At a family gathering a little over a year ago, my oldest sister-in-law asked, “Are you still working for that environmental group?” I attempted to explain to her that our focus is actually on racial and economic justice and opportunity, but I recently discovered – much to my dismay – that my explanation didn’t take: She still thought of Greenlining as a “green” group in the traditional sense.
As someone who puts words together for a living, there’s nothing more unnerving than to learn that my carefully crafted explanation utterly failed. So I’m going to try again.
Yes, we are an environmental group, but not in the way most people use that term. We don’t protect fish or polar bears, important as that work is. We focus on the human environment – the web of social, physical and economic circumstances that determine whether a person thrives and prospers or suffers and stagnates.
That environment isn’t limited to just air, water and land. It includes —
- access to good jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, including the capital needed to start a business or buy a home
- health and the means to preserve it, from quality, affordable medical care to good food and access to healthy exercise and recreation
- a financial system that helps individuals and families save and grow wealth and doesn’t gouge consumers with tricks, traps and hidden fees
- real opportunities to participate in our democracy and help push our public institutions to meet the needs of real people rather than wealthy special interests
- fair and affordable access to the services that are essential to living in 21st century society, from heat and electricity to affordable telephone and broadband access
- both clean air and water and the economic opportunities that are emerging as we move to cleaner forms of energy
So yes, we’re an environmental group. We want to create an environment in which the Latino kid in east L.A., the African American kid in Oakland and the Hmong kid in Fresno have just as good a shot at the American Dream as a kid from Beverly Hills or Pacific Heights. And we’re just crazy enough to think it’s possible.