Tag Archives: racism

In Solidarity with All Our Relations

The senseless, violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of this country are merely the most recent, visible examples of systemic inequality and racial injustice in our country. These deaths and the depth of inequality they represent work against our mission to seek a safe, prosperous, sustainable future for us all. Organizations, including our own, working against climate change have an obligation to unequivocally condemn racism in all its forms and to work towards an equitable, livable future for all.

We need real, lasting change to stop acts of racism and violence against communities of color, as well as the unjust burden of climate change on poor and front-line communities. We stand in solidarity with all marginalized and oppressed members of our community in calling for accountability and justice for all, and we commit to engaging in critical self-reflection and active listening and dialogue with marginalized communities to learn how we can be part of the solution.

How can we achieve climate justice today?

From urban cities to rural towns, people are coming together in outrage to demonstrate that #BlackLivesMatter and call for the end of white supremacy culture and systematic racism. This is not a new struggle or fight. This is a response to centuries of oppression that has torn apart Black communities through slavery, police brutality, incarceration, economic disenfranchisement, redlining, wage theft, and environmental racism. 

As an intersectional climate coalition, we know that we cannot achieve climate justice without racial and economic justice. We also recognize that we cannot fight the climate crisis without being anti-racist. Our society’s solutions must actively work to replace the current racist system with one that is just, equitable, and explicitly repairs past injustice. 

Ways to take anti-racist action:

  • Donate what you can to the following bailout funds and organizations that are leading this work
    • Black Visions Collective – A Black, trans and queer-led organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence, and shifting public narrative to create transformative, long-term change
    • Reclaim the Block – Minnesota coalition that advocates for and invests in community-led safety initatives in Minneapolis neighborhoods.
    • Black Lives Matter Seattle Freedom Fund – The funds collected will go to the immediate release of people protesting the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Manuel Ellis in Seattle/King County.

We uplift the lifelong work of Black, Brown and Indigenous-led organizations calling for racial justice and the transformation of our neighborhoods into places where everyone can be safe, healthy, and can thrive. We remain committed to confronting and undoing structural racism, uplifting the voices and decision-making power of communities of color, black, and indigenous communities, and pushing for solutions that invest our communities most impacted by structural racism, pollution, and the climate crisis.

In Solidarity,

Lauren Breynaert

Coalition Director, Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy

An Expose of the Environmental Movement

It is empowering to see how many people in Washington state are taking time in this moment to stand up for racial justice. Many of you have reached out to ask how the environmental community can show up right now and what our role is in the fight against institutional racism. At WCV, we believe showing up requires accountability to ourselves and each other. And that starts with knowing the history of the environmental movement, and how it often ignored and was outright harmful to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

The largest environmental organizations in the US, including WCV, have historically been, and largely continue to be, led and funded by white environmentalists. White-led organizations advocated for issues in white communities, where environmental benefits were felt by and centered on them. The environmental movement has and often continues to perpetuate ideas of white dominant culture and institutional racism, leading to a mainstream movement that has sought to preserve the natural world exclusively with white communities in mind. But that does not need to be our future. To be clear, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities have always cared about and celebrated our environment. But these same communities also bear the largest burden of toxic pollution and environmental degradation.

Census data and science tell us that, more than income or geography, race is still the number one indicator of whether a person will live near contaminated air, water, and soil. Washington is no stranger to these disparities. People living in South Seattle’s much more racially diverse neighborhoods of South Park, Georgetown, and Beacon Hill have a life expectancy that is eight years less than their whiter and wealthier neighbors in North Seattle. That is significantly linked to these neighborhoods’ proximity to large industrial polluters and highways that contaminate the air and water [1].

In the lower Yakima Valley, farm workers and local communities have been exposed to inordinately high risks from pesticides and chemical groundwater contamination [2]. This area, home to Washington’s largest Latino population, has experienced grave health impacts from overexposure to chemicals and has even seen anomalies like “blue baby syndrome” [3] that are linked to nitrates in drinking water.

Because Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities have been excluded or marginalized from the conversation and by failing to help dismantle the racist systems around us, today’s historically and currently white-led organizations will continue upholding these systems, perpetuating environmental injustices. We can, and must, do better.

