Thursday, February 04, 2010

Diversity and Environmentalists

Ray Ring writes a deeply unfortunate column about President Obama selecting non-whites to fill important environmental posts. He accuses Obama of putting racial diversity over environmental goals. Ring notes that several Obama environmental appointees have not been what environmentalists hoped for.

Well, sure. But that's true of how most progressives how thought about many Obama appointees. It has squat to do with race and everything to do with Obama's governing style.

What's frustrating is that Ring reinforces the long-standing divide between environmentalists and people of color. For more than 20 years, people of color have pointed out the indifference environmentalists have to poverty, to the concerns of non-whites, and to people more broadly. Many in the environmental movement have taken these critiques seriously. Even though environmentalism today is pretty dang white, it's also populated by young people who consistently reach out in solidarity to non-environmental groups.

But there's still a strong current of single-issue people within the environmentalism stream who define their movement very narrowly and blame "social concerns" for their movement's failures. What Ring espouses outside this article I do not know. But he makes a terrible mistake here in blaming diversity for environmentalists' problems and in doing so, places another brick in the wall between the environmental movement and people of color.