Were Black Workers Bamboozled About Keystone XL Pipeline?
1 year ago
Obama rightfully delayed building the pipeline, but the concerns of people of color still need addressed
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of Loop 21. If you would like to submit an Op-Ed for publication please submit to email@example.com.
It was a warm August afternoon when I walked down to the White House. Some of my comrades with the Indigenous Environmental Network were heading down to stand in line and get arrested in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline was proposed to run from Alberta, Canada all the way down to Port Arthur, Texas, making stops in several different states along the way. Proponents of the pipeline touted that it would create over 20,000 new jobs (though this number is widely disputed) and help America lower its dependency on oil from “unfriendly countries.”
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and many of its colleagues have been fighting this pipeline and the original keystone pipeline for years now, calling out the dangers of extracting crude oil and its impact on public drinking water, health and sacred Indigenous land. However, like most touching made-for-TV moments in American History, it took one “Brave White Man” to stop it all. Bill McKibben enters stage left.
Bill McKibben, for those not in the know, is a climate scientist and founder of 350.org, an international organization that hosts various “days of action” and encourages non-violent civil disobedience to address the politics of climate change. Over the years he's gained a strong global following and even made an appearance on Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report.” In a few months he and the organizers with Tar Sands Action gathered together for what one lady stated as, “the most important day of my life.” During the month of August, 1,253 people were arrested in front of the White house. Each spent roughly twenty minutes in a holding cell and paid $100 in fines (yes that's $125,300).
In September, the US Department of State hosted several public comment hearings across the country. While I was not up for getting arrested (nah, son.) I did make a point to attend the hearing held in my town of Washington, D.C. What I saw was the real conversation on this pipeline. Walking in the room was like walking the borders of gang territory. The air was a bit tense but still cool. On one side of the room was an intergenerational mix of friendly white folk. They camped out all night to hold their place in line and several held spots to ensure Indigenous leaders who traveled from Canada and other areas directly impacted by the pipeline could testify.
On the other side of the room were black, brown and white working class folk dressed in bright orange shirts promoting their union affiliation. In the back of the room, more white folks were dressed in suits with crisp polish on their shoes and grins that screamed “Hello, I'm here to protect my money.”