EPIC joins the chorus of voices that demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony Mcdade, and the countless other Black lives taken unjustly by the police and to testify that Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those seeking to throw off the shackles of white supremacy, injustice and oppression. The protests that have erupted across the country are an organic expression of the anger and despair of a 400+ year history of systemic violence towards Black people, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color. This systemic violence manifests itself in many forms: police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental racism, inequitable health outcomes, and so on. This institutionalized racism is so deeply ingrained that white people may miss it but for Black people and people of color, it is manifested in their daily lives. Jogging (#AhmaudArbery) lead to murder. Birdwatching (#ChristianCooper) results in a call to police.
As an organization with a membership list of mainly white supporters, we have an obligation to speak out and to do something. The dismantling of white supremacy requires active intervention and work by white people. EPIC, along with a lot of the mainstream white environmental movement, has largely failed in this work. We have failed to recognize and respond to the police brutality that is used to keep spaces segregated, to keep Black, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color in their “proper” places in the fantasy of white “pristine” wilderness. These are false, ahistorical images of the outdoors, and we must disrupt them.
We pledge to continue to work toward a critical justice within the environmental community for Black people, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color and to continue to address this with conversations and concrete actions. In the coming months, we are going to continue to provide opportunities to learn about issues such as environmental racism, amplify the voices of marginalized communities, and support legislation and other efforts to chip away at the structures of systemic oppression.
We are particularly inspired by other organizations who have worked to make outdoor spaces safer and more accessible for people of color and have worked to weed out racism within the environmental movement: Latino Outdoors, Outdoor Afro, Prison Ecology Project, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, to name a few.
EPIC works within the legal system and has an aggressive history of litigation. We have always been concerned with how the law defends the status quo. To this end, we are endorsing reformation to work toward some improvement until more substantive changes occur. Currently, we endorse the legislation available before the California Legislature:
AB 2054 would create a pilot-program for community based response to local emergencies, such as people experiencing mental health crises or people with substance abuse issues.
AB 3121 would create a taskforce to study the impacts of slavery and institutional oppression and develop options for potential reparation.
AB 1460 would require students in the California State University system, such as Humboldt State, to complete a three-unit ethnic studies course to graduate.
AB 2405 would recognize a right to housing for children and families in California starting Jan. 1, 2026.
This legislation is necessary but not sufficient. To be clear, we advocate for the outright abolition of police and the carceral system as a whole. We believe that the violence and oppression inflicted by the police is a systemic issue that will not be solved solely by police and prison reform. We recognize that half measures only extend and contribute to these fundamentally unjust systems. The path to justice will be arduous.
Many may not understand such a bold position, and we will continue to provide resources in the coming days to contextualize this position. While writing this, we strongly felt that a mere statement is not enough. We are developing curriculum, new programming, and in our next newsletter we will publish an article on policing and environmental issues. We need to work to dismantle white supremacy in our individual lives and in society. We look forward to doing this critical work together.
Books (on race, critical environmental justice, histories of policing, and the limitations/possibilities of mainstream environmentalism)
What is Critical Environmental Justice? by David Naguib Pellow
Total Liberation: The Power and Promise of Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement by David Naguib Pellow
The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies by Tiffany Lethabo King
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America by Kristian Williams
The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas