you are screwed.
It’s an unacceptable status quo that also weakens America’s moral authority abroad. Indefinite solitary confinement, life without parole for minors and the fact that one in nine death row inmates will eventually be exonerated do not exactly strengthen our negotiating position when trying to stand up for human rights elsewhere.
Beyond the staggering facts, the broader consequences are quite clear: this crisis threatens to roll back and undo years, if not decades, of social progress, much of which was accomplished with passionate support from the philanthropic community. Public health goals are undermined by everything from stress related-illnesses to high HIV transmission rates within prisons. Family formation is interrupted; children lose contact with incarcerated parents. Economic development is undercut when large numbers of African-Americans have felony convictions that lock them out of the job market. No question, if the legacies of the civil rights movement, of the fight for equality and of the war against poverty are to endure, we are all called upon to join forces and help restore justice, dignity, fairness and equality – the bedrock principles of healthy, equitable and prosperous societies.
To be frank, this is a momentous challenge many philanthropic organisations have to come to terms with as they seek to find their own role in the 21st century. Much of philanthropy still prefers to treat symptoms, rather than pushing for systemic change. It’s time to shift our priorities.
How can this be done? First of all, reform needs champions and resources. Modern philanthropy should be prepared to provide both.
Part of the exercise is to listen to the voices of the criminal justice reform movement. The wider public, as well as mainstream media, are only slowly beginning to understand the extent of the problem. As advocates, champions and thought leaders, philanthropies can help amplify awareness of the causal relationships between a broken system and its devastating impacts. There is enormous room for positive and meaningful programmatic work to highlight best practices, vocally support reform efforts and grassroots initiatives.
The good news is that change is happening. Ballot initiatives and legislative proposals seek to undo years of injustice. Unlikely alliances are forming across party lines and ideological positions, recognizing that the human and economic cost of these continued injustices, estimated as in excess of $80 billion a year, is not just unsustainable, but also deeply un-American
While the window for change is open -- with so much at stake for so many -- philanthropy needs to continue working open doors of opportunity, while doing everything possible to close prison doors. Both are necessary.
(CNN) Many observers are perplexed by the decision of some Black Lives Matter activists to twice disrupt attempted addresses by presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Well, I am not perplexed. The new generation of civil rights activists never accepted "trickle-down economics" from conservatives. Today they are rejecting "trickle-down justice" from the liberals.
I love and admire Sanders. But until the Black Lives Matters activists started snatching away their microphones, economic populists like him rarely spotlighted the specific pain that has been building in the African-American community. Instead, they focused mainly on so-called "class issues" -- including the need to defend Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, rein in Wall Street and the Koch Brothers, and tax corporations and rich people.
Many African-American leaders support those policies. But we have needed and wanted more. Our economic problems include an unemployment rate that is double that of whites, racially biased policing and court systems, predatory lenders who deliberately target black neighborhoods and public schools that expel black children at staggering rates for minor offenses.
Over the years, many black leaders have asked the populists to include specific remedies for our specific ills. We have done this politely and behind closed doors. Often we would hear that their "progressive economic policies" would disproportionately help black folks, so we should be fine with our community's needs never being addressed by name.
It was infuriating. Sometimes, it seemed some Democratic politicians were happy to publicly name and embrace every part of the Democratic coalition -- immigrants rights defenders, womens' rights advocates, environmentalists and champions of LBGT equality. But not black people.
At least, not explicitly -- and certainly not comfortably. We were just supposed to sit there and hope that race-neutral rhetoric and race-neutral proposals might somehow fix our race-specific problems.
I starting calling this dubious strategy "trickle-down justice."
Today's young activists simply are not having any of it.
In case anyone missed the memo after Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston, here it is: the Obama era of black silence on issues that matter to us is over.
And the entire Democratic Party needs to sit up and take notice.
Black Lives Matter has elevated the national discussion of anti-black racism more dramatically than any movement in decades. It is the only "progressive" force besides Hillary Clinton that the GOP was forced to acknowledge in its first debate last week. By any measure, and especially for such a new phenomenon, that's an extraordinary achievement.
Pundits tend to portray the modern Democratic Party as having only two factions: the pro-business/Wall Street "moderates" (traditionally represented by the Clintons) versus the economic populists (now represented by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders).
But a third force is rising: a growing, racial justice wing (best represented by the Dreamers and Black Lives Matter) that is highly suspicious of both -- and finds the clueless hypocrisy of the second to be particularly grating.
