Reflections on Ferguson, Racism and Climate Change

This blog post by Craig Altemose is one of a series of posts written by staff, volunteers and board members reacting to the death of Mike Brown and the failure of the Grand Jury to indict Darren Wilson. We welcome further reactions and reflections! Email [email protected] if you have a response of your own that you would like to share.  

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what went down in Ferguson between Officer Darren Wilson and unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown. Whether or not those six bullets that robbed Michael Brown of his life were fired as a result of conscious or subconscious racism, only Darren Wilson will ever truly know. But in the end, it’s not really about these six specific bullets, because every year, hundreds, probably thousands of bullets are fired by conscious or subconscious racism by those who are supposed to serve and protect. It’s about the deeper systemic problem that racism poses to justice in America.

It’s just like with climate change – it’s often hard to point to one particular weather event and say it was caused by climate change, but regardless, when there is event after event after event, we know that climate change is a real systemic threat we need to address.

When we see white police officer after white police officer shooting and killing unarmed black youths, we similarly have to respond to this trend with a similar sense of outrage. The truth is that racism is alive and well in America. It’s not as visible or blatant as it used to be, and it rarely self-identifies. But it’s an ever-present threat to all of us who claim to care about justice. It’s something that we must confront in every facet of society – from our police forces to our climate movement.

It feels appropriate to me in the wake of this tragedy to convene a conversation about racial justice in our Massachusetts climate community. I’m not sure what shape or scope that would or could take, but I think it could be an important step for all of us to sit down and really talk about this together and see what we can come up with.

If anyone has ideas on how to move this conversation forward or is interested in convening it, please, be in touch.

And as we gather for Thanksgiving with family and friends, let’s reflect on what happened in Ferguson, what happened with the Grand Jury, and how we in the climate movement can help make sure that such things will have no role to play in the better future we want to build.

Craig Altemose is the Executive Director of Better Future Project.

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