Roy Innis

The US civil rights revolution of the 1950s and ‘60s was one of the greatest social and political liberations in history. It gave African Americans and other minorities new opportunities and new levels of success in virtually every walk of life.

But today we face unprecedented new challenges to indispensable, but often neglected rights enunciated in our Declaration of Independence: “That all men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These fundamental rights are under assault in subtle, often insidious ways. Sometimes it is with the best of intentions, by good people who don’t realize they are impairing other people’s rights, hopes and dreams. At other times, it is by people who are willing, even determined, to sacrifice individual rights in the name of a proclaimed threat or greater common good.

One critical challenge involves restrictions on access to energy and economic opportunity – and thus on liberties and rights – in the name of protecting the environment.

Energy is the master resource of modern society. It transforms constitutionally protected civil rights into rights we actually enjoy: jobs, homes, transportation, healthcare, and other earmarks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

With abundant, reliable, affordable energy, much is possible. Without it, hope, opportunity, progress, job creation and civil rights are hobbled.

Laws and policies that restrict access to America’s abundant energy drive up the price of fuel and electricity. They cause widespread layoffs and leave workers and families struggling to survive, as the cost of everything they eat, drive, wear and do spirals higher. They roll back the progress for which civil rights revolutionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King struggled and died.

They create unnecessary obstacles to the natural, justifiable desire of minority Americans to share in the American Dream. They prevent us from resolving conflicts through compromise, and impose needless and unfair burdens on our poorest families.

These regressive, energy-killing laws and policies deny minority and other poor families a seat at the energy lunch counter, and send us to the back of the economic bus.

The Congress of Racial Equality and I care deeply about our environment. But we also care about having jobs, and affordable food, heat and transportation. We care about impoverished Third World families achieving their dreams.


Roy Innis

Roy Innis is national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America’s oldest and most respected civil rights groups, and a life-long advocate of economic development rights for poor families and communities around the world.


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