Here are some things to consider.
1) Black Lives Matter is not a single organization.
Black Lives Matter is not a single organization -- at least not in the conventional sense. It represents the expression of tens of thousands of activists, doing what they think makes sense, in hundreds of different places.
In that regard, it shares some features with Occupy, the tea party and the Arab Spring uprising. It is a "swarm" -- a decentralized network, using an "open source" brand. Such phenomena are notoriously messy and difficult. But they are powerful and necessary to change anything in the present era.
So I will not agree with every single choice, in every time and every place, made by every activist who is inspired by Black Lives Matter. But I don't have to endorse or embrace every tactic for me still to speak with deep respect and warm regard for a force that is becoming the most important movement against anti-black racism in decades.
I would hope that would be true of everyone.
Whatever injury befell Sanders this weekend, worse injuries have fallen upon the young women who grabbed the microphone -- perpetually made to feel wrong, out of place, less than, even criminal their whole lives purely based on the color of their skin. Obviously, that sad fact does not excuse anything and everything that any BLM-inspired activist does. But it is something that is useful to keep in mind, as we search for pathways to unity.
2) It is not just about Bernie Sanders...
It turns out the Seattle activists' actions were aimed less at Sanders himself and more at racistpractices and policies being tolerated by local liberals in a supposed progressive bastion like Seattle. The Seattle Police Department has been under investigation for years for racist scandals and problematic use of force. Black children in King County schools are suspended at higher rates than their white peers. And the region is wasting $210 million on a new jail instead of investing in communities.
The gulf between the region's political reputation and its racial reality is not surprising to me. Nor is Seattle unusual. Far too many progressives are working within social networks that are almost monolithically white. In my experience, too few have focused on building authentic bridges beyond their monochromatic comfort zones.
Therefore, they are not really any more tuned in to the daily lives of people of color than the average moderate or even conservative. That's why their prescriptions for change often ring hollow and fall flat -- at least outside their own company.
3) ... but it is fair to hold Sanders to a higher standard.
Some argue that the #BlackLivesMatter movement should focus its fire on Republicans. But the GOP generally does not pretend to be a champion of the economic underdog. And unlike Hillary Clinton or Martin O'Malley, the central conceit of Sanders' campaign is that he represents a voice of moral clarity against skyrocketing inequality.
For example: any fair discussion of "income inequality" must necessarily include a denunciation of our racially biased criminal justice system. Always.
After all, it is hard to get a job after a judge labels you a felon. African-Americans and white people do drugs at the same rate. But the system incarcerates African-Americans at SIX TIMES the rate of whites, for the exact same behavior. This injustice is a major driver of economic inequality in the black community. It should be a part of ANY speech about economic inequality in the United States -- and not just in speeches made to black audiences.
Therefore nobody should have had to push Sanders to tackle criminal justice issues. To the contrary, especially given the turmoil of the past year, the devastating impact of the incarceration industry should have been a key part of his very first speech as a presidential candidate.
To his credit, Sanders has quickly and admirably adapted. Since BLM protesters disrupted his time on stage at Netroots Nation, Sanders has made powerful speeches and statements. He has posted important, relevant policy prescriptions on his website. Sanders' 2015 rhetoric may finally start to match his pro-civil rights voting record in Congress. Of course, he could go further. And I suspect he will.
4) Bernie's supporters have failed to keep pace with Sanders' progress
Unfortunately, the vitriol from many of Sanders' incensed backers is not helping his cause. It pains me to say this. But I continue to observe shocking levels of racial paternalism, arrogance and condescension in my personal and online interactions with Sanders' outraged supporters. They remain tone deaf or worse on issues that specifically or disproportionately hurt African-Americans. And the situation seems to be getting worse, not better.
One first-person account of the Sanders rally in Seattle says the mostly white, liberal crowd "turned ugly" after the activists spoke up. If this behavior had taken place at a tea party rally, Sanders' supporters would have condemned it.
Some so-called "progressives" even took to combing through the social media accounts of the young women who have protested Sanders, in search of damaging statements. These are the same tactics that progressives denounce right-wingers for employing -- when they try to smear any unarmed, young black person whom the police have killed.
I do not know what kind of relationship the local white activists in Seattle actually have with young black/brown/native activists. But I bet it falls into one of three categories: nonexistent, tokenizing or condescending/condemning. Because, sadly, those are the only choices on the menu in most U.S. cities.
