A reflection on Black Lives Matter from a local rebel

This was meant to be a statement on behalf of XR Reigate and Redhill, but I can only speak for
myself, knowing that my fellow rebels agree with much of what I am saying here. I have been
watching the recent Black Lives Matter protests with awe and solidarity. It should not have to be
stated, but I will state in nonetheless, social justice is climate justice. The fight for equality and
the climate crisis are inextricably linked, as each is a struggle against an unsustainable capitalist

Often the people affected first and most by the climate crisis are BIPOC: indigenous
land protectors in Brazil are displaced or killed by their government whilst trying to protect some
of our most important eco-systems. Those in the global south are far more likely to be displaced
by climate change. Closer to home, black communities in London are more likely to be affected
by air pollution, which some are even saying is a small part of the reason for disproportionate
numbers of BAME people dying due to Covid-19 (also an issue of structural racism). These
issues barely brush the surface.

In climate justice, one cannot focus solely on one part of the problem: the problem is
capitalism, and the solution is direct action, and we as activists trying to shape a better world,
have a responsibility to create one which is built on equality and solidarity.

One of the many things we come up against as activists is the police. I am white, middle class,
and not very visibly queer, so when I protest I can be reasonably certain that the police will treat
me with respect. This is not so for many of those who fight alongside me.
Black people in the UK are disproportionately stopped and searched by the police, and
two decades after the Macpherson report categorically stated that the UK police force were
institutionally racist, it is arguable that nothing concrete has been done to remedy this.

XR has often been – quite rightly – criticised for its rather white middle class approach
to the police force, some declaring their ‘love’ for the police despite even the unlawful London
wide Section 14 we saw in October. It is no surprise that after the October Rebellion, we are
seeing attempts to increase police powers against protestors, undermining a fundamental part of
our democracy, and with the way things are now, this will affect BAME activists far worse.
More loudly than ever, of late, there have been calls to defund and eventually abolish
the police. This might sound nerve-wracking, but if we want to create a sustainable, equal
society, we have to fundamentally change the parts of it that are failing all of us, but most
glaringly failing our most vulnerable people. It is certainly time to do away with the ‘we love the
police’ rhetoric in XR that so many of us find so uncomfortable, and often alienates BAME
people from Extinction Rebellion. If we are to stand in support of a new future, it should be one
with systems in place that are not institutionally racist, and that do not use unnecessary force in
coping with difficult situations.

Colonialism has brought about an unsustainable, structurally racist society that uses capitalism to
drain the world of its resources, and devalues the lives of BAME people. We must do all we can
to dismantle a society that values profit over people and planet. It is each of our responsibility to
strive to be anti-racist in our approach to activism, and to life.
It is our responsibility as activists, especially those of us with white privilege, to use our
privilege to campaign for a better society for all. We must amplify the voices of BAME
environmental activists such as Mary Annaïse Heglar, Vanessa Nakate, Leah Thomas and
manifold others who are working incredibly hard for the planet and for equality. We must take
some of the burden of educating people off their shoulders, and do what we can to help create a
loving, hopeful, anti-racist, anti-fascist, sustainable society.

We are none of us perfect, and we won’t always get things right, but we must strive to
do better by the most vulnerable in our society. We must educate ourselves and those around us.
For the people, for the planet, for the future. In love and rage. Black Lives Matter.

Recommended Reading:

Are Prisons Obsolete? – Angela Y. Davies
White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi