Derrick Z. Jackson

Derrick Z. Jackson is a Fellow in climate and energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a periodic essayist for The American Prospect and ESPN's The Undefeated. He is a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, a 2018 winner from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and a 2017 winner from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Recent Articles

Frank Robinson: He Blazed a Trail Baseball Still Refuses to Follow

Professional sports teams have made little progress in elevating African Americans to the top slots on the field.

Back in 1981 when I was a sports writer for Newsday, all-star relief pitcher Dave LaRoche told me about a night in the mid-1970s when he and another player on the Cleveland Indians wanted to talk to manager Frank Robinson about an issue the team was concerned about. They talked to 1 in the morning. “Frank was the first manager who said his door was open, you found it really was,” LaRoche said. Robinson, who recently died at the age 83, stood out his entire baseball career. In a statement on Robinson’s passing, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said, "Frank Robinson's resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations. He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career.” Unfortunately, Manfred’s intended tribute encapsulates the patronizing attitudes that dominate the conversation about racial opportunity in sports...

EPA Rollbacks: Hurting Americans Where They Live

A look inside the agency’s Midwest office

This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Prospect. Subscribe here . This fall, the Midwest regional division of the Environmental Protection Agency posted soil-test results from homes located across from metal and mineral storage facilities along the Calumet River in southeast Chicago. Of more than 100 homes sampled, two-thirds had high levels of lead in their yards. Ironically, the EPA was primarily testing not for lead but for manganese dust, a neurotoxin that has been detected in this neighborhood of 20,000 residents, including in 1,700 children five years old and younger. Half of the homes indeed had manganese contamination. In a further irony, the first manganese detection in 2014 came from EPA air monitors sniffing for polution from a petcoke facility. The neighborhood had been plagued with dust storms blowing off piles of this oil-refining byproduct that were several stories high. Community activism and the EPA’s monitoring forced the elimination of...

Puffins: Harbingers of Climate Change

These small ocean birds are the proverbial canary in the coal mine as the ecology of their habitat worsens.

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Audrey Holstead watched a puffin rocket in from the ocean with a beak dripping with fish. It zoomed over boulders in front of her bird blind and dropped with pinpoint accuracy into a narrow, dark crevice. Holstead’s skin crawled with electricity. Puffins come ashore with fish for only one reason: to feed a chick. This was the first feeding of the season observed at this particular hole. It belonged to the 173rd breeding pair of Atlantic puffins on Eastern Egg Rock, an island six miles off Pemaquid Point on Maine’s midcoast. That set a new record for the National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin, one of the world’s most famous bird restoration efforts. The season finished with 178 breeding pairs. “I just wanted to jump up and down and scream to the world,” Holstead says. “I did a little wiggly dance.” Holstead’s victory jig was one of...

Catching a Breeze

America's belated push to develop offshore wind energy

This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect. Subscribe here . Three years ago, after the collapse of Cape Wind off Nantucket Sound, renewable offshore wind energy in the United States was “a stone dead market,” according to Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America. His Danish parent company, formerly DONG Energy, has built more offshore wind farms than any country in the world. Cape Wind, the 130-turbine, 468-megawatt brainchild of clean energy entrepreneur Jim Gordon, was litigated to the grave by local residents as too ruinous to the Cape Cod seascape. It was resisted by liberal Kennedys and right-wing Kochs alike. Despite its environmental benefits, the project also was persistently criticized as a noncompetitive boondoggle with outrageous power costs. The death knell of America’s first would-be offshore wind farm was arguably most felt in New Bedford, Massachusetts. That city, despite being the richest seafood...

Trump’s Great American Whitewash

Why do so many white people believe that the president has their best interests at heart?

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
With Donald Trump becoming in spectacular short order our most racist modern president, it must be asked: What are white people getting out of him? I know he does not speak for all white people: One in three voted for Hillary Clinton and millions of white Americans opposed his presidency and policies in 2017, as people marched to support women, science, climate, and immigrants, to name a few Trump targets. After giving 52 percent of their votes to Trump, it is a hopeful sign that white women have taken a decisively dim view of him, with a 37 percent approval rating in the latest Quinnipiac poll. But the majority of white men remain undisturbed by comments that get more applause from Klansmen and American Nazis than anyone else. After Trump’s recent “shithole” assault on Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador, 51 percent of white men told the Quinnipiac poll that the statement was not racist, compared with just 43 percent who said it was racist. A recent Washington Post /ABC...