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The Intersectionality between Racism and Climate Change

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Fighting Racism is the answer to our Climate Crisis.

by Cieara West

People of color are undoubtedly disproportionately affected by climate change. The Black and Latinx communities are the driving force needed for change, as according to studies by Yale University proves that a higher percentage of Black and Latinx Americans are more concerned about the environment than White Americans.

As a result of racism, the people that care the most about the environment are unable to act accordingly. Instead of creating new policies, cleaning waterways, or campaigning for efficient energy, Black people are fighting racism. In the past few months, Black people and their allies have taken to the streets-utilizing their 1st Amendment Rights-demanding for the killings to stop, for just treatment, and for action to be taken. For this, they were forced to hit pause on healing the environment as they needed to heal one another. In a perspective piece for The Washington Post, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson expresses frustrations with Racism and sends a call of action to White Environmentalists who do not yet understand that climate change is undoubtedly a racial issue. 

The past few months represent decades and centuries of a delay in process for Black people. If we are to continue our efforts as we did before we are not only being socially unjust but working backwards and less effectively. Neglecting People of Color subtracts millions of environmentalists and activists from the equation that want to make change and want to put their focus on cleaning the environment but cannot because they need to fight racism and injustice that is ingrained in society.

Think of the solution to environment change as a road map or puzzle that we do not yet know which route to take or which pieces are missing. Now we approach that problem with the drive that communities of color are that missing piece of the equation. Reach out to those communities experiencing unsafe air qualities, polluted water, and exhausted fisheries. Ask how we can help. And in those regions we can rebuild and see change with a more efficient map. Because when we help each other we help the environment and our future. A future where racism is not prevalent, where we do not have to march to demand basic human rights, and where Black Lives Matter. That is the future of climate change. 

Audrey Lorde says it best, “There is no thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Perhaps this is the answer we have overlooked this whole time. Do not be discouraged, our past efforts were not in vain. Let us continue to clean the beaches but also knock down racist policies. Let’s continue to recycle but also vote for representatives that support energy policies. Let’s continue to drive our fuel efficient cars but drive even harder against racism ideologies.  

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