divisive: creating disunity or dissension
dissension: disagreement
— Miriam-Webster online

In a rebuttal to my last column, Thom Krueger “Affordable housing: More development isn’t a solution” (Feb. 25) cautioned me and others not to present arguments in favor of affordable housing that are oh-so-divisive.

We are all liberals, right? Socioeconomic progressives and hardcore environmentalists should be working together toward the same goals. It’s the Republicans of whom we should be wary. For some reason, this is supposed to be especially true for Black folks.

Well, I’ve got some news for hardcore environmentalists.

Democrats, liberal independents and socially progressive, but fiscally conservative, Republicans (yes, they exist) have and will continue to disagree with you — politically, socially, fiscally and geographically. They did so in the last local election and won.

Those who practice environmentalism in a silo stand no better a chance of achieving their goals than those who do the same in their fights for social justice, or to roll back the growing income and wealth gaps.

People need clean water, healthy food and should be good stewards of nature, so they should care about ecology.

But, people also need money to pay for the basic necessities of life, so we must have good jobs and a vibrant economy.

And, racial and socioeconomic segregation by Boulderites in the name of local environmentalism is an attack on many of our local workers. It goes against the very tenets of federal Fair Housing law.

Therefore, we should be building more affordable housing, not segregating our workforce to outlying cities. That’s the social justice part.

Sociologist Douglas Massey titled his 2020 article “Still the Linchpin: Segregation and Stratification in the USA.”  Massey is also the co-author of the classic work, “American Apartheid.”  In both pieces, he presents clear data and analysis of housing segregation’s negative effects.

They manifest themselves in the form of metropolitan-level concentrated poverty. He also shows the unfair geographic isolation of opportunities such as access to better schools, jobs and the accumulation of housing wealth.

Massey references Charles Tilley in his definition of stratification as “a process that produces inequalities in access to important societal resources and it is achieved through two basic social mechanisms: opportunity hoarding and exploitation”.

By limiting housing, Boulderites hoard this town’s economic tax base. This tax base is powered by the University of Colorado Boulder, our federal labs, large high-tech firms and the many other businesses that have chosen to locate here.

At the same time, we deny tens of thousands of our low- and middle-income workers the realistic opportunity to home ownership or affordable rent near where they work.

Those who wish to redo last fall’s CU South election and resist higher-density housing in Boulder are perpetuating a nationwide pattern of racial and socioeconomic segregation and stratification as well as environmental degradation.

Education and jobs are deeply intertwined with protection of the natural world. These were the findings of the 1987 Brundtland Commission’s document, “Our Common Future.”  This report recognized the worldwide application of sustainable development practices as our most viable option if we are to be good stewards of the lands, air and water, while at the same time protecting all our planet’s living beings, including human beings.

Building more affordable housing near Colorado’s flagship university is one of the most sustainable development practices in which we can engage.

Some, in the name of pure, detached environmentalism, have chosen to resist affordable housing’s triple bottom line solution of economic justice, social justice and environmental protection.

Not me. As Massey so eloquently states in the final sentence of his 2020 piece, “Given the gaping fissures in America’s social and economic geography documented here, is it any wonder that the USA is a polarized and divided nation?”

Black Americans well remember when much of white America acquiesced to slavery and lynching so as to not create division.

It won’t happen here. It won’t happen now. If that means being “divisive,” count me in!

Timothy Thomas is a former member of the Boulder County Democrats Executive Committee and a former member of the CU Environmental Center’s Environmental Justice Steering Committee.