By Stephanie Younger •
I believe in womanism and the abolition of youth prisons. I also believe that climate justice is racial justice, and in this fight for climate justice it is important to validate Black lives. Even though Black and Brown youth are one of the most affected demographics, and have been combating this issue for a very long time, we’re always excluded and left out of the conversation and action surrounding climate change. Similar to the fight to end gun violence, Black youth are often accused of being divisive and aggressive when we speak out about issues that disproportionately affect us. Not only does the media portray us in ways that stereotype, ignore, discredit and marginalize our voices and lives, but we are also heavily criminalized for exercising our first amendment right.
GreenAction.Org defines environmental racism as, the “disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.” Environmental racism also happens when the press and political leaders and community members ignore the impact this has on Black communities and other communities of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice.
“Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race. Environmental racism is caused by several factors, including intentional neglect, the alleged need for a receptacle for pollutants in urban areas, and a lack of institutional power and low land values of people of color. It is a well-documented fact that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by polluting industries (and very specifically, hazardous waste facilities) and lax regulation of these industries.”“Environmental Justice & Environmental Racism,” Green Action
My call-to-action to the press, schools, and political leaders is to give Black and Brown youth, who have been fighting for climate justice for a long time, the same attention and energy you gave to white youth who are urging political leaders to take action. Give us the same positive news coverage you gave to white climate activists, instead of calling us divisive for acknowledging intersectionality.
Showing up for Black youth, means standing with us, instead of speaking for us, and acknowledging the legacy of the Black and Brown youth who have been fighting for the climate before us. By investing in policies for climate justice, not only are you protecting the future of our planet, but you are also protecting the futures of those disproportionately affected by climate change, including those who need to be represented in this movement. Not only does investing in climate justice policies protecting the future, of our planet, but also the futures of people who are affected by climate change the most, the futures of Black and Indigenous youth.
Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old student activist and writer who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.