Posted on August 11, 2023

‘Green Jim Crow’ Is a Ridiculous Insult to Black Communities

Ameisha Cross, Daily Beast, August 6, 2023


Black and Brown communities face the brunt of failed climate action and lackluster environmental policy. But there are those who believe it’s actually government efforts to ease the effects of calamitous effects of climate change that are to blame for the hard times of lower income communities.

They’re calling it “Green Jim Crow.”

This is the idea (which appears to have been introduced in a 2021 study by the self-described left-leaning environmental and civil rights lawyer Jennifer Hernandez) that Democratic politicians in California have pushed for policies whose environmental benefits are massively outweighed by the economic disadvantages they impose on poorer, mostly Black and brown communities. {snip}

Though there are some compelling arguments in Hernandez’s study—such as the proposed new housing map designed to increase the use of public transit only serves to reinforce segregative housing policies of the past—the premise of the idea is simply wrong.

First and foremost, Black people today do, in fact, own fewer homes than they did before the civil rights movement, but that isn’t attributed to environmental policies or zoning. It is correlated heavily to a banking industry with predatory lending practices being uprooted in the collapse of 2008, rising rents, and housing costs broadly, and a widening racial wealth gap. Top mortgage lenders Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, and Bank of America signed off on 44,000 fewer mortgages for Black buyers in 2021 than in 2007, housing data show.

These effects have snowballed into an economic calamity for Black families.


Particularly notable is the systemic exploitation of Black and Native American labor that fueled America’s economic engine in industries that would destruct the environments where those two groups primarily lived.

The devastating impact of slavery also drove environmental disaster. “In 1776, the U.S. was responsible for less than 1 percent of global GHG emissions, but by the time slavery was abolished in 1865 and the Industrial Revolution gained steam, it had grown into the world’s third-highest emitter and was on a rapid course to become the highest by the start of the 20th century,” according to a Brookings study. Racial wealth gaps also determine who has the means to endure climate and environmental disasters, while others cannot.

Any policy that advances racial equity must include environmental and climate protections. A net good comes from environmental policy changes that incorporate reductions in emissions and provide for clean water, clean air, and fuel/energy efficiency.