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To Save Ourselves: Recognize White Privilege by Amanda Shepherd [Guest Post]

Guest Post from Amanda Sheperd

Recognizing My Privilege

It has been a rough ride, has it not? Most of us are likely still shaken by the events in Charlottesville last weekend.

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection and self-analysis the past few days. As a white woman from a middle-class family, I recognize my privilege. I do not worry about the safety of my daughters should they have an encounter with the police. I do not worry about them being targeted for the color of their skin. What I do worry about is my own “white guilt” and the tendency of us white folk to take over spaces and conversations as a result of that guilt – and, even worse, not really contributing much when we are present. I worry about the lack of time I have to really hone in on this issue as I use my privilege to fight for environmental issues. But mostly, I worry about the fate of our planet and our society.

white privilege

Work to Be Done on Racial Issues

I worry that there is SO MUCH work to be done on racial issues in this world we live in. And I have pledged to do more as a white woman and an ally – to go beyond sharing articles on FB and Twitter. To have tough conversations with my white friends and families. To help make space for POC to tell their own stories and to do the work that they feel needs done. To not, however, rely on them to do the work that needs done among allies and our white brothers and sisters. To do my own work in assessing my privilege and utilizing it to help begin deconstructing a system that places white lives above all others.

But I also worry about our planet and – more specifically – the future of ALL people. The fate of our society should we continue down this path of pillaging the Earth for the preserved remains of once-living beings and burning them for our own gain. I have been struggling with how to continue this fight – the one I have been engaged in for so long – while also making more space in my life to engage in the battle for social justice.

African American Woman

Built on the Backs of Natives

In this time of reflection, I have been reminded that DAPL, KXL, and the majority of the fossil fuel infrastructure in this country is built almost exclusively on the land/backs of Native and other communities of POC. Environmental and social injustice can – and often are – one and the same. These communities – along with allies – are still fighting the #NoDAPL & the #NoKXL battles because they are socially and environmentally unjust. Coal-fired power plants, factories that produce – or use – toxic chemicals, industrial farming facilities that generate unspeakable amounts of animal waste – all of these tend to be placed in areas where those who live nearby do not have the means to fight against them – minority communities and/or those of low socio-economic status.  I realize that the time I spend battling for environmental causes – including the climate crisis – is also time spent fighting for my sisters and brothers of all backgrounds.

birds soaring

There is More We All Can Do

BUT. There is more I can do. There is more we all can do. There has to be. Because in order for the climate crisis to be resolved, people of all races and backgrounds have to believe that they are safe in doing this work. We cannot expect our Black or Indigenous or Latinx siblings to put in the work on climate when they have to worry about racists threatening them or their families. Many of them are already engaged in the struggle to #ActOnClimate – but we cannot demand their participation. We must work to ensure a society that is safe and inclusive for all people; otherwise what are we fighting to protect?

A War For Our Society

This war – because this is indeed a war for our society and the Earth that we know and love – must be fought on two fronts. One for our physical world. And one for our society. Most of the battles will overlap. But even when they don’t, we must recognize that we do this work for the betterment of all. For the survival of all.

In order to save the planet we must save ourselves. And it is apparent there is much work to be done.


Courtesy of Amanda Shepherd. Originally posted on her blog, TheGreatUnless, on August 16, 2017.

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6 Comments

  1. Very well said! Thanks for putting this out there. And your last quote – To save the planet we have to figure out how to save ourselves. Yes.

    • jda2016

      Thank you! I’ll make sure Amanda sees your comment. Honoring you. – Janelle

    • Thank you, Cassie! It is a hard truth for many to swallow but that last sentence is becoming more and more apparent all the time.

  2. I think this post is absolutely beautiful and necessary. Being a black woman, this makes my heart warm.

    • jda2016

      YES! I’m overjoyed to hear this from you! I’ll make sure I let Amanda know you commented. Honoring you dear one, Janelle

    • Thank you, AmberLynn. That means so much to me. I am hoping that by speaking out & sharing my own journey through these times perhaps, in some small way, I can help inspire others who were born with privilege to do their part.

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