Racial justice is an integral part to achieving environmental justice

Only a few months back, a friend told me that we are all racist in some way. Though my immediate thought was “I’m not racist. I believe in equality.” Though I felt defensive, I also recognized I didn’t fully understand her comment and have since tried to understand what she meant. 

I believe all experiences are equally valid and think that belief alone should define me as part of the solution. However, as I have never sought out to hear and act upon the different voices within my community, the uncomfortable truth is I am part of systemic racism.  

In my 43 years, as a light-skinned mixed Asian, my immediate community has been white. Unconsciously, I have had little to no interactions with non-whites from primary school to university to even my working career. 

How can we ever have equality when the voices that make up our society are completely unheard? How can we tend to the concerns of everyone when so many are silenced or dismissed and when much of the silencing is built into our systems?

I need to do better. 

We need to do better. 

Therefore on this World Oceans Day, it is critical that we recognize that racial justice is an integral part to achieving environmental justice.

I think it is worth reminding that World Oceans Day was started in order to give recognition to the disregarded plight of the oceans and “to strengthen the voice of the ocean and the coastal constituencies worldwide.”

The words “voice” and “constituencies” stand out for me, as these words represent who we, as environmentalists, choose to represent. We work to undo our silencing of the strong voices of the oppressed, those unheard by the powerful, and those who suffer the most due to negative environmental impacts of human activities.

The black, brown, indigenous, and poor communities around the world are not only the first to suffer, but suffer the most from environmental issues.

It would be foolish for us to think we can solve environmental issues without addressing racial injustice.

As part of our mission to empower local communities, we are committed to empowering those that struggle as a result of racism and unconscious bias.

On this World Oceans Day, we do not want this to be just another token “green” day. We want this day to mark real change to be better because we want a better world for all of us.