Why Sierra Club and All of Us Must Confront Racism

In the past week, our country and state have been gripped by protests fighting for justice, against structural racism, and against police violence that has killed countless human beings, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Now more than ever, we need our government to protect us all from threats like COVID-19 and climate change.  But all too often our government is the aggressor against Black and brown people, instead of the protector we need. This systematic oppression is not new, only the ability to capture it on video is. In fact, structural racism is tied to the systems that plunder our natural resources and pollute our communities — especially those same communities of color terrorized by police violence.

These systems of oppression were built over centuries, and will not be dismantled overnight, but we must all commit to real change, in ourselves and our society, until they are. Protecting and treating all people equally is a moral imperative, and also linked to our success in dismantling the systems of power that are causing climate change, species extinction, and environmental injustice.

Each of us in the Sierra Club have a role to play in dismantling white supremacy and structural racism.

In our own lives, being “not racist” isn’t enough, we need to be actively anti-racist. Here are some great anti-racism resources that are written with a white audience in mind. Challenge yourself to confront racism when you see it or hear it, and intervene to support people of color and de-escalate incidences of racist behavior.

Within the Sierra Club we need to double down on our efforts to be more inclusive and reflective of the communities we work to protect, and make sure our doors and our culture are welcoming to everyone, even if it means changing the ways we work.

Within society, organizations in Black and brown communities need your help now. I’ve mentioned in previous emails that the COVID-19 crisis hit communities of color the hardest. Entire communities of color are grieving the loss of grandparents, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and children at disproportionate rates. Many are now reeling from violence on top of these health threats. Please donate to a community organization serving Black people — here are some suggestions from our team.

We need to do serious work to build a better world from both these protests and the COVID-19 crisis. That world should be founded on the values of equality and justice. It begins by turning inwards and asking ourselves the tough questions. Why do our communities remain so segregated? Why have Black communities remained worse off? What have we done, or not done, to allow racism to flourish in this country?

Being anti-racist needs to be an essential part of our environmental movement here in Illinois. The climate crisis will continue to hurt communities of color far more than white ones. People of color can’t fully participate in our movement or society if they fear for their lives while walking or jogging through the neighborhood.

Let’s commit to being the change we want to see.