Today's young activists won't put up with that relationship any longer.
5) Beyond emotions -- here is the hard math
The challenge for all Democrats now is not raw emotion -- but hard math.
For Democrats to win the White House in 2016, African-Americans must give 90-95% of our votes to that party's nominee.
Not 50+1% of our vote.
Not even 75%.
To put another Democrat in the White House, black folks must be practically UNANIMOUS in our support for a Democrat.
AND then we will have to overcome hundreds of racist obstacles just to get to the poll: being unlawfully purged from voter rolls, getting targeted for voter ID harassment, being forced to stand in understaffed voting lines for hours and hours and more.
AND after all that, we still must turn out in record numbers.
Or the Democrats will lose. Period.
Given that fact, younger African-Americans rightfully expect each and every Democratic candidate to explicitly, loudly and enthusiastically address the pain and needs of black lives -- to THEIR satisfaction.
That's fair -- since those very candidates will expect those same young activists to turn out millions of voters for them in just a few months. And in pursuit of this goal, I think that most (if not all) of Black Lives Matters' tactics -- including and especially the iconic protest at Netroots Nation -- are laudable, praiseworthy and inspired.
Perhaps this generation of young black folks will be the last one the Democrats (and economic populists, generally) can simply presume to take for granted.
If Black Lives Matter succeeds in that and nothing else, it will have built one of the most meaningful political movements of the 21st century.
(CNN) First, let me say where I agree with clerk Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refuses to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling.
I, too, believe that each individual has the moral duty to defy any law that he or she deems unjust.
Of course, he or she must do so nonviolently. And he or she must do so publicly, willingly accepting all the legal and personal consequences. These two requirements separate the nonviolent dissenter from the terrorist or the common criminal, who scheme in the darkness and do everything they can to evade capture.
No liberal should deny these basic tenets of justice-seeking. All the great sages are unanimous on this point, from Thoreau to Gandhi.
It is hypocritical for those of us on the left to suggest that this moral duty falls upon the shoulders only of liberals pursuing liberal aims. The duty to resist unjust laws falls upon every human being. It is, in fact, the final check against tyranny -- on the right or left.
But that said: There are different kinds of laws. Thus there are different kinds of lawbreakers.
And this is where I part company with Kim Davis and her most vocal supporters, including my friend Gov. Mike Huckabee. They compare her defiance to the actions of Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
These comparisons are misguided.
Parks, King, Fannie Lou Hamer, the freedom riders and countless others went to jail in defiance of bigoted local laws and practices. They broke local laws -- often (though not always) to extend the protections of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in places that refused to honor those rulings.
Yes, Kim Davis is a lawbreaker, for reasons of conscience. That in itself is no dishonor.
But Davis is a particular kind of lawbreaker -- one who is using her local authority to try to block federal, judicial rulings. And those decisions are specifically designed to recognize the rights of a historically despised minority group.
That kind of lawbreaking puts Kim Davis more in the tradition of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, not of Martin Luther King.
Wallace was an ardent segregationist. He notoriously stood in the schoolhouse door, to keep African-American students from integrating white schools. Just like Kim Davis, Wallace was trying to use his local powers to defy the courts.
The federal courts in the 1950s and 1960s were newly asserting that a despised out-group had basic rights. That's exactly what our Supreme Court is doing today, regarding gay men and lesbians.
Just like Kim Davis, Wallace's objections were guided by his own moral compass and his own reading of scripture. So Davis does stand in a tradition of scripture-based civil disobedience, and she should claim it.
But it is dishonest to try to cloak her in the same garments as Parks or King.
To the contrary: Kim Davis is the living heir to the long tradition of local segregationists, whom King specifically denounced at the 1963 March on Washington. He accused them of having their "lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification" because they refused to obey federal court orders to protect the vulnerable minority group of that day.
The key to nonviolent civil disobedience is the willingness to step forward honestly and accept all the consequences, legal and otherwise, for one's stand.
Kim Davis and her supporters should do so. And one of the consequences is that future generations will view her as exactly the same kind of person Wallace was.
And rightly so.Read more
(CNN) The process of winnowing candidates to participate in the Republican primary debate is deserving of all the ridicule thrown its way.
But here's the worst part: Thursday's debate will include a carnival barker who grabs headlines by throwing racial bombshells. But it will exclude a former governor who is demonstrating that conservative principles can reach across racial and party lines.
