Friday, July 03, 2009

Can EPA Have A Glass Ceiling With Lisa P. Jackson As Administrator?

If America has a black president and a black EPA administrator, should there be complaints about there not being enough Blacks in upper management positions at the agency? We know that Blacks at EPA have high expectations for promotions, even as this administration is barely six months old. At a recent budget briefing at EPA headquarters, a Latino man raised the issue of the lack of diversity among the top officials standing behind Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Of course, Lisa P. Jackson is clearly sensitive to environmental justice and other racial issues, but can she overtly start promoting Blacks into upper management positions? So assuming there aren't enough Blacks in high-level positions at EPA, what can and should be done about it?

Now we have not formally researched this issue but are relying on anecdotal evidence. Maybe EPA should launch a formal study to analyse the situation. Then if a legitimate problem is found, appropriate remedies can be recommended and implemented that would satisfy everyone. If the problem exists at other departments and agencies, then the EPA model could be used as a template.

Yet, in discussing this matter, some even question the 'type' of Blacks placed in higher positions. Well how in the heck do you measure that? And at the end of the day, what are Blacks in these positions supposed to do differently--favor Blacks? Clearly EPA has the resources, and hopefully the inclination, to address these questions. The public should also be confident that the agency commissioned to head environmental justice considerations should be equitable in its own hiring and promotion practices.

Race has been quite the confounding variable in the American marketplace. The election of Barack Obama clearly demonstrates that the glass ceiling can be penetrated. Yet the environmental movement remains largely segregated and Blacks own virtually none of America's energy infrastructure (dreams of green jobs notwithstanding). America remains two societies in residential patterns. Is it enough for Lisa P. Jackson to simply do the basics of administering EPA's environmental mission? We raise the question because part of AAEA's mission is to increase African American participation in the environmental movement.

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