Wednesday June 10th, 2020
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and others have sparked a wave of anti-racist protests around the world, especially against police and government violence toward black people and other people of color. These murders are horrific. They are not new. What is new is the level of public recognition that something systemic is wrong. This is a real opportunity for change, and we would like to express and encourage solidarity with those who are fighting for change.
Climate movements have a big role to play here. Sustainability goes hand in hand with indigenous rights, decolonization, and anti-racism efforts in many ways. Environmental damage and racism have a common root in the extraction of resources. They have a common obstacle in police and state violence. And climate change is fundamentally racist, both in the selective indifference that has largely caused and rationalized it, and in its ravaging communities of color in this unfolding century to an extent that few of us have fully faced. This is a good time for us to recommit ourselves to putting racial justice at the center of sustainability efforts, and to addressing race and class divisions within environmental movements and academic institutions. We’ll be working on incorporating discussions of racism into our upcoming Zoom forums and conference. But we also think it makes sense for people who care about sustainability to put our hearts and our energy directly into movements like Black Lives Matter. If we want a sustainable world for everyone, we cannot ignore this opportunity to address the injustice in our institutions and our cultures. When we are able, let’s protest, support anti-racism protests, and stay close to those we know who are most directly affected.
Olúfẹmi Táíwò, one of our members, just published an excellent piece about overlapping crises and their political dimensions. For those within or interested in the US, you might also want to read and sign this growing letter of support for Black Lives Matter by academics and other leaders; look to this map of black-led black liberation organizing; look at plans and resources for ending police violence such as Campaign Zero, defunding the police, 8 to Abolition, and community control of the police; support a bail fund; or support declaring racism a public health crisis. We need good resources to stay smart about addressing racism during our ongoing pandemic and economic crises, including ones on protesting safely; please share others if you have them.
It is worth remembering that the protests are mostly peaceful; that much of the recent theft and violence has been by white people; that others who are stealing have been stolen from for centuries; that refraining from protest endangers people, just as protesting without a mask during COVID does; and that protest is essential to resisting both racism and climate change. The once-enslaved US abolitionist Frederick Douglass said in 1857:
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Rebecca and Eugene, incorporating input by Gisele Secco, Olúfẹmi Táíwò, Robin Zheng, Amy Berg, Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, Nora Boyd, and Chuck Goldhaber