Our country has a long history of building toxic factories, waste facilities, and freeways in minority and low-income neighborhoods, harming the health of people of color and ignoring their voices. Clean water for drinking, swimming, and fishing is essential for all of us - not just the privileged few. People of color are disproportionately affected by the loosening of EPA regulations, selective enforcement of existing laws, and lack of equal access to education, nature, and so many other vital aspects of American life.
Undoubtedly many of you have signed petitions, donated to national racial justice groups like Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, and police accountability projects, and read about how we as individuals - and as a society - can step up for those whose voices have been ignored for too long.
But what can we do here in Humboldt, where Black Americans are just 2% of the population? And more specifically, what can the environmental movement do to include more non-white voices? We’ve learned through trial and error that it takes building relationships and listening - it’s not enough to simply invite underserved and under-represented people to our events. We must participate in other communities' events, actively listen to their concerns, and ask how we can work together.
We hope you will join us in our commitment to actively participate in local discussions on racial equity and work to ensure that all people feel safe and valued in nature and our community.
Coming up on June 19 is an opportunity to listen, learn, and celebrate Juneteenth with the Eureka Chapter of the NAACP and Black Humboldt. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Black history is a part of U.S. history and is important to celebrate as we create safe spaces and inclusion for people of color in Humboldt County. Starting at noon, a variety of workshops and music will be accessible via Zoom, Access Humboldt Channel 11, Facebook, and Instagram. More info HERE.
We can also work on changing our own biases by becoming more conscious of them. Many non-white people don't feel comfortable or safe in nature - for reasons that have been made painfully clear over recent weeks. What goes through your mind when you see a Black or Latino man walking alone in the woods or at the beach?
Listen to the experiences of Botany Bae, the Black rare plant researcher who was handcuffed while doing his job, just because of the color of his skin. Read the words of Carolyn Finney, the experienced backpacker who still feels unsafe walking outside in the country of her birth. Learn about Rue Mapp’s encounter with racism in an Oakland city park which inspired her to create Outdoor Afro – an organization which encourages black nature lovers into the outdoors in over 30 states.
We stand with Black Americans in their struggle to live in a safe and healthy environment. And we pledge to do better to work toward a just society for all.
Here are a few more opportunities to listen and learn:
- PBS's Race Matters: America in Crisis, June 5, 2020
- 6 ways to be antiracist, because being 'not racist' isn't enough by Rebecca Ruiz
- Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
- Q&A with Senator Cory Booker on the Future of Police Reform - The New Yorker
- Reconstruction - an essential lesson in U.S. history by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.