Monday, November 17, 2008

President-Elect Obama Should Question Green Segregation

PRESIDENT'S CORNER: By Norris McDonald. Traditional environmental groups are giddy about the prospects of how an Obama administration can accelerate the goals of our movement. Yet these same groups are as segregated as they have ever been. Before they go asking the Obama administration for anything, President-Elect Obama should inquire about their historical discriminatory hiring and retention practices. Although the vast majority of groups arrogantly ignored our Diversity Survey, one peep from any Obama official will probably get a rapid response. A list of 30 groups recently provided their wish list of recommendations for the Obama transition team("Transition To Green). Notice how minority environmental groups were conveniently excluded from their list. One of the largest groups even admitted to us that they had never hired a Black person in a policy position. Yet they blindly and arrogantly attack EPA with the recommendation below:

Vigorously Investigate and Enforce Title VI claims

Despite rampant evidence of environmental discrimination, the EPA has rejected, on either jurisdictional or other grounds, all but one of the hundreds of Title VI claims submitted to the agency, and that one claim was ultimately unsuccessful. The new Administration must reverse this course by complying with EPA Title VI implementing regulations governing the review and investigation of civil rights complaints.

I have been around for 30 years and there are almost as few black professionals working for mainstream environmental groups now as there were in 1979. I was the only black professional working in the Washington, D.C.-based environmental movement then. At a very minimum the $6 billion per year green movement could create Vice President for Government Relations, or Vice President for Outreach or Vice Prisident for Human Resources the same way the industry groups and their associations do it. Mainstream green groups can continue to arrogantly run, but they can no longer hide (I hope). President Obama is going to find out. Now although America has stepped up to the plate, will the environmental movement finally integrate? Or maybe groups such as ours,, Green For All, and the National Hispanic Environmental Council, among others, will still be necesary and have to carry all the load in getting expanded perspectives included in the environmental agenda. So mainstream green groups, don't go thinking President Obama is going to fall for some 'post-racial' gobbledygook.

President-Elect Obama will not be bamboozled by the enthusiasm of the green groups. America took a great step forward in electing Senator Obama, but the environmental movement is still stuck in the pre-first-Earth Day-segregated 1960s. I voted for President-Elect Obama and so did the members of these groups. Unfortunately, they seem to be secretly proud of their racial exclusivity. At least that is my opinion. I think President-Elect Obama and his transition team should at least take a look at our Diversity Report Card and see if you can help us to get the groups to answer us. We would appreciate it.

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