This week was light compared to the past two weeks. We had our last race equity workshop and we read half of an anthology on climate change. We started discussing the book in our reflection this week and will continue with the other half next week. Each member of our cohort chose a paragraph or sentence from the first half of the book and prepared a discussion question relating to that section and the bigger ideas of the book.
I prepared a section written by a Black woman who had lived in the rural South. She mentioned how she knew when vegetables were in season because of her neighbor’s garden and how she knew that a mild winter meant lots of mosquitoes in the summer. She didn’t know these things because she studied them in school, but because she observed the people and environment around her. The connection to the earth was evident in her chapter and she emphasized how different communities interact with nature in many different ways. She highlighted the necessity for diverse perspectives in climate change discussions. She emphasized the ties between race and the environment and how some races are left behind when it comes to climate change progress and discussion. My questions for the cohort underscored the diverse ways people view and interact with the world. In what ways are we connected to the earth and in what ways have we lost that connection? How can incorporating different views of nature inform climate change policy and advocacy?
The book, though focused on climate change, also had portions that described environmental racism. As I was reading the book, I was struck by the connections between climate change and our race equity workshops. A lot of the terminology and problems faced by different races were similar if not the exact same. In our last race workshop, we discussed the foundations of white supremacy and also did an activity that was enlightening. We looked up the differences in founding years, racial identities, and current assets of Wells Fargo, OneUnited Bank, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH), and North Carolina A & T State University (A&T). The disparities were stark. Wells Fargo and UNCCH had been founded during slavery, had much more money, and did not identify racially. OneUnited Bank and A&T were founded after slavery, identified as either historically Black or Black-owned, and were millions or more behind the white owned and founded Wells Fargo and UNCCH. As a group, we remarked on the fact that whiteness was not marked or labeled anywhere in the media for Wells Fargo or UNCCH but Black was readily attached to OneUnited Bank and A&T. We also said that these Black businesses will most likely never catch up to the white founded businesses. That thought was the scariest thing to me because no matter how hard they tried they could never get back the time that was lost to slavery. The time that white people had to build their own businesses and fill their pockets. I asked myself how we could fix it. I honestly have no answer, but I am going to keep thinking about it, and I hope whoever is reading this thinks about it too.