Last Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order gutting protections for wetlands and drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans. But what really caught my attention was that on the same day, he signed another order to supposedly strengthen White House partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I saw this as Trump being Trump -- pretending he wants to help African American communities on the one hand, while with the stroke of his pen, doing some real damage on the other.
I felt strongly that this shouldn’t go unchecked. I kept asking myself, if Trump really wanted to help the African American community then why did he get rid of protections to our drinking water? It doesn’t make sense.
Trump can’t pretend he wants to reach out and help the Black community and then turn around and do something that hurts us. African Americans already live in some of the most polluted communities in the country. Let’s not forget about places like Flint, MI that have high levels of lead in the drinking water making it toxic. And to add salt to the wound, as of last week, Flint residents must now start paying the full price for water that still isn’t safe to drink.
Being an HBCU grad myself and someone working for a more sustainable future, I reached out to a few friends and colleagues who also graduated from HBCUs and who care about our climate and our communities. We all agreed: If you want to help the African American community, gutting our environmental protections is not the way to do it. You can find our statement here.
Trump’s Dirty Water Order (let’s call his executive order what it is) is a direct attack on low-income communities and communities of color who have long been disproportionately affected by industrial pollution contaminating clean and safe drinking water.
Some might have seen Trump’s olive branch to HBCUs as a step in the right direction and that he’s actually doing something good for us. But I beg to differ, it reminds me more of a ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic. In fact, the Morehouse College President even wrote about his experience going to the White House, saying “we got played.” The HBCU order is about bringing HBCU’s closer to the White House, presumably so Trump can better listen to and work with Black people. In fact, all the order does is move the HBCU initiative from being housed at the Department of Education to the White House.
The real benefit and outcome for African Americans, of moving the HBCU initiative to the White House, is very unclear. But the impacts of Trump’s Dirty Water Order are very clear: we may all become the next Flint and sooner than we think.
Clean water is not a partisan issue; it is the right of every American and unchecked water pollution impacts all of us. As our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock remind us - water is life. We can’t survive without it. The Clean Water Rule is simple. It's a commonsense safeguard supported by a majority of the public that protects the drinking water sources for more than 1 in 3 Americans. And Trump just gutted it.
Trump gave a free pass to polluters over our rights to safe, clean drinking water and put families at risk. That is unacceptable. It’s time to prioritize frontline families over polluter profits, and strengthen environmental protections, not weaken them.
Kim Noble is the Director of National Partnerships for Green For All where she manages relationships with key partners and stakeholders. Kim attended Fort Valley State University and received her B.A. in Mass Communications. She is passionate about making sure children are in a safe environment and families have access to available local, state and federal resources.