Many of you may be wondering why I’m speaking to this topic on a platform typically associated with living “zero waste”. Great question. The condensed answer is: dismantling racism is intrinsically linked to environmentalism.
This can be summarized through the term “Intersectional Environmentalism,” and I’ll quote Leah Thomas from @greengirlleah (Instagram) to explain:
“What is Intersectional Environmentalism? This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah
We are all connected. We cannot separate our care for the earth from caring for the people within it. And there is a resounding outcry for us to do better.
In my efforts to step up, I am realizing how often I need to stand back. Not to do nothing, but to intentionally listen, observe, and learn from my brothers and sisters of color. I have much to learn as I strive to be a strong ally.
The week of June 1st – 7th, a movement was started through Instagram called #AmplifyMelanatedVoices. Led by @jessicawilson.msrd and @blackandembodied, white people and non-Black people of color were encouraged to put themselves on “mute” for the week to intentionally listen and uplift Black voices. Any posts or stories we shared needed to be from Black educators, leaders, authors, speakers, artists, and so on. And in the meantime, we were encouraged to actively seek out resources on how to be strong allies, anti-racists, and to apply this knowledge.
As we are now transitioning out of this week, the movement cannot stop here. I’ve put much thought into how to handle this transition, and felt it would be best to publish this post (and a video, if you’re interested). Below, I will share some reflections from two Black leaders who specifically taught me a lot last week, and then I will share with you a bunch of resources.
Reflections from a Webinar: “Breaking the Cycle of Racism” with Andre Henry and Micky ScottBey Jones
Andre and Micky shared a powerful conversation in this webinar that I would highly recommend you take the time to watch! You can register to receive the recorded video in your email here. This webinar was hosted by Evangelicals for Social Action, but it is not an exclusive message for only Christians. Their conversation addresses the changes we need to see and steps we need to take within all circles. You can find out more about each host and their work here: …Andre Henry… …Micky ScottBey Jones…
Below are my outlined notes highlighting the key take-aways from this conversation (if you’d prefer to watch the video I made where I share these notes, that begins at about 11 minutes in):
- We all hit a tipping point at some time where we realize racism (both individual and systemic) didn’t “end” in the 60s. Some people realize this really early in life, some later, and some may be realizing that just now with the recent events in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
- There was a huge focus on breaking down individual racism after the 60s (teaching someone what to do or not to do and why)
- We need to shift our thinking beyond individual racism and focus more on changing the laws/policies that still contribute to systemic racism, and we need to hold that enforcement accountable
- The priority for most Black people is freedom, not necessarily unity (although they would welcome both!)
- Focusing discussion on unity and living together peacefully is comfortable for white people
- Dr. MLK Jr. did not solely focus on peace and unity, but it’s easier for white people or non-Black people of color to focus on those quotes of his rather than look at the tangible, legal action he fought for within the Civil Rights Movement → what led him to become one of the most hated men in America and ultimately assassinated.
- Institutions and individuals need to do the work to back up their words, quotes, “Black Lives Matter” images, etc.
- American society and political powers work in a system of consent → we have the power (e.g. In the game “Simon Says”, most sane participants wouldn’t pull down their pants even if Simon said “Simon says pull down your pants” → the participants have the power)
- We need to ask ourselves: in what ways is our mass-participation sustaining a specific system?
- 4 steps to enact real change: Listen, Dream, Plan, Act. And repeat.
- Dismantling racism is everyday work and goes beyond self-education. We can easily hide in the learning because it becomes comfortable or feels safer, but we need consistent application of our learning and then reflection on those actions.
- What am I doing beyond being a “keyboard warrior”? Am I truly in this lifelong learning and work for the long haul?
- We’re going to mess up and get called out, but this leads to reflection, change/growth, and further action!
- There is no level of perfection in activism
- Educate yourself, but also apply this learning through daily interactions, conversations, how we spend our money, when we vote, etc.
Addressing Christians (and anybody really!)
- The “purity tests” have to go. (e.g. I can’t support Black Lives Matter because someone in their group said “F*** the cops”…) Perfection doesn’t exist, and looking for it takes away support from the many people/organizations that need it.
- Enough is enough, and there is a righteous way to be angry and to fight for justice. Jesus provides examples of that (even overturning tables within a temple!) and his disciples were nowhere near passing a perfect “purity test”.
- We all need to know who our ancestors are (learning from our own history), who we are currently learning from, and who is the crew that we can do this lifelong work with?
- Non-violent struggle does not mean passively sitting on our couch, typing that “violence never solved anything”, and then doing nothing. It’s not an excuse to be passive. Non-violent struggle involves finding ways to actively disrupt the system and enact change.
As we transition back into more of the regularly scheduled content, I will continue actively seeking ways to engage in intersectional environmentalism. I am reading books, listening to podcasts/webinars, engaging in more meaningful conversations, signing petitions and calling/emailing representatives, donating to organizations devoted to social justice, will be digging deep into research when it comes to voting, and actively applying my learning as much as possible. A small cohort of zero-waste businesses I am part of will be hiring a consultant who is a person of color and can guide us in how to create an inclusive environment which uplifts a diverse range of voices and work.
There is much to be done, much to be learned. The process is lifelong, so I know change will not happen overnight, nor is perfection a level I can obtain. But it is my responsibility and privilege to care for this earth and the living beings within it to the best of my ability. I will not be complacent.
If you’re interested in learning more about intersectional environmentalism or dismantling racism as a whole, I have some resources linked below!
- Andre Henry info
- Micky ScottBey Jones info
- “Breaking the Cycle of Racism” Webinar: register to receive the recorded video in your email here.
- You can watch my video connected to this blog post with personal reflections
- Instagram accounts with people of color leading in sustainable living (in no particular order): @greengirlleah, @fullbyles, @jenriverabell, @bipocswho_zerowaste, @blushingblueberry, @benita_robledo, @diandramarizet, @_wastelandrebel_, @little_kotos_closet, @naturechola, @queerbrownvegan, @browngirl_green, @ajabarber, @dominiquedrakeford, @mikaelaloach, @aditimayer, @toritsui_, @celinecelines, @sweetpotatosoul, @ayanaeliza
- Instagram accounts with people of color dismantling racism (in no particular order): @blackandembodied, @jessicawilson.msrd, @laylafsaad, @ckyourprivilege, @intersectional.abc, @seedingsovereignty, @latashamorrison, @theandrehenry, @blklivesmatter, @beabridgebuilder, @thegreatunlearn, @naacp, @bleavitt8, @switchbackshawty, @she_colorsnature, @teresabaker11, @lisasharper, @badgal_brooky
- Resources for actively living anti-racism
- Some organizations to donate to…
- Proposed Police Accountability Bill 217 in Colorado as of June 5th, 2020: details and how you can support