Just Climate Action = Deconstructing Racism

We start with introductions – how people are feeling as they arrive in the room.  The formal meeting starts with a land acknowledgement recognizing the indigenous caretakers that came millennia before and who are with us today. Then the assigned facilitator (rotated each month) takes us through the agenda.  

Deconstructing racism and inspiring power – inspiring brilliant humans (that we have put at risk with our explicit and implicit systemic racism) is humbling, complex and rewarding.  I’ll be working at dismantling racism for the rest of my life, my own and society’s.  The racist code mistreats the earth and that same code mistreats people. It has formed our rituals, stories, laws and our psyche.

If you are experiencing some difficulty when you gather to discuss climate action in diverse community you are fortunate and you are probably doing something right.  It can sound prescriptive, but it’s the fact, climate justice requires centering action on black brown indigenous persons of color (BBIPOC).  BBIPOC have experienced, and continue to experience, the most harm from climate change – fires, pandemics, food/ shelter/wage insecurity.  Regular intentional lifting of BBIPOC people is necessary for every aspect of improving the human condition – it’s the only way to healthy outcome.

We arrive and do the work to learn how to be in a just relationship.  Historically, and up to the present time, we have not succeeded.  Taking the time to be in just relationship and reach considered decisions – consensus – is a lot to ask of anyone.  Many of us do not have the privilege of a flexible schedule and non-essential time to devote to climate justice action.  And yet we see black and brown bodies – particularly indigenous people – putting their lives on the line for Mother Earth. What white people have associated with as the “climate movement” has been a movement mostly absent of diversity – until recently.  The absence is unjust and fatal to positive action.

People arrive to climate action meetings with different lived experiences and building climate justice requires space for hearing how others arrive to a meeting.  There may be needs the group can address that make vulnerable community participation possible – hearing how the kids are struggling with school, how the car did not start today and the fear of retribution from hostile law enforcement is not easy to share. And to be mindful – that the above experiences are not assumed to be POC experiences; we all arrive in some form of strife or we would not need climate action.  

Add to complexity of being in justice within the group, the public institutions (county boards, city councils, commissions) steeped in “noble” purpose defined by colonial origins.  BBIPOCe engagement of government institutions can be an emotionally charged event.  Again not to assume, all of us need to consider making space, to monitor public agenda’s, supply meeting notes, send a friendly text and to respect boundaries.

It’s hard, we don’t know if the collaboration will stand, but it’s up to white identified persons to get to work.  Drive the distance, perform the errand and otherwise step into the place that is inconvenient or uncomfortable.  The lived experience for BBIPOC remains one of battling back the constant agitation of being other. On this planet we invented other and those of us who have benefited from that violence most are the ones who need to listen and act to dismantle it. Together we take climate action.