Anti-Racism and Allyship Resource Guide
This resource guide provides resources that will help you understand the intersection between the climate crisis and racial justice in the United States.
CCL strives to provide a welcoming space for people from all backgrounds and cultures. This resource guide has been written by staff and volunteers to provide resources for those driven to dive more deeply into understanding the importance of anti-racism work including highlighting portions of our ongoing work regarding Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and why it is integral to our work as climate advocates.
Why Does Anti-Racism Matter for Climate Work?
The impacts of climate change are disproportionately borne by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, not just from a global perspective, but also within the U.S.
These disproportionate effects are in part a direct result of a society built on the implementation of policies that have had structurally racist impacts as well as the unintentional perpetuation of racist thinking. Recognizing systemic racism is a part of becoming an anti-racist and is essential if we are to implement climate solutions that work for all people.
The historical and cultural context explored below will also help CCL volunteers recognize why some BIPOC mistrust policies like carbon pricing.
This resource concentrates on race. One of the goals is to help explore how whiteness is the default mindset in our national narrative, and how this mindset is often unnoticed or unacknowledged by white people. This focus is essential for creating the intellectual and emotional space to honestly consider how various people experience life in the U.S. differently and to accept the perspectives from BIPOC communities.
Also known as institutional racism, this is a term that explains how racism has been embedded as normal practice within individual organizations and society at large. The consequences become evident when examining a number of factors such as the wealth gap, employment and housing discrimination.
Additional resources. Learn about the historic and cultural barriers affecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) in the environmental sphere by watching Clara Fang’s conference presentation Diversity and the Climate Movement. If you are planning to reach out to Environmental Justice organizations in your community, we recommend you visit (or revisit) the Working with Environmental Justice Communities training created by members of the Climate and Environmental Justice Action Team.
For more information on understanding anti-racism in the climate movement, click here!
Implicit Bias and Microaggressions
Implicit bias and microaggressions are some of the everyday experiences of prejudiced thinking and behavior that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) encounter on a regular basis.
Implicit bias is defined as the subconscious beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes we all hold that impact our decision-making, actions, and thoughts, often without our awareness. Every person has implicit biases; they develop when our brains group values, experiences and people into various associations as a way of making sense of the world. We are born into a society that assigns value to groups of people based on their race and skin color, among other qualities like physical ability/disability, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. As a result, all members of our society absorb these messages and subconsciously make judgments based on these biases. This means that we can act on implicit biases even while our conscious minds reject racism or prejudice.
Researchers have come up with a variety of tests to measure an individual’s implicit bias and have found that communities that score higher on tests measuring implicit bias have worse outcomes along racial lines in the healthcare and criminal justice systems. Taking the tests to measure your own implicit bias can be an uncomfortable but illuminating experience. The test cannot measure whether a person will act on their biases, only that those biases exist. With awareness and work toward dismantling these biases, it is possible to overcome them and the subconscious urge to act on them.
Take an Implicit Bias Test to learn more about your own implicit biases. What did you learn about yourself after seeing the results?
Microaggressions are the subtle, everyday experiences of prejudiced thinking and behavior that BIPOC encounter on a regular basis. Microaggressions can include verbal comments, jokes, body language, and other acts that communicate biased thoughts and feelings toward BIPOC, who are on the receiving end of these acts. Microaggressions can be committed consciously or unconsciously. Oftentimes, those committing a microaggression are unaware that they are doing so, or they are unaware that what they are doing is harmful. However, microaggressions can have a big impact on those who are experiencing them. Unaddressed, these words and actions can create an unwelcoming and hostile environment for BIPOC. Microaggressions also create a psychological load of stress that can lead to negative health impacts.
With both implicit bias and microaggressions, it is important to remember that the intent of an action does not outweigh the impact. One can have good intentions and still act in ways that harm BIPOC. Education, humility, curiosity and a willingness to receive and reflect upon criticism are essential in the effort to address these issues in a productive way.
To learn more about how to take action and address one's own implicit bias and microagressions click here.
The Importance of Being an Ally
We should all be allies for each other. In social justice circles, the word “accomplice” is also applied to people who are supporting each other and advocating on each other’s behalf.
