June 3, 2020
We have now witnessed over a week of growing nation-wide and global protest against the murder of George Floyd at the knee of a white police officer in Minnesota. The anguish and anger of people— of all ages, stations, and backgrounds –are a response to not only the merciless and cruelly slow extinguishment of Mr. Floyd’s precious life, not only an expression of outrage at the sacred Black lives taken since the slaying of Trayvon Martin in the summer of 2013 (whose murder sparked the Black Lives Matter movement), but an outpouring of sustained grief and frustration at the on-going and virulent racism and premature death rooted in a system of white supremacy and doled out on Black people, Native people, and people of color in the United States of America for centuries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further laid bare the vulnerabilities faced primarily by Black and brown people in this country: the virus continues to disproportionately kill those already pushed to the economic margins (essential and precarious workers), those abandoned and eviscerated by decades of state-sanctioned policies and private flows of capital, and those caged in prisons and detention facilities across the nation.
We have also recently witnessed the intentional weaponization of race and gender, so well-captured by birder Christian Cooper’s cell phone video of Amy Cooper calculated performance of white hysteria, as she all but strangled her frisky cocker spaniel while calling the police to falsely report that an African American man was threatening her life in Central Park’s Ramble. The cold video capture of such instances will only be shocking to those who have never had to navigate the treacherous terrain of white supremacy. Navigating this terrain is undeniably more fraught and more deadly for Black people in the USA.
Yet white supremacy affects—albeit differentially— all people of color. It traumatizes us all, it impedes us all, it prevents us all from fully breathing. More importantly, the curtailment of Black breath is reason enough for everyone who is committed to the sanctity of life, to fight to dismantle a murderous and unjust system, to work for both the metaphoric and material release on the manifest chokeholds that prevent people in the United States of America from living more full, more free, and more whole lives.
The Robert Redford Conservancy at Pitzer college is committed to using our resources to facilitate safe and meaningful access for all people to learn from the natural world, to educating and advocating for environmental and social justice, and to honoring the sacredness and interconnectedness of all beings. May we all do our part to ensure a world in which Black lives truly matter. In so doing, we will also realize a society that is ultimately more humane, more just, and more sustaining of all breath and all beings.
Professor of Environmental Analysis
Director of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern CA Sustainability