A coalition of 18 climate and civil rights advocacy organizations is calling on CNN and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to focus on racial and environmental justice in the next Democratic presidential primary debate.
The upcoming debate will be held in Flint, Michigan, which is currently dealing with a devastating water crisis after corroded lead pipes poisoned the city's drinking water and sickened its residents. The coalition stated Flint's crisis is just “the latest tragic example of a long trend of communities of color and low wealth being poisoned with crumbling infrastructure, polluted air, toxic dumps, and tainted water.”
Previous debates have thus far failed to dedicate a “significant amount of time” to issues important to people of color, argued the coalition, and none have adequately discussed “disproportionate climate change impacts, access to clean water and healthy food, and a just transition from fossil fuels.” A press release issued by Friends of the Earth notes that the groups applauded the move to hold the debate in Flint as a “a good first step,” but that they want the presidential candidates to do more lay out how they would address environmental crises and social justice.
The coalition, which includes 350.org, Color of Change, Democracy for America, Greenpeace, Presente.org, and more, is delivering a petition with more than 90,000 signatures to the DNC and CNN on March 2 urging them to focus the upcoming debate on racial, climate, and environmental justice.
From the petition:
While the previous debates have included brief discussions on issues important to people of color, none have dedicated a significant amount of time to these issues -- and none of them have spent any time of consequence discussing disproportionate climate change impacts, access to clean water and healthy food, and a just transition from fossil fuels.
As in Flint, it is no coincidence that frontline communities targeted for pollution are also home to income inequality, elevated unemployment levels, reduced educational opportunities, mass incarceration, and police brutality.
Low-wealth communities and communities of color have been subjected to these injustices for too long and have never been offered a comprehensive national solution. Flint is just an example of similar issues affecting communities of color, including numerous Native American communities nationwide.
As candidates for the Democratic nomination increase their outreach to people of color and Native nations, all voters deserve to hear their plan to address racial, environmental, and climate justice. If the DNC claims to represent all voters, it cannot take black people, people of color, and Native peoples for granted. No more eco-tourists passing out bottled water for a day - we demand a real debate on the problems of racial justice, environmental racism, and the solutions of climate justice. It's time for a national discussion on these issues, and there is no better place to have it right now than Flint, Michigan.
Photo at top is a screenshot from a video at MLive.