The death of another unarmed African American man—George Floyd—at the hands of police is outrageous and horrifying.
The origins and history of the United States are steeped in racism, colonialism, and violence. We have come a long way, but these recent events underscore what was already clear: we still have much to do as a society, as individuals, and as an organization to build a more equitable and just future. The timing of this tragedy—occurring during a pandemic that is disproportionately harming and killing African Americans and other communities of color—makes Floyd’s death even more appalling.
Two other recent incidents stress the urgency of doing better. In Georgia, white residents chased down and shot Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog; in New York’s Central Park, a white woman racially profiled and harassed Christian Cooper, a bird watcher, when he asked her to follow park rules for putting her dog on leash. Among many injustices, these acts illustrate a burden that our society too often places on African Americans and other people of color: exclusion from safe and welcoming places to recreate, exercise self-care, and appreciate the natural world. As an organization that works to improve our environment and to build healthy communities, we too often see the impacts of governmental policies and actions that place the burdens of dirty air and water, toxic wastes, and lack of parks on underserved communities.
How can we help address these injustices? Melody Cooper, the sister of the Central Park birdwatcher, provided eloquent guidance in her recent op-ed:
If you’re an ally, what can you do? Stand with us. Bear witness. Continue the discussion and support legal action. Refuse to accept racism in your midst, even in small ways — call out a cruel joke or rude behavior. Be brave and challenge it all. You can transform your own world through how you teach your children, and how you speak to your neighbors and co-workers. It is up to you, not to a leader nor any single protest or petition. Your everyday commitment is what will start to bring the change you want to see. Start small, step forward and let your action join with others’ to become a rising tide that cannot be stopped.
At RLF, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work. This commitment includes our efforts to advance equitable access to parks and the outdoors – and more broadly, to promote public policies and funding that improve the lives of people of color and indigenous people in the United States and throughout the world. Perhaps more importantly, our commitment includes growing support for organizations led by people of color and indigenous people who are working on issues most important to their communities and regions. Internally and no less importantly, our commitment includes work with each other to foster a sense of belonging and support for all RLF employees; to better understand and address the unconscious biases within each of us; and to help dismantle racism when we see it.
The urgency of this work and our commitment to it is made stronger than ever by the recent actions against African Americans across the nation. As individuals and as an organization, we have an obligation to do better and to work with others to fundamentally change the world and how we treat each other. We look forward to continuing this journey and doing all we can to bring about an environment that ensures justice and equity for all.