(Special to The Root) — The face of America is changing dramatically. New census data shows that for the first time in our history, babies being delivered in hospitals all over the country are predominantly African American, Latino, Asian and other minorities. It’s not just our babies who are growing more diverse. It’s our neighborhoods, our communities and our workforce. In some of America’s largest cities, a new majority has already emerged — one made up of people of color.
The faces of voters are changing, too. In the 2010 election, the percentage of Hispanic voters reached a record high. Meanwhile, census projections show that in just 30 years, nonwhites will represent a larger block of America’s total population than whites.
It’s true that we have work to do before our voting power matches our numbers — far too many people of color are still systematically locked out of our democracy by arbitrary voter ID laws, criminal disenfranchisement and racial gerrymandering. But politicians who fail to notice that America is changing — fast — may soon find themselves in trouble.
Ultimately the leaders who thrive in the 21st century, and the ones who continue to hold office, will be those who respond to the needs of our increasingly diverse citizens. Elected officials will have to pay more attention to the issues pressing African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American families. And the nation’s energy sector is among the most important issues.
Why? Because many people of color bear the brunt of pollution from outdated power plants and toxic industries. A staggering one in six African-American children suffers from asthma, compared with one in 10 nationwide. And of the 8 million people living within three miles of polluting coal-fired power plants, a disproportionate number are people of color. Energy is not just how we power our lives; it’s a public health issue.
In addition to cutting asthma and other pollution-related health problems that plague our communities, clean energy opens a door for those of us who were left out of the old economy — including people of color.