Row over race hits climate change debate

July 16, 2009

The battle over climate change in the U.S. Senate spilled into another contentious arena of U.S. politics on Thursday: race relations.

At a hearing to discuss the economic impact of legislation to combat global warming, the head of an African-American business organization accused Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer of being “racial” and “condescending.”

During a tense exchange, Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce said he objected to Boxer bringing up other African-American groups as a contrast to the arguments he was making at the hearing.

Boxer had cited a resolution in support of legislation to combat global warming from the NAACP, an African-American civil rights organization.

“What does that mean?” asked Alford, who was a witness at the hearing. Boxer responded by pointing out a positive comment about the resolution from the leader of another African-American group, 100 Black Men of America.

“Madam chair that is condescending to me. I am (with) the National Black Chamber of Commerce and you’re trying to put up some other black group to (compete) against me,” Alford said. “You are being racial here and I think you’re getting to a path here that is going to explode.”

Boxer defended herself by saying she was just trying to make a point that “there are definitely different opinions in the black community, just like there is in my community.”

Alford’s group opposes the “cap and trade” bill that passed the House of Representatives last month. A study conducted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce and CRA International said the House bill would result in a net loss of 2.3 million to 2.7 million jobs.

At the end of the hearing, Alford and Boxer seemed to make amends for their earlier spat.

Alford accepted an invitation from Boxer to go to her home state of California to view some of the “green jobs” she believes a climate change bill could create.

Boxer also acknowledged that the hearing was acrimonious at times.

“The heat we felt in this debate is very strong. The reason is because we all care so much about this country and its future and there’s such a divide on this issue,” she said.

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Call me cruel, but it was pleasing to see the representative from California get handed some of her own medicine for a change.

I mean the good Maam, oh I mean Senator has been chewing out those appearing in front of her for years now. Generals, Esteemed nominees etc etc.

Perhaps now that someone has stood up to the Boxer bluster, she might be a little more careful in her questioning in the future.

To be honest I respect and have a begruding like of the Senator. But in some cases, and perhaps this one, you have to be cruel to be kind!

Posted by Findlay | Report as abusive

A black man representing a black organization *isn’t* racial? Am I missing something here? Or is it the same old double standard: WE can be racist but YOU can’t. That said, I would question the relevance of Senator Boxer’s references unless the context called for it (e.g., Mr. Alford was discussing to the climate bill’s effect on black-owned businesses or the black community at large). It’s a trap to have all kinds of race-based organizations and then cry “racist!” when someone mentions them. What’s more racist, a racially based organization or a reference to it?

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive