How can we stop environmental racism within our workplaces, Unions and communities?
“Many labour educators want to address racism through our work with members”, says Barb Thomas (Co-Author: Education for Changing Unions). But spaces for conversations around racism and white supremacy within the movement are disparate and often face resistance.
In March of 2018 twenty Labour educators from across Unions and community organizations came together in a meeting hosted by United Steelworkers to share their approaches and tools for talking about racism and every-day white supremacy with workers.
The session was so invigorating, another meeting was scheduled, this time in the offices of another union. The group has grown and continues to meet every three months, each time with a different organizing group, and a different aspect of racism to focus on. At one session, people mapped where, in their organizations, discussions of racism are happening and not happening.
Members of the group are learning from each other, taking courage from initiatives in each other’s organizations, and sharing resources between sessions. This network calls itself Talking with Workers about Everyday White Supremacy. The word “everyday” refers not to the Ku Klux Klan style racism, but the everyday ways that white people benefit from their privilege, how privilege is harmful to people in equity-seeking groups, how racism is used to divide workers and how it is perpetuated.
The objective of this network is to Build a community and a collaborative space for reflection, experimentation and Action.
Building upon this community, Labour educators came together on September 4, 2019 to participate in and reflect upon the Environmental Racism project as part of a larger discussion of decolonizing Turtle Island. Workshops included: The Trouble with Land Acknowledgements, Environmental Racism – Green is Not White, the Game of life on Turtle island (part of unionism on Turtle Island) and an important discussion about what we need to start doing, what we need to keep doing and what we should stop doing to promote decolonization within our social movements.
The meeting was not an end but part of an ongoing process of design, participatory learning and support for more action.
When asked the question: “How do we stop environmental racism?” Sister Thomas replied by quoting Myles Horton and Paulo Freire “We make the road by walking.”