Black Lives are Not Disposable

Last month, we wrote a piece discussing how one of the central values of our current US economy is “disposability.” That natural resources, energy, products, packaging, and unfortunately, people and communities - especially low-income and communities of color - are seen and treated as disposable. We wrote about “sacrifice zones” - a term which describes places that have been “sacrificed” to our economy and “way of life.”

But what we didn’t talk about are the “sacrifice people” who have been oppressed by this same system that treats human beings as disposable, and which holds institutionalized racism and white supremacy as core values. A system that allows angry white mobs in military fatigues and AR-15s to storm capitol buildings to protest public health measures, while people of color are routinely killed for going about their daily lives.

For far too long, many leaders of our governments, businesses, and institutions have been unwilling to examine and expunge systemic racism from our society. Because of this, people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade and countless others are no longer here with us. Lives cut short because of our unwillingness to face up to our history and to the structures and norms of systemic racism that we perpetuate.

That’s why we’re writing this piece. Because what we say we value as a country and what we actually value don’t add up. Because our actions don’t follow our words. Because it’s not okay for environmental groups like UPSTREAM to say, “Sorry, that’s not our issue.” It’s not okay to see the links between the exploitation of our planet and the exploitation of our planet’s people and do nothing about it.

This is not a “stay in your lane” moment. This is an “all hands on deck” moment.  As someone on our team said today, it’s not enough to not be racist. We must be anti-racist. We must be pro-human, pro-planet, pro-love. And our actions must show it.

In solidarity with the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge, UPSTREAM will be #mutedandlistening on our social channels until June 7th. We will not be posting to help open the space for voices that have been marginalized, bypassed, and silenced.

All of us in the UPSTREAM community stand with #BlackLivesMatter. We stand with all those who loved George Floyd and all the named and unnamed who have been taken.

Because black lives are not disposable, and we want to co-create a world where this is true.

*At UPSTREAM, we’ve been working through Dismantling Racism’s White Supremacy Culture to identify and shift tendencies within our team and daily work. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re committed to listening, learning, and acting for an equitable and inclusive world.