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Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the state’s Democratic candidate for Senate, chaired a government climate change task force that recommended anti-racism education.
The so-called Task Force on Climate Change — which Gov. Tony Evers, D-Wis., created and appointed Barnes to lead in October 2019 — was designed to develop strategies for the state’s government to pursue to combat climate change. Barnes and the task force’s other members delivered a final report more than a year later in December 2020 which laid out 55 solutions to fight global warming and promote “environmental justice.”
“In order to address this crisis and the environmental injustices associated with it, we must take urgent action, and we must ensure those actions are equitable and inclusive—anything less will continue the long pattern of environmental racism we have witnessed in this country,” Barnes said in a statement after the report was published.
Among its policy recommendations, the task force recommended implementing an anti-racism education curriculum across government entities through executive action and legislation. The task force asserted that racism was linked to climate change.
“Environmental racism and climate change are inextricably linked because the embedded racism and bias that exist within social, government, corporate, and financial systems deem who benefits from activities that produce harmful emissions and who suffers most from the consequences,” the report stated.
“Historically, communities of color and low-income communities have suffered the most.”
The report added that “systemic racism remains embedded in our social structures” and the average American’s historical and racial literacy is “depressingly low.” It also suggested using unconscious bias education to prevent future unjust laws.
In addition, the task force suggested the state government should expand support for adding climate science to its K-12 public school curriculum.
“In order to achieve environmental justice in Wisconsin, government bodies—along with others including corporations, nonprofit organizations, foundations, financial institutions, and the education system—must confront the racism and bias that exist within their systems,” the report stated.
Other recommendations included creating an Office of Environmental Justice, mandating a racial disparity impact study and launching climate change “education campaign.” The report noted that proposals to divest from fossil fuel investments and ban future oil and gas projects were discussed but not finalized.
Barnes, meanwhile, has previously defended critical race theory (CRT), arguing that religious education was more akin to “indoctrination.”
“Many of the same people rallying against critical race theory on the basis of ‘indoctrination’ are totally cool with tax dollars going towards religious education,” he tweeted on June 23, 2021. “Make it make sense.”
CRT refers to a school of thought that broadly aims to study how racism impacts major societal institutions. Local school districts nationwide have faced heavy criticism over the last year for introducing CRT concepts into K-12 curricula.
Barnes is running to oust incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in the upcoming November midterm election. The race is rated as a “toss up” by Cook Political Report and a recent Fox News poll showed Barnes with a slight lead over Johnson.
Barnes’ campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.