To be sure: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is not my cup of tea, personally. After all, his main economic achievement is a flood of low-wage jobs not fit to support a family. His approach to detaining immigrants, especially children, in poor conditions in private prisons has been callous and unconscionable. I could go on.
But compared to Donald Trump, Perry is a titan of tolerance and inclusion. And Perry's actual good works deserve a fuller hearing and a bigger platform.
Instead, we will hear more bloviating from the ubiquitous Trump. This is a man who kicked off his campaign with a speech declaring that Mexican immigrants are drug pushers and rapists, has relied on racist tropes to attack President Obama's faith and birthplace, and blamed recent urban unrest on the President "inciting violence." Nonetheless, Trump declaims that "I have a great relationship with the blacks" and insists he will win the African-American vote. Not going to happen.
But here's something that may help Republicans make headway with black voters: actually addressing our concerns.
One major concern is the out-of-control incarceration industry, which locks up massive numbers of black youths out of proportion to their numbers or even their crimes.
And when it comes to reforming the system, Perry has said the right things, backed his words up with action and has been willing to reach across the aisle.
"You want to talk about real conservative governance?"he commented at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference. "Shut prisons down. Save that money." He has spoken at length about cruel and unnecessary mandatory minimums and has embraced drug courts.
His reforms lowered crime rates and incarceration rates at the same time, saving the state money. Under his leadership, Texas was actually able to close three prisons.
Perry is not alone. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, both Republicans, have also made headway. For years, right-wing activists like Pat Nolan, Marc Levin and Right on Crime have been building up conservative momentum for smart policies that reduce incarceration, recidivism and cost while keeping us safe.
In my view, Republican debate organizers should have the sense to realize that excluding voices like Perry's and including Trump's does voters of all parties a disservice.
I hope for all of our sakes that we hear a lot more from leaders like Perry moving forward -- and a whole lot less from bomb throwers like Donald Trump.
(CNN) On Sunday morning, President Obama released a video "memo to America." It pointed to droughts, super-storms and increases in asthma as evidence that climate change is not just a problem for future generations, but our own.
Today, the administration is publishing the plan to do something about it.
If you live, work or breathe in the United States, Obama's new national Clean Power Plan is good news for you. Unfortunately, you would never know that -- if you listened to all the big polluters screaming bloody murder about it.
The clean power plan is a smart approach -- because it is both powerful and flexible. It requires that U.S. power plants reduce their emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. But each state gets to decide how best to do that. They can invest in renewables like solar and wind, switch to natural gas, or simply upgrade coal plants to produce more electricity with lower emissions.
This is smart federal policy-making. President Obama is setting a clear goal, but he is leaving it to the laboratories of democracy to decide how best to get there.
Of course, that fact will not stop the bellyaching from fossil fuel companies and their puppet politicians. Big polluters are already pulling out all the stops, trying to convince you that this plan will somehow doom the republic.
Don't believe the hype. Here are the myths -- and the facts.
Fact 1: Obama has full authority to make this move
Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency have 100% of the authority they need to do this. You know who gave them the power? Hippie environmentalists like Richard Nixon and John Robert's conservative Supreme Court.
Nixon created the EPA. He also signed the Clean Air Act, which gave the executive branch authority to regulate air pollution. And in 2007, the Supreme Court found in Massachusetts vs. EPA that carbon counted as an "air pollutant." Under that case, Obama has the authority -- and perhaps the duty -- to act boldly to protect public health.
Somewhat ironically, Obama would have preferred to co-create a comprehensive solution with Congress. That's why he has refrained from using his executive authority until now. That's why he spent the better part of his first term begging members of Congress to pass climate legislation.
And House did pass a comprehensive "cap-and-trade" bill in the summer of 2009. But Republicans sided with well-heeled, pro-pollution donors like the Koch Brothers and blocked all progress in the Senate.
Shaking off this defeat, the President is simply recognizing his responsibility to act under existing law. So today Obama is using powers granted to the president during the Nixon era and approved for this very purpose by the Supreme Court in the conservative Roberts era.
Fact 2: Obama's clean energy rules will save Americans money on the energy bills
This plan is going to save everyone money. Right now, your utility bill is going to inefficient, dirty energy. That will change.
Under the Clean Power Plan, states will have incentives to bring down utility bills while putting up solar panels. It will also encourage energy producers to become more efficient.
