There won’t be climate justice without racial justice. These two struggles can’t be seen as separate, as they are both necessary to fight the systemic crisis we live in.
We envision a fossil free world; a livable, just and equitable society, avoiding all negative impacts of climate breakdown. And we are well aware that we won’t be able to realise our vision if we don’t transform the root causes of the climate crisis.
Climate change and social injustice are both the result of the same systemic crisis. This crisis is cemented on the inequitable distribution of social, political, and economic power and the systems that favour the rich, white and class-privileged and crush people of colour, those with low incomes, indigenous, migrants and other marginalised communities.
Kick Out Zwarte Piet
For decades, anti-racism activists have been fighting for a just and inclusive society in the Netherlands, focusing on the eradication of the racist caricature Zwarte Piet. Every year, Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) campaigns to get rid of blackface and promote an inclusive and safe Sinterklaas celebration for everyone.
During this time of the year, racism and systemic oppression get exposed in the Netherlands. Since the highway blockade in Dokkum in 2017, verbal abuse goes hand in hand with physical violence from the extreme-right. Last Friday 8 November, far-right groups violently assaulted the KOZP conference in The Hague, bashing the building’s windows, smashing cars parked on the street, and trying to set fires.
We condemn these attacks and condemn any form of racist manifestations, whether institutionalised or internalised, around Sinterklaasfeest and beyond.
The roots of the crisis: Climate and Colonialism
The mainstream premise that “our house is on fire” is incomplete. “Our house has been on fire for over 500 years” called grassroots collective Wretched of the Earth during their speech at the last global climate strike in London. Black, brown, and indigenous communities, especially in the Global South, have always been hit first by colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, extractivism and will continue to be hit the hardest by climate impacts.
What does climate have to do with race? The links are multidimensional.
Fossil fuel devastation affects people of colour the most. This happens when mega fossil fuel projects occupy the land of indigenous peoples, people of colour, and people living on poverty lines without consultation, destroying their environments and livelihoods. This form of racism is called environmental racism.
Because of the legacies of colonialism, it is easy for companies like Shell to get away with massive pollution and human rights violations in places where resources are valued but not the people, like Nigeria. Shell was responsible for 1,010 oil spills with an overall sum of 110,535 barrels in Nigeria since 2011 and has avoided cleaning-up for more than a decade. Such a crime committed in the Western part of the world, where Shell and other fossil fuel companies bring back most of their wealth, would be unimaginable.
The effects of climate change, droughts, floods, forced displacement, etc., disproportionately hit those who are already disadvantaged and who contributed the least to the climate crisis. The impacts of climate change, in turn, result in greater inequality, catapulting forced mass migration, and aggravating racism.
Again, these are symptoms of the current failing system that protects the privileged -mainly white, rich men- and neglects the marginalised and oppressed. This is precisely the bottom line inequity we need to fight against if we are serious about climate justice.
Our vision for a fossil free world cannot reproduce the same root causes that brought us the climate crisis in the first place. We refuse racism, sexism, classism and all other -isms of oppression.
We express our solidarity to all groups fighting for racial justice, especially in these turbulent times of increasing violence by state, police and extreme right groups, and the subsequent violation of the right to protest and freedom of speech of precisely those members of society who are unheard and disregarded. We won’t achieve a just transition if the foundations of democracy get neglected. Let’s recognise and use our privilege to take a stand and support and amplify the voices of the structurally silenced ones.
As there won’t be climate justice without racial justice.