By Stephanie Younger •
Yesterday, I went to a climate strike of the Virginia chapter of the U.S Youth Climate Strike, a “grassroots movement of youth who demand bold action to put an end to the 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 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 and Brown 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 Black communities and other communities of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice don’t get the same energy and attention given to white communities.
My call-to-action for all of you, especially the press, schools, police and political leaders is to give Black and Brown youth the same attention and energy you gave to white youth affected by climate change. 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.
Representation means sharing your platforms with Black and Brown kids. Representation means standing with Black and Brown kids instead of speaking for them. Representation means giving Black and Brown youth climate activists the same positive news coverage you gave to white climate activists, instead of calling them divisive for acknowledging intersectionality. Representation means showing up the way Black and Brown kids need you to. Representation means acknowledging the legacy of the Black and Brown youth who have been fighting for the climate before us.
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.
Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.