I have been incredibly heartened by a recent national poll of religious voters that showed 94% of Black Protestants believe that our responsibility to protect God’s Creation is an important reason to address climate. I am not surprised that Black people of faith feel this way for three important reasons.
First, as many of us know, Matthew 22:39 states: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The core of this verse is about the need for empathy and community. Our community, which has been beaten down, degraded, minimized, and marginalized for over 400 years in America has survived because we look out for and care deeply about one another. Those traits of empathy and community also mean that we are able to see beyond ourselves to the wider world and recognize that our actions have degraded God’s Creation. The poll shows clearly, that as Black Americans, we demand action on Climate change because of our responsibility to protect the gift we have been given.
Second, Black Americans have been forced by circumstances to be able to address multiple traumas simultaneously. There has never been a time in our history in America where we didn’t have to deal with economic, cultural, educational, and political racism. Our ability to confront multiple crises is certainly evident in 2020. Fighting systemic racism in the criminal justice system that routinely and arbitrarily kills Black Americans, confronting a deadly pandemic that disproportionately affects Black communities, and facing an economic crisis unseen since the Great Depression is enough to break any people. And yet not only do we persist, but we are also able to hold our heads up and claim our responsibility to protect our planet.
Third, as climate change accelerates, it becomes clearer each day that those who will suffer first and most will be Black Americans. We know this because years of housing and economic policies made it so. Polluting factories are situated next to Black neighborhoods. We are forced to live in the most vulnerable and flood prone areas of coastal cities. It is no coincidence that during Hurricane Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward flooded more and had more deaths than any area of the city. We know that we will face the brunt of the climate crisis, so it is understandable that we demand action.
As we face down a critical election, we are confronted with forces that hope to intimidate and discourage us from making our voices heard. As we have done for centuries, we will persist and fight back. Indeed, it is our duty to do so. Many of us will vote for leaders who believe in racial justice as opposed to racial discrimination. Others will vote to ensure that those who lead us will take science seriously in their efforts to curb this terrible pandemic. Still others will vote to create a more equitable society where people are paid a living wage for an honest day’s work. And some will vote to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare as a right.
But what this recent poll also shows me is that many Americans, particularly Black Americans of faith, will also vote to take responsibility as guardians to the greatest gift that God has bestowed upon us.
The Rev. Dr Ambrose Carroll, Sr is founder of Green The Church, a sustainability initiative working to create a cadre of Black Church communities who are committed to green theology, promoting sustainable practices within their communities and helping to build economic & political change. He is also senior pastor at The Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley, CA.