Statement by USCAN Executive Director Keya Chatterjee: "We must step up to defend Black life as part of our commitment to Climate Justice."
COVID-19 has now killed more than 100,000 in the US, and a quarter of those deaths are Black Americans thanks in part to racism, social inequity, and environmental injustices that have purposefully robbed the Black community of health and well being. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and the racialized targeting of Christian Cooper while birding are the devastating results of 400 years of slavery, theft, mass incarceration, and other white supremacist institutions, and decades of failure to address police violence and neoliberal policies that prioritize profit over people.
The police in the US are militarized, and they are escalating violence around the country as part of a system of racist oppression. On top of that, there are reports of infiltrators among peaceful protestors who are escalating tensions and are allied with white supremacists. And to cap it all off, as President of the United States, Donald Trump, is inciting violence against protestors, using thinly veiled racist references to releasing dogs on people and threatening to shoot protestors. While the US Government has not been able to find protective equipment for nurses, doctors, grocery workers, or bus drivers who are essential workers during a global pandemic, thousands of militarized police have all the equipment they need to terrorize the public. All over the US tear gas and rubber bullets, and in many cases direct physical violence, are being used against the public and journalists. Journalists have become a police target, especially Black journalists, even when they are on live TV. That is the current state of the United States of America.
This dark time in this country is also a time for reckoning and change. We must scream from the streets and the rooftops that #BlackLivesMatter, and that the police need to be demilitarized and defunded in favor of violence reduction interventions.
We must also be clear that the climate crisis’ significant impacts on vulnerable communities are being realized because this country was willing to sacrifice black, brown and indigenous lives by placing polluting and extractive facilities in black, brown, and indigenous communities in the United States, and around the world. The climate crisis is, at its core, a racial injustice crisis. The climate crisis is the result of racism and colonialism, and the imperialist worldview that sees indigenous lands in Africa, Asia, the Americas and beyond as places to plunder, steal, and extract from, instead of as places with deep histories, knowledge, families and cultures to protect and defend. US imperialism and profit-obsession has put black and brown bodies on the line all over the world as the climate crisis unfolds. The communities that have done the least to contribute to the climate crisis are hit worst, precisely because they have been purposefully made vulnerable by racism and imperialism.
We at US Climate Action Network (USCAN) believe it is possible to transform the whole economy in our lifetimes and we believe it is possible to do so in a way that dismantles racism and white supremacy. We must work with our allies to make sure that this moment is actually looked upon historically as the moment when white supremacy was in its death throes. We can do this. We have already launched Arm in Arm in the US to do this. Together we are demanding a "new normal". Our communities will ignite an era where we end the climate crisis by centering racial and economic justice.
We must have justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and all other Black people that have been subject to violence. We must step up to defend Black life as part of our commitment to Climate Justice. We at USCAN and at Climate Action Network International (CAN-I) are fully committed to making that happen, and the first step is for us all to state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter.