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Monday, April 15, 2024

Defending black life, a commitment to climate justice, say campaigners

In the light of the unrest that has enveloped the U.S. following the death of African-American, George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Executive Director of U.S. Climate Action Network, Keya Chatterjee, insists in a statement that the group must step up to defend black life as part of its commitment to Climate Justice

George Floyd
A George Floyd poster

COVID-19 has now killed more than 100,000 in the U.S., 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, Ahmad Arbury, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, and the racialised 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 prioritise profit over people.

The police in the U.S. are militarised, 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 U.S. 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 militarised police have all the equipment they need to terrorise 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 demilitarised and defunded in favour of violence reduction interventions.

We must also be clear that the climate crisis’ significant impacts on vulnerable communities are being realised 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.

U.S. 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 U.S. 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 Flloyd, Ahmad Arbury, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, 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 are fully committed to making that happen, and the first step is for us all to state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. 

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