Colleen Clemens, an associate professor of non-Western literatures and the director of Women's and Gender Studies at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, explains the difference between being an ally or an accomplice like this:
“An ally will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group—and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group. Simply, ally work focuses on individuals, and accomplice work focuses on the structures of decision-making agency.”
Addressing White Privilege
It will not be possible to dismantle racism without members of our society who identify as white being able to recognize the ways in which being white advantages them. The term “white privilege” can create discomfort and resistance because it pushes white people out of the perspective that their life experience is normal and available to all. It instead forces them to recognize the many aspects of their own experience that differ from those of non-white individuals because of their white identity. It is important to realize that having white privilege does not mean that a white person does not live in poverty or face adversity and struggle for other reasons. White privilege is meant only to draw attention to the reality that in our current society being white has inherent advantages.
As a white person, recognizing your privilege is not an act of self-deprecation, however painful and uncomfortable the process may be. Rather, it is about better understanding the ways in which non-white people have been systemically disenfranchised by society. Peggy McIntosh makes this process more accessible by using the metaphor of unpacking one’s white privilege as though it is an invisible knapsack one has been carrying throughout life. Jon Greenberg explains some of these examples of white privilege in further detail, such as the intense disparity between the nature of white and non-white relationships with law enforcement. Recognizing your privilege will help you better understand how your choices and actions may be perpetuating white supremacist culture. When white people recognize their privilege, they can become more effective allies to BIPOC.
Being a Responsible Ally
Spoken word artist and founder of The Body is Not An Apology Movement, Sonya Renee Taylor, suggests that allies must be part of the solution to dismantling racism.
She asks these questions of white allies: “How are you helping me solve the problem you caused? Why aren’t I helping you solve the problem you caused? Why am I not the ally and you the actor”?
Avoiding the White Savior Complex
The white savior complex refers to the notion that a white person’s efforts to help BIPOC are really actions that are self-serving. Historically, the white savior idea has been used to justify colonialism, slavery and empire. It is also commonly used as a lens through which the dominant culture examines issues of race that reflect a white perspective. In the media, the white person becomes central to a story where they are helping the BIPOC who are portrayed as unable to help themselves. This perpetuates and normalizes behaviors of white dominance. It often leaves white people unable to see how their well-intended efforts are actually disempowering the very people they want to help.
A white person rushing to define themselves as an ally to a specific community is a tangible example of the white savior complex. While the desire to be an ally to BIPOC may very well come from a place of genuine care and a desire to empower others, the act of branding oneself as a white ally is inherently self-serving. For a white person to call themself an ally to BIPOC, they are framing their actions in the context of improving their status as a person and the communities they may wish to serve. This disempowers the communities the white person claims to want to help by taking away their agency to determine whether or not the white person is actually serving their needs.
To learn more about addressing white privilege, being a responsible ally and avoiding white savior complex, click here.
Diversity and Inclusion at CCL
Representation matters. Since 2017, CCL volunteers have been creating new spaces to ensure that many voices are part of climate solutions we advocate. The affinity groups created and inspired by their actions are as follows:
- Latinos (2017) - This team’s purpose is to represent the diverse CCL Latino community in the USA. This group is open to Latinos living in the USA who may communicate in English or in Spanish. Our purpose is to represent Latinos inside our CCL USA community and the team members communicate in English or in Spanish as needed.
- Climate and Culture (2018) - We aim to create a supportive culture merging community engagement and leadership development in diverse communities. We acknowledge that climate disparities intersect with a multitude of issues. Our response is to serve as allies to ongoing community efforts focused on creating a better world.
- People of the Global Majority (2018) - A community for Black, Indigenous and People of Color to gather, share our stories, support each other and express political will. To understand why the team is called the People of the Global Majority, please watch the beginning of Dr. Barbara Love's October 2017 CCL Monthly Call where she explains the concept.
- LGBTQIA and Allies OUTreach (2019 initial launch, 2020 relaunch) - We are here to rally and organize CCL volunteers who would like to: Lobby and educate MOCs on the LGBTQ Equality Caucus on the intersectionality of social justice and climate justice; expand outreach to LGBTQ organizations, especially those that focus on outdoor activities and LGBTQ youth, to engage them in climate activism; and work on being more inclusive within our CCL chapters and action teams. For a comprehensive guide on actions for community members and allies, please see the LGBTQIA and Allies OUTreach Toolkit.
