Helen Burnett – Reigate and Redhill XR member – gave this speech at the Black Lives Matter march in Horley on 4th July:
“The fact that this protest is needed, the fact that there has been opposition, the fact that Marta has been vilified in some quarters for organising this life affirming, peaceful Black Lives Matter protest proves that there is so much work still to be done.
It is not enough to look around and say oh look we’re nice and inclusive –it is not enough to oppose racism from within my nice white life – I need to be actively anti-racist
So, I will not be silent about how racism and climate change about environmental racism – this commitment to speaking out about environmental racism needs to be built into the DNA of climate activism.
Globally, black lives are disproportionately affected by climate breakdown – we must name racism as a dri
ver of social and climate injustice, and identify the mechanisms that allow systemic racism to flourish, a racism that is buttressed throughout by the dead weight of white privilege.
There is very clear evidence that the impacts of climate change are not borne equally by all populations and that communities of colour have been most exposed to poor air quality and dangerous environmental conditions and that climate change take a higher toll on frontline populations.
The systems responsible for climate breakdown – colonialism, capitalism, and state violence – are the same systems at the root of black oppression, there cannot be climate justice without racial justice because the systems of oppression that have led to the deaths of so many Black people are the same systems that have perpetuated environmental injustice.
The ransacking of the planet’s assets has been perpetrated through colonialism and expropriation at the expense of indigenous people and racial minorities.
Now that might sound a long way away from Horley BUT
- Just a mile away from here in Gatwick we have 2 massive detention centres – prisons where asylum seekers are incarcerated indefinitely as they flee areas devastated by war and climate breakdown – the aftermath of exploitation by white national and economic imperialism. 95% of those held in detention at Brook House and Tinsley House are POC.
- Just 2 miles in the other direction at Horse Hill we have an oil company UKOG extracting shale oil – oil that produces the pollution levels that disproportionately affect black lives.
So here on our very doorstep we have examples of the sorts abominations that perpetuate race inequality through extractivism and incarceration.
We need change in all these areas now, this is not the time for waiting this is the time for action and passionate as I am about telling the truth about the climate change that cannot be the truth unless we also tell the truth about systemic racism – as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said
My humanity is bound up with yours for we can only be human together
It is only together as equals that we can tackle the problems of climate and protect the most vulnerable people and parts of our planet. I know that however exhausted I may feel I am not as exhausted as my black sisters so when I hear black environmentalist – Ayana Jonson say to white people who care about maintaining a habitable planet………………….
‘I need you to become actively anti-racist [click here for link]
I need you to understand that our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis.
If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither.
I need you to step up. Please. Because I am exhausted.”
When I hear that testimony, I know that I must step up
To do whatever I can to help create a
loving, hope filled,
That’s why I’m here today because I want justice, real deep-down justice – racial justice, climate justice
there must be an end to white silence because black lives matter and until black lives matter as much as all other lives we have to keep speaking out, we have to educate ourselves we have to pray and we have to be determined allies wherever and whenever black lives are devalued,
Black Lives Matter –
for our planet to survive black lives must thrive.”