After nearly eighteen months of dedicated learning about race, diversity, equity and inclusion, I am using this blog post to share how CWC has done, what we’ve learned and where we’re going. Dedicated learning for us has included weekly meetings focused on race, equity, white supremacy and related issues. Our “equity team” includes all staff members and the chair of our board of directors, Cindy Rubin.
Just to name a few, our weekly topics of learning and discussion since June 2020 have included:
- the roots of racism in the environmental movement,
- the definition and elements of and antidotes to white supremacy,
- intersectionality: linkages between environmental and social justice movements, and
- internal culture, policies and budgets (including finding specific ways to support Black, Indigenous and people of color).
We’ve done a good job of committing to a process, a process of being in learning together, of building additional trust with one another and of showing up, meeting almost every week (often virtually), even through the pandemic. Showing up and maintaining a commitment is not a milestone, but it’s a starting point and prior to 2020 we were only intending to have these conversations; so at least we’ve gone from aspirational to being in action, which is a critical step.
CWC has also created our own land acknowledgment, secured funding for an equity consultant to guide us, established guidelines for how we’ll show up together, and shared some of our learnings with peers and the community, such as through CORE convenings.
See CWC Education Manager Mollie Behn discuss our equity work from minute ~14:00 to 20:00.
We’ve learned that as individuals and as an organization, we exhibit white supremacy culture. We spent months working through the different elements of white supremacy culture as outlined in Tema Okun’s piece, which builds on the work of others. We have had and continue productive conversations around different aspects of white supremacy culture and some proposed antidotes, and we recognize that this type of change is likely ongoing work each of us will need to do throughout our lifetimes. It is internal, often emotional work, done by each of us as individuals and in relationship to one another.
As a leader of an environmental organization, I’m aware we have to change and become more diverse, equity and inclusive (DEI) focused. That presents its own opportunities and challenges. But that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is that I have become convinced that in order to save our species, we need to focus not just on DEI but on decolonization. Decolonization is a challenging concept that we are still defining. While one can do internet searches on it and read about it, it will mean different things to each of us.
Our current implementation of capitalism and extractive industries are harming the planet. And while the planet will survive, it’s not certain whether the human species will. My commitment to decolonization is borne out of a commitment to my children and their children. Unless we find a way to change or relationship with the Earth and one another, we may not survive. Decolonization may be confusing and that confusion may unsettle us, but one shouldn’t expect significant change to be easy and smooth.
Unless we find a way to change or relationship with the Earth and one another, we may not survive.
Leaders are supposed to have plans, have certainty, know a path and rally others to navigate that road. Yet currently I do not know what CWC’s path towards decolonization looks like. I don’t even know our entry point or how to align our existing programs with decolonization efforts. But I am convinced that becoming less white is not enough. And it’s not enough to focus on and even succeed at diversity and inclusion. DEI work that is focused on diversity, equity and inclusion might simply bring Black, brown and indigenous voices and people into the same culture that is destroying the planet. JEDI 2.0 work, focused instead on justice, equity, decolonization and intersectionality, is what CWC is now focused on.
We welcome challenges to this approach, as well as encouragements and questions. CWC will stay in learning and we’ll stay committed, even through the uncertainty. That’s one of the things that makes this work different from any other pursuit: we will stay with our discomfort of not having the answers, of not knowing, and trust ourselves and one another that we will find our way. We invite you into this journey of discomfort, uncertainty and unknown possibilities.
Deep thanks is shared to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for their generous grant funding so support CWC’s hiring of Fierce Allies, an Oakland-based equity consultant who is informing and shaping our learning. Below is their website and a few of the many resources we’ve found useful to date: