Letter from the RMBL Diversity and Inclusion Community Committee on 06/04/2020
The events of the past few weeks have left many grappling with feelings of sadness, anger, and hopelessness. On February 23rd, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging in a South Georgia neighborhood and killed by two armed white residents. On March 13th, the Louisville Metro Police Department killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a Black woman. The cops forcibly entered her home, looking for a suspect that had already been arrested. On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed after being wrongfully accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a market in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During his arrest, the officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The common thread that unites these tragedies is that all the victims were Black. Because of this racism, being Black is a life-threatening condition in our country.
Police brutality against Black people and overt racism may feel far removed for many at a field station such as RMBL. This is a manifestation of white privilege that many in our RMBL community have. The RMBL Diversity and Inclusion Community Committee believes that as a community we cannot stand apart from our nation’s injustices, and that we must actively work to implement anti-racist policies and practices at all levels, be it individual, community, or governmental. For far too long, silence and inaction have been a privilege that white people have relied upon. Silence and inaction are actions in themselves. More intimately, RMBL — without these kinds of conversations — will continue to be an isolating and exclusive place for people of color, one that reinforces injustice. A more just nation will help build a more just RMBL community, and vice versa.
There are many people who want to do something in light of these injustices. We believe allyship and solidarity cannot merely be words, and must be backed with tangible actions, especially given the centuries-long history of violence against Black people. In short, the RMBL community, especially non-Black people with more structural privileges, must be held accountable for supporting change.
Ecology and outdoor recreation have too long been conducted for and by white people. In 2015, less than 2% of the PhDs awarded in ecology and evolution related fields have gone to Black scientists (NSF, 2015). In addition, nearly 95% of National Forest & Wilderness visitors in recent years were white (US Forest Service, 2013). The Crested Butte community, the RMBL administration, and the RMBL principal investigator community reflect this situation closely. Repeatedly, Black people are threatened and made to feel unwelcome and unsafe while recreating outdoors, as seen so clearly when a white woman called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black man, for merely bird watching, attempting to use her privilege as a white woman to weaponize police against Cooper by lying about assault. Our community is surely not decoupled from these demographics, nor from these injustices.
Our Committee is striving to make RMBL a place where Black lives and Black scholarship matter. We are working towards making the RMBL community a more inclusive and diverse space. We aim to support diverse scholars and ecologists, to center diverse voices in our community, and to build coalitions that can support a brighter and more just future scientific community.
Together we can do better, and can do more. In order to act on our principles, we ask each of you, especially those in positions of power, to::
- Check in on your community, employees, and mentees regularly as a reminder that their lives and their work are important. Ask how they are doing, and listen with empathy. Reach out to offer support and show solidarity.
- Think about how your own hiring, mentoring and teaching practices affect who gets to be part of this community, and if your actions promote inclusion and a welcoming environment. Think about ways to improve both recruitment and retention of Black people in all organizations.
- How Faculty Hiring Committees Reproduce Whiteness and Practical Suggestions for How They Can Change
- Incorporating anti-racist pedagogy
- Emphasizing Inclusion in diversity initiatives
- Learn about trauma-informed mentoring and teaching practices
- Trauma-informed teaching practices
- Lessons from trauma informed community building
- 4 Core Priorities for trauma-informed distance learning
- Speak out against racism, microaggressions, and insensitive and/or ignorant comments in your professional life, and throughout your communities.
- Donate your time, resources, emotional bandwidth, and educated status to confronting racial injustice.
- Donate to the Black Lives Matter movement– campaigning against violence and systemic racism towards black people
- Donate to the Colorado Freedom Fund– coordinates bail funds in Colorado
- Donate to ESA’s SEEDS program– established to reduce the under-representation of minorities within the field of ecology
- Demand reforms that we know work to curb police brutality and killings, for example: reducing access to military-style gear, shifting use-of-force guidelines, and improving public transparency around police actions and labor contracts.
- Join Campaign Zero – research-based policy proposals to end police violence
- Learn more actions of allyship: Educate yourself on the systemic oppression of individuals with marginalized identities; Initiate and facilitate conversations on anti-racism and how we all must participate to dismantle racist systems.
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Unlearning Racism/Learning Antiracism
- An anti-racist reading list from Ibram X. Kendi
- Scaffolded anti-racist learning
We hope this is not the end of this conversation, but instead the beginning. From this committee you can expect we will engage the community on these topics, including efforts this summer to sponsor workshops, invite diverse ecologists and speakers, to support and build community for our diverse students and trainees, and to develop targets and metrics to ensure the institution’s actions are aligned to our collective goals. Stay in touch, stay loud, stay accountable.
RMBL Diversity and Inclusion Community Committee