7/23/2020, 6 p.m.
I’m a volunteer for an environmental organization. Like many similar organizations, the great majority of our leaders are white, middle-aged or older and middle class or better. Of course, this is not representative of Virginia.
We’ve tried to increase the diversity of members and leaders for years but it’s difficult. We truly embrace equity, inclusion and justice. These are fully integrated in our culture for staff and volunteers. We emphasize environmental justice in our work.
For example, we highlighted the injustice of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline because they wanted to build a large, noisy, toxics-spewing compressor station in the predominantly African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County.
We take seriously environmental justice impacts with our other major campaigns, too. This will remain a priority.
I don’t have a lot of Black friends and know it’s unreasonable to ask them to speak on behalf of all “people of color” when I have a question. I wrote this letter because we’re grappling with how to adjust our role as our nation addresses systemic racism.
What can we do to be legitimately antiracist? I recently learned this word and want to embrace the imperative it demands.
There’s no question that we’ll continue to champion environmental projects that impact communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This is a core strength. We understand polluting projects were put near these communities on purpose and that these folks are overburdened with a myriad of health problems because of the resulting dirty air, water and land.
What else do you think we must do in this urgent moment? I’d love to hear your ideas.