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Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

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United to End Racism and Care of the Environment

At the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, I gathered a group to discuss the possibility of a United to End Racism project for taking RC, and especially our work on eliminating racism, into the environmental movement. The goal would be to share with environmental organizations what we have learned about freeing people from the distress recordings connected to racism and internalized racism. It was clear that racism was a major barrier to the effectiveness of and unity within the environmental movement. (In consultation with Marcie Rendon, the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans, we decided not to address genocide and the oppression of Indigenous people, because not enough work had been done yet on that in most of the Communities.)

We envisioned building ongoing relationships with some environmental groups and working toward leading a monthly class or support group on ending racism, separate from the RC Community, for some of their members (we didn’t think people would attend more often than monthly). We also hoped they would go on to use RC in their organizations. We thought we would first need to be involved with the groups for several years, for people to have enough time to be able to see the benefits of RC and eventually want to be in a regular RC class or support group.

We talked about working primarily with predominantly white environmental groups, on the racism within their groups. We also thought of working with an environmental justice group, on internalized oppression and on building relationships with the white groups.

We approached six different RC Communities in the United States, all of which had a history of strong work on racism, to see if they wanted to be involved in the project. In the last couple of years, RCers in Seattle (Washington), Boston (Massachusetts), and Wilmington (Delaware) have been participating. We initially thought we would stay in monthly contact with each other, learning from each other’s efforts. Instead our contact has been more sporadic, usually by phone or e-mail or at occasional gatherings at major workshops. Barbara Love1 has been consulting with us.

Our Seattle group is comprised of two women of the global majority (Teresa Enrico and Eleta Wright), two white women (Su Theida and I), and two white men (Dave Cook and Lang Marsh). We have met monthly for the last few years. We spent a few months discharging on the commitment required, on our relationships, and on the fact that we were all so busy that to take this on2 we would need to give up something else. Then we started thinking about how to approach environmental groups, and which ones we would approach. We chose a predominantly white group and began making contact, but then the main person we were connected with in that group got quite ill. We decided we couldn’t continue without that person and pulled back.

During the same time period I had become active in two other predominantly white environmental groups: 350.org and the Sierra Club. I learned that a new organization was forming to address racism in the environmental movement and that it was looking for people of color for its leadership group. Teresa and Eleta joined the organization, and after a few months I did as well. The three of us are now part of the leadership of this organization, called Race and Climate Justice. Over the last year it has held six bimonthly events addressing racism in the environmental movement. United to End Racism has been prominent in two. Most of the people attending have been white.

Our first event was a three-hour one we called Healing from Racism in Order to Build a Strong Climate Justice Movement. Barbara Love happened to be in Seattle at the time, so the leadership team was Barbara, Teresa, and I. We advertised the event as a participatory workshop in which we would do the following:

  • Examine the impact of racism (individual and institutional) on the environmental movement and on the global response to climate change
  • Share our stories of racism and listen to each other about the impact of racism on ourselves, our families, our groups, and our environment
  • Learn about the theory and practice the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling (also called Co-Counseling) as it can be applied to the above, and advance our work to build a strong climate-justice movement

We made it clear on the flyer that we “will listen fully to one another in pairs and groups, while encouraging expression of the personal hurts experienced from racism.” We wanted people to know that personal work would be an important part of the evening. About fifty people came, and they really liked what we did.

Our second event was a citywide report-back from climate activists who had been at COP21 in Paris. Teresa and I reported on the Sustaining All Life activities there, and again we were well received.

We had announced a monthly support group to work on ending racism as a follow-up to the first event, and it has met twice so far. People like having the chance to share personally about racism. One time the group was mixed and the people of the global majority met separately for half the time. The other time it was white people only.

We have also been asked to present about ending racism at an upcoming divestment conference and have accepted. While we don’t think that one-time trainings will make the changes we’d like to have happen, we want to use opportunities to continue to build our reputation and to try things.

Meanwhile, opportunities in the organization we initially planned to work with are opening up again, and we will meet soon with a group of its global-majority interns.

It is good to have an ongoing focus not only on climate activism, which I am engaged in through 350.org and the Sierra Club, but also on how to bring into it the work on racism, and the oppression of Indigenous people. Being part of the United to End Racism project keeps this second focus alive and in the forefront for me. Racism and the rights of Indigenous people are key issues in the environmental movement now, and there are huge opportunities for us to use what we know.

Diane Shisk

Seattle, Washington, USA

(Present Time 183, April 2016)


1 Barbara Love is the International Liberation Reference Person for African-Heritage People.
2 “Take this on” means undertake this.


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00