Like so many, I am in the midst learning about, reflecting on and reckoning with police brutality and broad sweeping racial inequality that affects all BIPOC communities, but weighs most heavily on Black Americans.
Account after account is absolutely enraging and heartbreaking. As a South Asian, I have to acknowledge that it is a privilege to be enraged and heartbroken now, rather than to feel this every single day.
I stand in full support for Black Lives Matter and what the movement is fighting for: decriminalizing nonviolent crimes, abolishing excessive force and other policing methods that result in senseless death, abolishing broken window policing, divestment of funds from policing and into community building, and ending the privatizatiton of the justice and prison system.
More broadly, I stand in support for all of the incredible work being done to dismantle systems of power that disfavor people of color, and Black communities in particular.
I am also hyper aware of issues of performative allyship and the importance of this movement staying in the hands and control of Black voices. This is not a place or time for companies to be self-congratulatory or focused on building their brand.
At the same time, we have had several customers ask us what we are doing and where we stand on these issues.
This post aims to help our customers know my views and actions better (so they can align their spending with their values, and potentially gain some ideas for how they might bring anti-racism work into their own business) while recognizing that the best way for me to use this platform is to amplify the voices at the heart of this work.
Resources I've Learned From and Been Inspired By
I have read many more articles and voices than are listed below, but these are the ones I keep coming back to and drawing from.
White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
How to Be Anti-Racist, Ibram X Kendi
Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
Environmental Justice and Intersectional Enviromentalism Resources
Anti-Racism Work for South Asians
South Asians come from a culture that has long established hierarchy based on the lightness of one's skin. Thus, Indians need to go even further to recognize and dismantle racism within our own communities. I've been particularly moved by this article by Deepa Iyer, and the various resoures she lists. I share this as guidance for any other non Black people of color reading this post.
Toolkits and Organizations
So much clarity and insight came from immersing myself in the above readings and perspectives, and I know this work and reflection has only just begun. I am most struck and shamed by the fact that, despite how deeply I've navigated into the world of sustainability, my orientation hasn't been on Environmental Justice and Intersectional Environmentalism.
“Environmental justice is the intersection of both social justice and environmentalism, where the inequity in environmental degradation is also considered.” (Read Green Girl Leah for more background)
Environmental justice is based on the fact that the negative consequences of climate change disproportionately impact Black, Brown and low income communities. Flint, Michigan is one of the most pronounced and well known examples of this, but many more abound. Communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air and are 5 times more likely to live within 30 miles of a coal plant. In fact, that Black communities were targeted as dumping grounds for toxic waste decades ago became a catalyst for Black environmental protests, which laid foundations for the overall sustainability movement.
I am also struck by how little effort I have made to seek out and promote sustainable businesses that are owned People of Color, and whose work is directly serving marginalized communities. This despite the fact that I myself am a person of color. In the article I reference above by Deepa Iyer, she notes that "when [South Asians] perpetuate anti-Blackness, that we are being complicit ourselves in reinforcing systems of oppression that harm South Asians too" - a powerful reminder of the work that non Blacks like me need to do.
EcoEnclose has long believed in the power of spending to support social and environmental change. We know that if every purchase made on Amazon or with a big box store was redirected to progressive companies doing what they can to "be the change" - big things can happen. Given this belief, it is essential that I am far more intentional in identifying and diversifying sustainable businesses and efforts to promote in our feeds.
Actions and Commitments
Having evaluated our marketing and website content through the lens of anti-racism, environmental justice and intersectional environmentalism, I am committing to sustained change and improvement to my work, by:
- Building environmental justice into our sustainability framework, and ultimately into our evaluation of the products we develop through that framework.
- Becoming far more knowledgable about environmental justice and intersectional environmentalism, such that I can write and post about these topics, with the goal of helping other ecommerce businesses bring these issues into their work.
- More actively seeking companies to highlight in our feeds that are sustainability minded and owned by Blacks, and other identities that are underrepresented and often marginalized in the environomental movement. If this describes you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with info on your business so we can promote what you are doing.
Signed over a dozen petitions, including Justice for Big Floyd as well as Change.org and MoveOn.org petititons aimed at eliminating policies and tactics that lead to police brutality as well as policies that encourage excessive police force during protests. This google doc provides a comprehensive list of petititons circulating.
Have paid / subscribed to and promoted the amazing Black influencers and educators listed above. This is essential. If you find yourself coming back to and then reposting an influencer's work, pay them.
Have actively identified and followed 50 Black owned sustainable brands whose products I love and will purchase when the need arises (many of them were highlighted in an Instagram post).
I am taking stock in our team and our team culture, and setting strategies to improve our hiring and assess the inclusivity of our culture going forward. Racially and ethnically, our team is representative of Boulder County where we are located, but I have brought very little intention when it comes to this aspect of our business. Additionally, while we have a respectful and positive place to work, there has not been a proactive focus on inclusivity and anti-racism as part of our culture.
As with everything shared on our website and blog, I always welcome feedback - ideas on how we can do better, counter points, and opportunities to collaborate on these topics.