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Passionist Life Honest questions on race, diversity and privilege in the climate movement

Honest questions on race, diversity and privilege in the climate movement

May 22 2023, 09:25 AM

The climate protest movement is noticeably white. This is perhaps, in an odd way, a good thing: it is those with the privilege and power who need to surrender it; marginalised communities also have a greater risk facing authorities such as the police. But the lack of diversity suggests problems in our approach.

In a recent editorial within Green Christian magazine, Paul Bodenham writes:

“Many of us belong to churches which took the British Empire as their mission field. Those nations have largely gained independence, but the colonial mindset persists not just in economic power-relations, but also, it is argued, in the inherited unconscious of the British people. The withdrawal of our troops was only the beginning; our own minds must now be liberated from its legacy.

“I have work to do on myself and my inherited privilege, before I presume to “help” others. But it’s hard to know where to start. Talking about these issues I have felt tongue-tied and nervous about “getting it wrong”. I have occasionally felt blamed, berated and resentful. If we genuinely care about diversity in our movement, we will have to expect difficult conversations and be kind to ourselves and each other. Our fragility and resentment can tell us as much as the words we hear.

“So where do we go from here as members of Green Christian? First I think we have to talk about race. We might seek advice and input from people from ethnic minorities, but should not expect them to speak on behalf of others, nor to help us at their own expense.”

To this end, Paul—ex-chair and mainstay of the Green Christian movement—hopes to begin addressing these questions with an online workshop on Wednesday 7th June. As Paul says, those with the privilege and power may not feel all that powerful in the climate fight; yet it is these parties that need to be speaking out about inequality, not the marginalised communities themselves (as justice consultant Ann-Marie Lewis also referenced on our Common Era podcast).

So come take part in this important conversation, in a spirit of trust and fragility—you can read Paul’s full article here, and register for the Zoom workshop here.

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