- Asian Pacific (2020) - The team aims to foster an open environment for anyone who is interested in Asian-American and Pacific Islander issues. Asian-Americans have been underrepresented in the climate movement, and it is our goal to empower more people to take concrete actions and spread awareness on climate change within our communities. We offer a space to talk about climate change and injustice, climate policy, and political activism from the perspectives of members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. We will work on actionable plans and projects, such as advocating for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to support H.R.2037.
- Listening to Indigenous Voices (2020) - A group in development seeking to engage with indigenous volunteers while expanding the understanding of the asymmetric impact of climate on Indigenous peoples.
The majority of these groups meet once a month, usually at 5 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. ET. If you are interested in joining any of these teams, visit their CCL Community pages above and look for their list of events.
Ongoing work within CCL
Our diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts are far from over. We have ongoing regional and local efforts to help volunteers create spaces to work on personal development and understanding the principles of diversity, environmental justice, and other related issues. Below are a few examples of teams created at the regional, state and local levels to carry out D&I work. We hope that their efforts and structure will inspire ideas for D&I efforts within your own community:
- Regional: The CCL Greater Pacific Northwest Region has a team of about 12 people who are working to better understand how our work with CCL connects to environmental and climate justice. The team put together an environmental justice (EJ) paper with recommendations on how best to create more awareness and training on this topic at monthly meetings and conferences, how to be more inclusive of EJ voices in the ongoing process and what these communities’ concerns are regarding CCL’s mission and proposed solution.
- State: CCL Virginia created the CCL-VA Diversity & Inclusion Working Group in July of 2019. This statewide group has 34 volunteers on their mailing list, with their activities ranging from a book club, film screenings, and attending different communities’ events to learn more about their priorities and needs. The group is currently creating subcommittees to carry out their long-term plans of integrating D&I work into all of the five levers, establishing partnerships with other groups, and continuing to educate themselves on D&I-related issues. During the summer of 2020, the team created a Slack Channel to communicate more effectively and stay in touch with each other between their monthly meetings. Work has started in Montana and Colorado.
- Local: The CCL Santa Rosa Chapter has recently implemented a Diversity and Inclusion Action Team. It is starting out with a book club, allowing the chapter to learn about implicit biases and laying the groundwork for having a more diverse and inclusive membership base. Their first book is How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi.
Creating an Inclusive Chapter
Ideas for Your Own D&I Chapter Teams
While the pandemic has made it difficult to continue momentum on D&I work, here’s an example of what one local chapter has done. After identifying its own lack of diversity, here are some group-level suggestions from members of CCL Little Rock to help other chapters increase their racial diversity:
- Create a chapter-level Diversity and Inclusion team.
- Host a screening of the CCL Monthly Call presentation from Dr. Barbara Love, Professor Emeritus of Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
- Create videos highlighting the important environmental work of Black members from groups in your community.
- Research other groups and communities in the area that have a diverse membership base, such as the NAACP.
- Research groups working on immigration issues.
- Invest time and care into building trusting relationships with newfound allies.
- Maintain patience in the process of chapter growth and diversification.
- For white chapter members, commit to doing the work with honesty and sincerity. White people must reach out and expect to make mistakes.
- Recognize that diversity and inclusion are not enough. Listen to the concerns and experiences of BIPOC, but the work must also be based on making sure these concerns are addressed.
- Actively work alongside newfound allies.
Success Stories from Arkansas
Contributed by Shelley Buonaiuto
Some CCL chapters are founded in areas in which diversity occurs naturally, while others find it challenging to foster a more diverse chapter. For the CCL Fayetteville Chapter, it happened naturally with a little outreach. There is a large Marshallese community nearby, many of whom are already deeply concerned about climate issues facing their homeland like rising sea levels. The chapter asked community leader Chris Balos and his colleagues to join CCL. He immediately became one of the chapter’s most requested speakers, as his depth of love and concern for the survival of his people was very moving. In exchange, CCL Fayetteville chapter members attended Marshallese events, listened to their concerns, and engaged in dialogue about how climate change was affecting their communities.
To read more about additional examples and ideas that local chapters have been working towards in their own D&I work, click here.