The exploitative mindset that underlies white supremacy and continues to harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, is the same one driving depletion for profit, reckless drilling for fossil fuels, and irresponsible pollution of our waters. White supremacy champions dominion over nature, positions people as apart from the ecosystems we live in, divides us into groups with competing priorities, and leads to the disproportionate harm and death of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and people of color.

As we work to address our biggest environmental crises, our solutions must confront white supremacy and institutional racism. This means the policies we advocate must:

  • Work toward dismantling structural inequities,
  • Raise and act in solidarity with partners that represent communities of color in policy and decision-making,
  • And work with those communities most impacted to find solutions that provide an alternative to an economy built on extractive and unsustainable activities.

Without these principles, we cannot achieve our mission of protecting, restoring, and sustaining Washington’s environment for all. We are so proud to have you with us in this work. And we will continue to grow together to be better partners and allies in the fight for racial justice.

Over the last week our staff found these stories helpful to understand the intersections of race and the environment. We hope you’ll read these pieces with us:

Thank you for all you do,

Washington Conservation Voters

[1] KOMO “Study: Duwamish residents have short life expectancy”
Farmworker Justice “Exposed and Ignored: How pesticides are endangering our nation’s farmworkers”
Yakima Herald “Crusade for clean water in the Lower Valley”

Science is Not Immune to to Racism

The protests that are sweeping the country are a direct response to the fact that racism is an inescapable reality in the United States. That these protests are happening right now, in the midst of a pandemic that places the protesters at risk from congregating, speaks to how deep the injustice is, and how urgent the need for change. The legacy of white supremacy continues to harm those of us who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or members of other racially marginalized groups. 

And despite having a veneer of objectivity and impartiality, science is not immune

Science is a powerful tool for solving problems and making people’s lives better. But it has been used to do harm and obstruct progress as well.

Most people have heard of the infamous example of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In this 40-year study, Black men with syphilis were left untreated, without their informed consent and despite the availability of effective therapies, so that researchers could study the progress of the disease. This is but one example of how science has been used to justify white, European conquest for centuries and continues to this day.

Today’s protests aren’t just about the nine minutes that ex-Officer Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck ultimately leading to his death. They are about the thousands of other unarmed Black men, women, and children who have been needlessly killed by police or others with impunity. They’re about the 40 years of treating hundreds of Black men as guinea pigs in the name of science. And they’re about the 400-year old legacy of slavery and inequality in this country, which manifests itself in institutional and systemic racism in all aspects of modern life from access to housing, health care, food, economic opportunity, and beyond. 

As an organization that works for a healthy planet and a safer world, we must address the reality that health and safety are enjoyed unequally across racial lines in our country. Ending these inequities must be an integral part of our mission and our daily work. And a commitment to facing facts means we must be willing to talk about racism explicitly, listen to those who’ve been hurt by it, take counsel from and show up as allies for those who are leading the fight against it, and confront it both in the world we seek to change and in our own institution, assumptions, and actions.

We stand in solidarity with the protesters and urge our supporters to do the same. We also recognize the additional risks protesters are incurring in the midst of a pandemic, and we strongly encourage all to protect their own health and the health of their loved ones at home by maintaining a safe distance from one another and wearing masks and gloves at all times, so that this important act of protest does not result in more sickness and death from the virus. 

If you haven’t already, seek out and support local organizers and organizations in your community who are doing critical work on racial equity, environmental justice, voting access, and more. Not sure where to start? Here are some groups that can be a launching point:

As an organization, we are also continuously working to advance our own internal racial equity as an integral part of working  to achieve our mission. We acknowledge that our progress is slow and that we have more work to do, even within our own organization. Below are some resources that some of our staff have found useful. 

You can also explore how bias plays out in your own life, as it does with all of us, by taking this test on implicit bias designed by a cross-disciplinary group of researchers.

If you identify as white and haven’t yet explored issues of privilege, we suggest the podcast series Seeing White from the Center on Documentary Studies at Duke University, or watch this video series on systemic racism from our colleagues at Race Forward.

Katy Love
Katy Love
Online Engagement Manager
Union of Concerned Scientists