“I’ve noticed that we just followed our ‘sense of urgency’ and made a decision without consulting our environmental justice partners.”  “Agree. In addition to checking in with them, what antidotes should we use to combat that aspect of white supremacy culture?”   This exchange is typical of the weekly conversations our MA team runs to uproot systems of oppression in our work. Each All Call, Our Climate (OC) youth choose an aspect of White Supremacy Culture, analyze how it shows up, and explore ways to dismantle it.  These conversations have unearthed priceless insights into our work and goals. Take our “sense of urgency” as an example. Environmentalism is urgent. However, we can’t continue to mitigate climate change while perpetuating the systems of oppression. Without time devoted to listening to others, we lose the wisdom of those who are most impacted by the climate crisis. Urgency limits the collective voice, and resultantly highlights those in positions of power. As the document spells out, “sense of urgency” is but one of many ways White Supremacy Culture shows up in organizing work. The youth leader running the conversation each week selects from among “power hoarding,” “fear of open conflict,” “objectivity,” etc., selecting a topic that feels salient to our work. We ask others to read off common issues pertaining to the chosen topic, and then facilitate a discussion centered around relevant reflection. (Check out our conversation protocol here.)   These conversations often evoke moments like the ones above; moments where participants offer personal anecdotes, while others point to general trends in the world around them. No discussion is quite the same, but the overarching discussion question, however, does remain a constant: how can we make our work and our movement spaces safe for and aligned with those who are impacted the most by climate injustice? The facilitator then guides the conversation towards potential solutions, or in Okun’s words, “antidotes.” For instance, in a discussion on “individualism,” the team turned to this antidote: “people understand how working together will improve performance.” Many team-members voiced that they felt rude or overbearing when delegating tasks, which deterred them from reaching out for assistance. One field rep mentioned that it was easier to delegate to someone with whom she shared routine check-ins, her preferred way of building a shared sense of ownership. These check-ins have allowed us to break down barriers, especially between newcomers and those with a longer history (and therefore more perceived authority) in a workplace. MA’s state-level work mirrors the work Our Climate has done nationally to reorient around intersectional climate justice. This focus shows up in our policy principles, which now specify that bills must be equitable in both content and in process. Racism and other systems of oppression are pervasive and require uprooting not just in our principles but in our culture. And, reshaping our culture aligns with our values and grows our collective power. That is why we devote time to weekly discussions of Dismantling White Supremacy.   Ian Galinson is a MA program intern currently at Boston University. 
Published On: February 28th, 2021 / Categories: Blog /