Black and Brown Youth Have Fought for Our Planet


I recently had the opportunity to be on the organizing committee of the Virginia chapter of the Youth Climate Strike. It’s an international movement that demands our leaders and policy makers to take action and “acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis.”

I believe in womanism, the abolition of youth prisons, gun violence prevention and diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math. I also believe that climate justice is racial justice, and in this fight for climate justice it is important to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter. Black and Brown youth have been fighting for our planet by combating climate change for a very long time, but we’re always excluded and left out of the conversation and action. Similar to the fight to end gun violence, Black and Brown youth are accused of being divisive when we speak out about issues that disproportionately affect us. When we stand up for ourselves in response to this, we’re accused of being aggressive and attacking other people, and when I say that I speak for myself from my personal experiences.

The media portrays us in ways that stereotype, ignore, discredit and marginalize the voices and lives of Black and Brown youth. Not only are we stereotyped, but we are also heavily criminalized for exercising our first amendment right. According to Kathym of the Urban Dictionary, environmental racism occurs when marginalized communities are “forced to live in close proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as toxic waste, pollution and urban decay”. Environmental racism also happens when Black communities and other communities of color who are disproportionately affected by climate change don’t get the same energy and attention given to our white counterparts.

Policy makers: By supporting the Green New Deal, not only are you protecting the future of our planet, but you are also protecting the futures of those disproportionately affected by climate change. You are protecting the futures of the Black and Brown children; the children without clean water in Flint Michigan, the futures of the children in Puerto Rico, and the futures of Indigenous youth.

Black and Brown youth need to see themselves represented in this movement. My call-to-action for all of you, especially the media, schools and police is to give Black and Brown youth the same attention and energy you gave to white youth affected by climate change. That means sharing your platforms with us. It means standing with those communities and rather than speaking for us. Give us the same positive news coverage you gave to our white counterparts. Show up to demonstrations that challenge environmental racism. Acknowledge the legacy of the Black and Brown youth who have been fighting for our environment before us.

Written by Stephanie Younger, a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention

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