This post has been in my drafts for over 8 months. It’s a long time since I first decided to write about this topic but I never felt I was 100% prepared to tackle such a delicate subject. Since then, lots changed, mainly the fact that I’ll become a mother in less than 6 months. What also changed, is the fact that I’ve been learning, reading, researching and unlearning for over a year since I first found out about the work of Layla F. Saad and her piece on White Supremacy and Emotional Bypassing.
These are all big words that carry a heavy weight but I urge you not to walk away from it. With the recent facts coming from the US, and the repercussion that the death of George Floyd brought, I needed to share my thoughts to help you continue (or start) your journey on anti-racism.
I wrote this exact title to my post 8 months ago and I’m glad I haven’t changed it. Since then, I’ve been more conscious of my work with this blog and the voices I share and amplify on my social media. Recently, Leah Thomas from @GreenGirlLeah shared a post that really resonated with my thoughts and I wanted to amplify her work:
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Social justice cannot wait. It is not an optional “add-on” to environmentalism. It is unfair to opt in and out of caring about racial injustices when many of us cannot. These injustices are happening to our parents, our children, our family and our friends. I’m calling on the environmentalist community to stand in solidarity with the black lives matter movement and with Black, Indigenous + POC communities impacted daily by both social and environmental injustice. Please swipe to learn more about intersectional environmentalism and take the pledge. Here is a list of some of my favorite accounts I follow that raise awareness for intersectional environmentalism, please tag more in the comments!: @mikaelaloach @toritsui_ @jamie_s_margolin @queerbrownvegan @diandramarizet @wildginaa @aditimayer @naturechola @nativein_la @amaze_me_grace @she_colorsnature @switchbackshawty @bleavitt8 @badgal_brooky @teresabaker11 @ImKevinJPatel @Xiyebeara @lainetew @sophiakianni @xiuhtezcatl
There’s no Environmentalism Without Intersectionality
As a sustainability blogger and someone with a platform (no matter how small), I cannot ignore the fact that racial justice is a pressing matter that needs to be addressed in order for us all to enjoy a better planet.
Considering that the capitalist system that we live in explores the livelihoods of Black, Brown and Indigenous people, we cannot ignore their suffering and bypass their experiences because we want to fight for a ‘greener’ planet. Truth is, it’s because of the capitalist system that we find ourselves where we are. It’s the same system that exploits BIPOC lives that destroy the environment. The same system that oppresses BIPOC voices is the same system that ignores the pleads of preservation of life and ecosystems.
The point is, we need to fight together against the system that oppresses our brothers and sisters if we ever want to have an equal and just society.
This concept may be hard to grasp at first, and you might be second-guessing this whole narrative, but I urge you to do your own research, find your own stats and learn from the BIPOC voices. Listen to what they have to say. Validate and acknowledge their experiences. Because they have been telling those stories for a very long time. You might need to take a deep dive back in the history of your own country to find out the truth and that dive may take your even deeper within yourself. To find your own unconscious bias and your own prejudices (we all have them, trust me).
How can you make a difference?
As a white person, I recognise my own privilege (racial, cis and socio-economic, and more…) and I’m learning to take responsibility for the work I need to do.
I know and understand that I haven’t created racism or the systems that exploit BIPOCs but I acknowledge the fact that I benefit from this very system when I don’t get treated the same way as a Black, Brown or Indigenous person. This is my privilege and if I don’t fight against it, I’m complicit to it.
As a white ‘ally’ (and I write it like that because it’s something I know I’ll never fully achieve), I need to actively work towards eradicating my own bias and consistently remove myself from the position of power and from being the centre of the narrative. I need to let them speak for themselves. My job is to lift their voices, not mine. Removing ourselves from the centre of the attention is hard because we are always the ones in our own narratives, but it’s important we make this constant exercise.
As many educators have said before: being an ally is a verb, not a noun, meaning we need to constantly work for it. It’s not simply uttering #blacklivesmatter and not act on an injustice when you see it. Being an ally takes time and it’s hard because we as white people have to go through stages of denial, guilt, fragility and so on until we can actually start doing positive work. And it’s something I’ll probably have to work towards my whole life.
But it’s necessary that we go through this uncomfortable work.
We must understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a huge privilege to learn about racism instead of feeling it yourself. So instead of keep on going about my privilege, I’ll share important resources that can help you guide you through this journey.
This is just the beginning
What you need to do from here on, is to pledge to do the work. Actively listen, pay attention, research, unlearn your bias and support those doing the hard work. Pay for the labour of Black educators, buy their books, support them on Patreon, follow them, amplify their voices.
And learning is the single most important thing you need to start doing because armed with the right information and education, you can start going into the next step.
The hard work that needs to be done is taking action directly within your friendship group, your family members, your workplace. It’s stepping up to the game and standing up for the Black, Brown and Indigenous people that have been silenced. Call out covert and casual racism and dive deep into those uncomfortable conversations. This is the hard work that we can do. Because the BIPOC folks are way too tired of having to say it over and over again for those who won’t listen.
As a white woman, I would like to leave this channel (this blog, or any of my socials) open for your questions and I’ll try my best to provide you with information so you don’t have to do that to BIPOC folks. But I strongly urge you to pay for Black and Indigenous authors and educators too if you have the position to do so. Below are some books to get you started.
It’s time we take the work ourselves to fix something that wasn’t created by marginalised people even though they carry this burden daily for their whole lives.
Are you willing to do the work?
Me & White Supremacy – Layla F. Saad: http://laylafsaad.com/
Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe (Aboriginal History)
Women, Race & Class – Angela Davis
So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
AMERICANAH – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: https://www.chimamanda.com/
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning – Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo: https://robindiangelo.com/
My environmentalism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/my-environmentalism-will-be-intersectional-or-it-will-be-bullshit/
Intersectionality Is Important For Environmental Activism Too: https://ethicalunicorn.com/2018/02/09/intersectionality-is-important-for-environmental-activism-too/