Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock is a staff writer at where he writes about civil rights and all matters of justice

Recent Articles


This past Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was interviewed by's Cynthia Gordy -- a member of that curiosity seen among the Washington press corps these days that's referred to as the "Black News Media" -- about progress in New Orleans' post-Katrina recovery. It was good that Napolitano was able to step away for a moment from pressing drug war and immigration issues to tour New Orleans with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for an assessment of the recovery process. Unsurprisingly, they found that the rebuilding there is still roughshod, and not due to any fault of the neighborhoods, which have been doing their best with what little they have. The problem they found, unsurprisingly, has been government failure to get money where it's needed. Early in the convo with Gordy, Napolitano shows that she and President Barack Obama get that the effort needs fuller funding: We have moved special teams to Louisiana to speed up decisions on projects that need...

Fighting for Green Justice

In the race for green jobs, environmental-justice advocates don't want urban communities to get left behind.

Since the 1980s, the environmental-justice movement has linked the pursuit of a greener economy with the needs of urban minority communities that have suffered more than their share of environmental assaults. Though the best publicized new jobs in the clean-energy economy are ones building wind turbines or solar-energy technology, environmental-justice leaders insist that green jobs are also about cleaning up brownfield sites, abating inner-city lead levels, monitoring urban air and water quality, developing urban gardens, and mitigating asbestos. Beyond merely offering employment opportunities, activists say the jobs should also pay decent wages, have safe work environments, and be unionized or offer workers considerable say over how businesses operate. But now that green economic development has become fashionable, environmental-justice advocates fear that the green-jobs movement will leave their communities behind. For two decades, the environmental-justice movement has combined...


The Environmental Protection Agency released a report today examining whether there has been a fundamental shift away from suburban residential construction to urban residential. Through studying residential building permits in the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the EPA found that there have been significant shifts from the 'burbs back to the city in over half of them. The center-city core saw its share of residential construction double in 15 metro regions, and this trend has increased dramatically over the past five years. While a large share of home construction still takes place in the "urban fringe," the foreclosure crisis seems to be effectively pushing more people out of the suburbs. At least until the housing crunch, minorities had been increasingly ending up in the suburbs, which at least seems to be making progressive electoral political change in those areas. As Nate Silver pointed out in Esquire a couple of months ago, President Obama didn't need the suburban vote to win...


No sooner than the minute I filed my story on Van Jones' new appointment to the White House as advisor on green jobs did I get an e-mail from Van Jones about this very topic. It wasn't a personal e-mail from Jones but rather an e-mail from the Green for All listserv announcing his new position. Here, he disspells a number of rumors that had been circulating since word got out about his "Green Jobs Czar"-ship. First, he's not a "czar," Jones informs us, and second, he defers to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on who should be a "Green Jobs Czar" -- or "Czarina" as Jones puts it -- which was a point I raised with Joe Romm of Climateprogress when I interviewed him for our story. Most interesting to me was the job description Jones provides: "My job will be to help shape the administration's energy and climate policy, so that climate solutions produce jobs and justice for all Americans." It's the all Americans that concerns me. It was widely reported that Nancy Sutley , chair of the White...

Will Van Jones Work in the White House?

Van Jones has been agitating for a green agenda as a lifeline for the dying ghettos of America. Will he be effective making policy on Capitol Hill?

Image from Flickr used under a Creative Commons license.
It took less than five years for Van Jones to rise from Oakland community-based activist with a plan for bringing green jobs to the hood to national leader of a broad-based "green-growth alliance" movement. While Jones is often cited as originating the idea, green jobs -- even "for the ghetto" -- are not new. This kind of work-force training and development through private-federal partnerships has been around since at least 1995, when the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences started the Minority Worker Training Program, which focuses on employment that in current parlance would be labeled "green." And so Jones' appointment as special adviser on green jobs, enterprise, and innovation to Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, actually represents a coming of age for issues that begged attention long before last year’s release of Jones’ book, The Green Collar Economy . It would be difficult to argue that there is a better...