When the first person of color on the nation’s highest court retired three decades ago, the nation’s first female justice paid tribute to the invaluable experience he brought to what had been an exclusively white male institution.
“Although all of us come to the court with our own personal histories and experiences, Justice [Thurgood] Marshall brought a special perspective,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in 1992 in the Stanford Law Review.
“At oral arguments and conference meetings, in opinions and dissents, Justice Marshall imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life experiences, constantly pushing and prodding us to respond not only to the persuasiveness of legal argument but also to the power of moral truth.”
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, the dean of Boston University’s law school, lifts up O’Connor’s insight in a recent letter in support of another legal pioneer: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, recently nominated to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
If confirmed, Jackson is not expected to dramatically change the ideological composition of the court, which is now dominated by six conservatives. But she would make an immediate and monumental mark as the court’s first Black female justice and its first …
Imagine you're in the market for a new furnace. You decide to buy a more fuel-efficient system — even though the price tag is higher — because it will lower your monthly heating bills. Another selling point: The fuel-efficient furnace emits less carbon into the atmosphere — a benefit you can't quite quantify but that you value nonetheless for its small salubrious effect on the planet.
Policymakers go through a similar — though much more complex — process when implementing laws. But an obscure federal mandate known as cost-benefit analysis renders them unable to fully account for costs and benefits that are difficult to measure in dollars and cents, like the large-scale value to society of federal rules that protect public and environmental health.
Despite its name, a true analysis of a rule's full benefits is impossible.
I mean, really: How can public officials put a price on a stable climate or …
A native of southeast Los Angeles, Laura Cortez was exposed to a heavy dose of toxic pollution as a child. She grew up near an oil refinery, industry warehouses, and railroad tracks, with trains barreling through at all hours of the night. Her elementary school was located near a major highway — a passthrough for tens of thousands of trucks every day — and her high school was also sited next to train tracks.
Now co-executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a grassroots advocacy group, Cortez is working to protect residents of her community and others in the region from the harmful effects of pollution on health and well-being. She shared her story last week with members of Congress to call attention to environmental racism and build support for landmark legislation that would begin to address it.
“My reality is not an exception,” she told members …
Soaring rates of voluntary resignations, widespread labor shortages, and the ubiquity of "Help Wanted" signs put the "labor" back in the Labor Day holiday this year, as employers struggle to respond to a jobs market that seems, for once, to have given workers the upper hand.
Story after story blames current labor market conditions on "burnout," an occupational phenomenon the World Health Organization describes as a combination of symptoms that includes emotional exhaustion and reduced personal accomplishment. "Burnout — and opportunity — are driving record wave of quitting," the Deseret (Utah) News declared in August.
But what if the diagnosis — or rather, what we call it — is a symptom of the real problem? Naming the phenomenon for its toll on workers, rather than for the working conditions that drive it, skews our understanding of what's wrong and how to fix it.
The word "burnout" calls to mind …
This op-ed was originally published in The Virginia Mercury.
The U.S. Senate faces a long to-do list when it reconvenes next month.
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, wants to be sure an important but fairly obscure environmental health bill makes the list.
It passed the House in July, thanks in part to Democratic members of our congressional delegation, and now awaits action in the upper chamber. “The Senate must take action,” Connolly told me by email.
The legislation would regulate and clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of toxins linked to cancer, infertility and other serious health problems. One such problem is compromised immunity, which may reduce the effectiveness of COVID vaccines — just as the delta variant surges across the state.
This bill is urgently needed in Northern Virginia — a reported PFAS “hot spot.”
Used in tape, nonstick pans and other everyday …
The Center for Progressive Reform stands with all who are working to advance equity and equality for LGBTQ Americans. To commemorate Pride Month, we asked three CPR leaders to weigh in on progress in this area. Below, Board Member Laurie Ristino and Member Scholars Victor Flatt and Steph Tai offer their perspectives on progress made and work to do, as well as misperceptions about the LGBTQ community and lessons learned from past victories.
“Over the last several decades, LGBTQ rights have made serious progress, gains that require vigilant advocacy to retain and further equal justice for all LGBTQ people.
“At the same time, the struggle for BIPOC rights continues. In America, we have simply failed to address racial injustice and inequity. What can we learn from the advocacy successes of the LGBTQ experience to move the dial forward so all Americans may enjoy the same …
Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.
“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration.
Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.
The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate …
Seven years ago, public officials in cash-strapped Flint, Michigan, cut city costs by tapping the Flint River as a source of public drinking water.
So began the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history, according to Paul Mohai, a founder of the movement for environmental justice and a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.
When they made the switch, city officials didn’t properly treat the new water, which allowed lead from corroded pipes, bacteria, and other contaminants to leach into the public drinking water supply. Flint residents, who are disproportionately low-income and Black, immediately raised alarms about the fetid, brown water flowing out of their faucets and cited health problems, such as hair loss and rashes.
But the city didn’t officially acknowledge the problem or begin to take decisive action until a year and a half …
A half century ago, hundreds of Black sanitation workers marched through Memphis carrying signs bearing four small words: "I am a man."
Their short slogan carried a powerful message: Low-paid Black workers are human, and they deserve to be treated as such. Their lives, to quote today's activists for racial justice, matter.
The slogan — and its larger campaign for racial and economic equity — challenged systemic oppression of Black people. And it took on underlying white supremacist beliefs that positioned them as less than human and unworthy of humane working conditions and pay.
The campaign was sparked by an incident on February 1, 1968, when Memphis city officials forced workers to collect garbage during a heavy rainstorm, according to The Washington Post. Two men took refuge from the rain in the back of their truck and were crushed when it malfunctioned. The city refused to compensate their …
All workers need the ability to earn paid sick days so they can take leave from their jobs to care for themselves or their loved ones when they are sick or injured. The coronavirus pandemic has made the need for this basic right — guaranteed to workers in other wealthy nations but not here in the United States — clearer than ever.
Paid sick leave is more than a workers’ rights issue. It’s also a civil rights issue.
Lawyers, engineers, and others in the higher-paying “professional” class are far more likely than frontline, lower-income workers to have access to paid sick leave, the American Civil Liberties Union recently noted. They’re also more likely to be able to work from home during the pandemic, putting them at far less risk of contracting COVID-19.
And they’re more likely to be white.
Due to long-standing structural inequities and intentional …