In this moment of political and social turmoil, as we reckon with the injustices of institutionalized racism and continue the fight against COVID-19, it can seem easy to push environmental concerns to the back seat. Yet the impacts of environmental policies in the US are a direct reflection of the institutions that created them, and racism is woven into how we treat our environment as much as it is woven into the fabric of how we as a society treat each other.

Environmental racism has been brought into the spotlight by Black Lives Matter protesters this month. This past Thursday, Indigenous community leaders and allies demonstrated on the Plaza to celebrate the removal of an obelisk bearing a racist inscription. Here too, speakers made the connection between the way we treat the environment and the way we treat the Indigenous peoples whose ancestral land we occupy.

Here's what one speaker, Beata Tsosie-Peña had to say:

“This has been an inspiring week, this has been an emotional week... We are unlearning. These baby steps of abolishing racism and abolishing colonialism so that we can address the major issues facing New Mexico today. Like nuclear colonialism contaminating our water and our lands...

Like children being locked in cages in the Southeast part of the state.

Like our children not being educated of their culture in ethnic studies in schools.

The ancestral sites of Native Indigenous peoples being under constant desecration from environmental violence like Chaco Canyon, Mount Taylor, Bears Ears National Monument. Those that have not even acknowledged the vast territories of Indigenous Peoples, return these places to our Indigenous Peoples so that we can care for them the way we know how. We have a lot of work to do."

To SFR, she said, “We work to liberate the people so that we can ultimately liberate the land... When the values of this country shifted to ownership over land and bodies, black, Indigenous, women—all of the violence that has happened and continues to happen stems back to that very original violence. It is time for us to think very deeply and hard about what it means to restore. Can any of us be free from institutional violence if we abuse the land we depend on for our very life?”

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