Last year, the African-American author and commentator Charles D. Ellison asked, “Where’s the Black political conversation on climate change?”
Now that conversation is happening, but it’s not the one we need.
Case in point: Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, recently weighed in against Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan will hasten the phaseout of coal-fired power plants—reducing air pollution today and limiting the long-term impact of climate change.
But Steele—along with some other African-American leaders—expresses concern that the Clean Power Plan will eliminate “cheap coal,” raising energy costs and hurting low-income families. It’s a view that has been widely promulgated by the utility industry and its supporters. Indeed, some have speculated that generous donations from utilities to civil rights groups have shaped the views of Black leaders on this issue. Steele himself has close ties to utilities and related interests, and has testified on their behalf.
Let’s not go there, for now. Instead, let’s take Steele at his word and assume he shares our concern for low-income people of color, who... Read more