Corporations--and President Obama--are betting that hunger for jobs will trump all else to make Blacks allies of nuclear power. Nuclear energy promoters worked on the same assumption 30 years ago--but that was before the blossoming of the environmental justice movement.
The nuclear power industry will soon launch a major propaganda campaign in Black America, hyping atomic energy as a jobs program. I've seen it all before, up close, more than 30 years ago, when the Westinghouse Corporation became a regular advertiser on the syndicated television news interview-program I co-owned and hosted, America's Black Forum. That was back in 1978, a year before the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island. The Pittsburgh-based nuclear power corporation had just completed a study that showed African Americans were more interested in jobs, and less concerned about environmental issues, than whites.
Westinghouse's executives figured that jobs-hungry Black folks would serve as a counterpoint to the long-haired white kids and tree huggers that the media caricatured as the core of the environmental movement. We should note that the data in Westing-house's survey did not say that Blacks were friendlier to nuclear power than whites--only that they cared more about jobs, as a logical consequence of having fewer of them. The idea was to convince Blacks that nukes = jobs, and that words like "environment" and "ecology" had nothing to do with them. So, with great hopes of political success, Westinghouse bought advertising--lots of it--on my show and other Black-oriented media around the country.
1978 was also the year that the modern environmental justice movement began, under the god-fathership of Dr. Robert Bullard, a Black environmental sociologist who was documenting how America dumps its industrial and other unwanted wastes disproportionately in Black neighborhoods. Dr. Bullard's data provided the objective evidence that proved the crucial link between environmental...