Like many of you, I have been shaken to my core watching the video of George Floyd’s horrific death at the hands of a white police officer. Floyd’s murder is one of several racist and hateful attacks we have collectively witnessed over the past few months, from the wrongful death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky to the murder of Amaud Arbery in Georgia by armed vigilantes. A white woman abused her privilege by intentionally putting a black man, who was birdwatching in Central Park, in harm’s way by calling the police on him because he asked her to follow the law and leash her dog.
We have seen anger and frustration spill onto the streets through protests, reinforcing that these cases are not aberrations—they are reflective of America’s long and disturbing history of racism. Far too many black people and people of color are constantly under threat in America, not just from attacks of outward racism and hate but also through structural racism embedded in our society that reinforce these inequalities. We know that people of color are unfairly burdened by pollution and environmental harm here in America and throughout the world.
Of course, racism exists here in Maine, too. Native American tribal members who originally inhabited Maine have suffered a long history of abuses at the hands of white people. City government leaders, like Lewiston’s former mayor, asked immigrants to stop coming to that city. Lewiston’s first Somali-American City Councilor, Safiya Khalid, faced racist attacks during her election but thankfully prevailed, bringing an important and much-needed voice to the city’s government. And racial minorities here are disproportionately and unacceptably bearing the burden of COVID-19 cases.
It is not enough to be horrified and outraged. We must also act. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) understands that our land, air, and water are not truly in the public trust until all people are safe to access them, free from intimidation, harm, or hate. Our organization’s work will never be accomplished as well as it could be until we successfully draw an increased number of diverse people to our tables and listen carefully to what they are telling us. And our aspirations for a better future will never be met unless we address systemic issues like police brutality, environmental injustice, or health disparities that people of color suffer from. Clean air and water must not be matters of privilege. Safely running in your neighborhood, birding in a local park, or simply living and breathing must not be matters of privilege. These basic rights must be afforded to everyone regardless of the color of their skin.
I’ve included a list of resources below (not exhaustive) to help you start finding out about what is happening right here in Maine.
—Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM CEO
On June 3, 2020, NRCM and other Maine environmental organizations released a statement to collectively condemn the injustices and crimes committed against the black community. Read the full statement.
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center
Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition
Asians in Maine from the Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maine Insights from Maine Initiatives
The Contributions of New Americans in Maine from New American Economy
Immigration Report from CEI
I can’t breathe. We need to understand the relationship between systemic racism and environmental injustice in Trump’s America. Racial inequality is one of the most pernicious and enduring forms of injustice in the United States and the callous insensitivity of the GOP and the ruling administration leads many to believe that protest is the only way to make their voices heard. This article surveys some of the evidence that shows how overt racism has worsened under this president as have other less obvious forms of racial injustice. There can be no justice as long as people of color are deprived of clean air and water, there can be no justice as long as this administration occupies the White House.