Across the world, 350.org has come out strongly in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. From Brazil to the United States and beyond, and to this article written by my colleague Alex here in South Africa. It is, unfortunately, to be expected that this has resulted in responses claiming that as an organisation we should focus only on climate change and that if we are going to support #BlackLivesMatter we should support other racial groups as well.
In South Africa we have received responses to our emails and social media posts about this issue, pointing to farm murders and claiming that white farmers being killed by Black people is akin to genocide. Purely championing the cause of white farmers ignores the fact that Black farmers and farmworkers are also facing violence. It also ignores that Black South Africans are more likely to face violence than white South Africans – showing once again that to some, white lives matter more. The position is that if we stand up for Black lives, we should support the cause of white farmers. This is often combined with the statement that all lives matter, in an attempt to juxtapose that with #BlackLivesMatter.
All lives do matter, and I’d go further to say that all life matters. The reason that we explicitly say and support #BlackLivesMatter is white supremacist culture has made it clear that Black lives do not matter, or matter less. To be clear, saying Black lives matter does not mean that we think white lives don’t matter or that any murder or act of aggression carried out against anyone is acceptable. To merely say all lives matter though ignores the fact that the dominant culture has oppressed Black people for hundreds of years, and continues to do so.
This system of oppression has led to the oppression of Black people, it has led to a crisis of inequality and an entitled attitude to the wrecking of the environment. Climate and racial justice are deeply entwined, as my colleague explains: “Greenhouse gases are predominantly caused by and benefit the rich and wealthy, whiter, global North individuals, corporations, communities, and countries. The impacts, however, are disproportionately felt by the poorer, black, and brown global South.” Recognising this link is crucial if we are to understand the roots of the climate crisis. Understanding it and the need to join forces to fight for an end to the oppression of both Black people and the earth is crucial if we are going to win.
In South Africa, 350Africa.org is busy building a climate movement and fighting climate change. We know that to take on the system that has caused climate change means confronting multiple forms of oppression. The idea that one person or group’s needs are more important than another’s is abhorrent, in the same way as one group extracting natural resources and polluting the earth at the cost of others is. It is this thinking that has caused the climate crisis. We are working to highlight it. If you agree with this, we hope you’ll join us.
Glen Tyler-Davies, 350.org South African Team Leader