More efficient production and cheaper energy sources will add up to saving. The EPA estimates consumers will save $8 per month. Another study finds some Americans will save $14 for month. The White House estimates the average American will save $85 on their utility bill by 2030.
Fact 3: Obama's plan will help poor and minority communities
Suddenly Republicans and polluters are sounding like #BlackLivesMatter activists -- full of passion to defend people of color from Obama's plan. Well, if you are feeling skeptical, you should.
The clean power plan will massively help minorities and low-income Americans. After all, one in six black kids and one in nine Latino children has asthma. Seventy-eight percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a dirty, polluting coal plant. African-Americans are also more likely to live in coastal areas and die during heat waves.
In fact, health concerns are already driving a move away from coal. Since 2010, more than 200 coal plants have been shut down or had their retirements announced. Do not blame Obama. Communities most affected by polluted air led those fights.
A grassroots movement, supported by organizations like the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, took the fight to the streets, courthouses, and legislatures. Hard-hit communities like Little Village in Chicago and North Omaha, Nebraska, led the way, organizing campaigns to retire the coal plants in their backyards and chart a course to a healthier, more sustainable future.
Obama's clean power plan will save both lives and bucks spent on hospital bills. It also opens the door to clean-energy jobs for struggling communities. It rewards states that focus on helping low-income communities.
Separately, the Obama budget includes a program, POWER+, to invest in coal workers affected by the transition to cleaner energy.
On top of it all, the administration recently announced a low-income solar program. This initiative will lower utility bills, raise solar panels, and make solar the most diverse energy sector in America. It will do so through a national partnership between solar companies, housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, and states and cities.
America's government today limits the amount of mercury and arsenic that polluters can spew into our skies. But right now, carbon polluters can dump as much greenhouse gas as they want. They just pass the high costs along to the rest of us, in the form of dangerous weather, health risks, and higher utility bills.
But the free ride for dirty energy is coming to an end. The clean power plan is dramatic leap toward a healthier, more prosperous America. If anyone tells you otherwise, help them get their facts straight.
By Keith Ellison and Van Jones
Thanks to people’s movements like Black Lives Matter and the Fight For 15, the call for racial and economic justice is getting louder and stronger. But while we are out on the streets fighting for equality, our kids are being poisoned by the air they breathe. Environmental injustices are taking black lives – that’s why our fight for equality has to include climate and environmental justice too.
African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts. The presence of these pollutants increases rates of asthma, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease. It puts newborn babies at risk. It causes missed days of work and school. We can’t afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.
Increased health problems hit people financially. African-Americans typically spend a higher shareof their income on health care than their white counterparts (16.5% v 12.2%), and roughly one in five African-Americans don’t have health insurance.
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollutionfrom power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years – especially in African-American communities.
The total climate and health benefits from the Clean Power Plan could add up to as much as $93bn. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), every dollar we spend on the Clean Power Plan will translate into $7 in health benefits for American families. That’s a good return on investment.
But some utility and fossil fuel companies are spending a lot of money to scare black people into believing this plan will hurt them. They’re afraid that tackling climate change and cleaning up pollution will cut into their enormous profits – and they want us to think it will hurt us, too. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pollution from power plants is America’s single largest contributor to climate change. But you won’t hear these industry executives talk about the toxic air their companies spew into communities of color or the disproportionate health costs we shoulder. They won’t spend time explaining that carbon emissions from power plants amplify the devastating effects of ozone and other pollutants, or that their pollution leads to a direct worsening of asthma symptoms. Nor will theyadmit that economic projections show that the Clean Power Plan will reduce utility costs for American families. The EPA estimates that electricity bills will go down by roughly 8%, saving customers almost $100 dollars annually – and that’s on top of the savings in health costs.
According to the NRDC, the Clean Power Plan would create good, well-paying jobs in green technology and renewable energy. There are already more solar industry jobs than coal jobs in the United States. This energy revolution is an opportunity to increase African-American employment in a booming sector.
Centuries of racial discrimination as well as bad trade deals and economic policies that favor the wealthiest have led to black Americans being almost three times more likely to live in poverty than white Americans. We can’t fight this trend by believing the lies that rich fossil fuel and utility executives tell us. Black lives matter more than corporate profits –now is a chance to make sure our laws reflect that.
- This article was amended on 24 July 2015 to correct the name of the NRDC. It is the Natural Resources Defense Council, not the National Resources Defense Council.