By Congresswoman Barbara Lee l October 25, 2023
There was a lead and copper smelter near where I grew up. Everyone knew it was too close to our houses, and the smells and headaches were frequent reminders of that fact for many of our friends and neighbors. But that was where our roots were and it wasn’t until I was older that we finally moved away.
Ours is a common story for far too many people of color in America, who live in neighborhoods far too close to sources of pollution that threaten both our environment and our health. This is environmental injustice, and it is the tip of the dagger that climate change has been to both public health and our economy, with the most severe damage being done to Black and Brown communities.
When toxic sources of pollution – be they smelters, chemical plants, refineries, oil and gas wells or other billboards for environmental injustice – are located near where people live, work, and play, they disproportionately harm those communities. We suffer the damage to our health from more pollution in our air and water. We suffer a lack of investment in our communities, and that means fewer jobs and opportunities for Black and Brown people. Make no mistake – the damage done by environmental racism is pervasive.
But there is a better way – a way to both stop the most severe damage from climate change and to make sure we are offering opportunities to those who have been most harmed by the racism inherent in how Big Oil and other major polluters have injured this planet. There is a way that we can put people to work restoring the habitats and communities that have been destroyed and making our cities more resilient. It won’t be easy, but with diligent progressive leadership in the Senate, I believe we can make the Green New Deal real.
The most recent Green New Deal resolution envisions a 10-year national mobilization, akin to FDR’s New Deal, that would put millions of Americans, many from underserved and at-risk communities, to work in good-paying, union jobs repairing the nation’s infrastructure, reducing air and water pollution, and fighting the intertwined economic, social, racial, and climate crises crippling the country.
I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and in the years since it was introduced, I have joined my colleagues in introducing and co-sponsoring dozens of pieces of legislation, across multiple sectors of the economy, to build on the principles from the resolution. The most important of these is the landmark A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act – crucial legislation to address environmental injustices and hold polluting industries accountable.
The A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act would give the federal government the ability to stop toxic projects that pose a risk to the environment, it would require we look holistically at the disproportionate burdens many industrial and fossil fuel projects have on communities of color, and it would help fund research and development of programs and projects aimed at addressing long-term environmental and public health issues in environmental justice communities. Most importantly, the legislation would create a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund, paid for by new fees on fossil fuel industries, to invest in environmental justice communities so that communities who depend on polluters for employment can transition to cleaner and more economically sound options.
It is this approach – the lens of restorative environmental justice – that will drive my decision-making as California’s next United States Senator. I will work tirelessly to champion the legislation that will hold polluters accountable and advance investments in clean energy, and I will always do so with the people who suffer most in mind.
Perspective matters. I believe that my experiences being on the receiving end of environmental racism give me a perspective that is sorely missing in the United States Senate. We have far too many Ivy League lawyers and millionaires serving and not enough senators who have lived the challenges facing so many people across California. I’m running for Senate to make sure environmental justice always has a champion seated at the table.
Please visit https://barbaraleeforca.com/a-future-for-all-of-us/ to learn more about how I will work to invest in the bold policies that address the climate emergency head-on, especially in communities of color and other low-income communities that have experienced generations of environmental injustice.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee fights housing discrimination
by Congresswoman Barbara Lee l August 14, 2023
Housing discrimination has long been one of the pillars of systemic racism and social injustice in our country. It robs people of color of the wealth they earn. It traps Black and Brown children in underfunded schools. It divides our communities. And sadly, it is still an issue that Congress must address.
Last month, I stood up to stop Republicans from dismantling an effort to stop housing discrimination. Here’s what happened, and what can do about it.
Since 1968, elements of the Civil Rights Act have been used to correct the imbalance and inherent unfairness facing people who are subjected to discrimination when applying for housing. While the Fair Housing Act has been helpful in stopping slumlords from discriminating against tenants, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development created formal guidance for enforcing the mandates established by the law.
During the Trump Administration, slumlords had one of their own in the White House, and the fair housing rules were dismantled, defunded, and eventually repealed. The Trump action had the intended effect, and cases of fair housing discrimination have been rising, with recent data from the National Fair Housing Alliance indicating a nearly 10% increase in housing discrimination complaints in the year following the rule’s repeal. In fact, the 2021 trends show the highest number of housing discrimination complaints since the organization first started collecting data 25 years ago.
The Biden Administration worked to address this trend by strengthening fair housing enforcement, but a Republican bill recently sought to block the Administration’s new fair housing rule, siding with lenders and corporations at the expense of renters and homeowners.
The Republican bill burdens working families who cannot find a place to live because they face discrimination. It burdens homeowners who are robbed of their hard-earned equity because of appraisal discrimination. It burdens people who are denied fair housing because they are disabled veterans or identify as LGBTQ+. The Republican bill blocks all these people from getting a fair shake and forces more people out onto the streets.
During the Appropriations Committee meeting where this bill was considered, I offered an amendment that would have struck the language blocking the enforcement of the new fair housing rule. Unsurprisingly, the Republican majority on the committee voted down my amendment. But the debate highlighted an important issue facing our country – housing discrimination is metastasizing. And it helped highlight the solution – electing more representatives who will fight for fair housing.
I’m running for Senate because I have lived the struggles of everyday Californians. I know what it is like to rely on public assistance in tough times. Californians facing housing discrimination deserve a Senator who will make reestablishing the fair housing rule a priority, and who has the experience to deliver.
Housing discrimination has long been one of the pillars of systemic racism and social injustice in our country. But it doesn’t need to be. I’m running for Senate to end housing discrimination for good.