Western Section TWS Stands with Black Lives Matter
An important letter from our President:
Western Section Stands with #BlackLivesMatter
I’ve been overwhelmed in so many ways. First with sadness and anger about the tragic death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis, the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor in her Louisville home, and the horrible incident with Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park. I’ve been overwhelmed with awe in witnessing the rising protests that have spread throughout the world. I’ve been overwhelmed with fury with images of peaceful protesters being beaten and maced and tear gassed, among other things. I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness as opportunists have vandalized and looted my town and my neighborhood, striving to both take advantage of a situation and confuse the focus of the protests. And all this is happening on top of a quarantine and a recession along with the day-to-day worries about family, community, and this world. Yes. Overwhelmed.
Beneath this is an overwhelming rise in conscious that what happened to George and to Breonna and to Christian are not isolated experiences in the lives of a few Black people. Rather, these reflect a collective experience of Black people who wrestle every single day with a systemic problem of racism and oppression, and the tangle of associated misdeeds that pile on one after another. Let’s say their names: Sean Monterrosa, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Ahmaud Arbery, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Jr., Philando Castile, Stephon Clark…and so many others.
Since George was killed on May 25, and since Christian Cooper was called out for being Black while birding on May 27, I have been digesting information and stories and history and perspective. I have been wondering what more I can be doing to change this horrendous tide of endless suffering and senseless deaths. I am a firm believer that each of our voices matter, but the voice of a white woman did not seem like what was needed immediately.
What do I do with this? As I told my own children, if your skin is white, what you do right now is LISTEN. Listen intently. Listen deeply. Listen openly. Learn more about the Black experience of living in America. And don’t sit on the sidelines, but act. Stand up and speak up, as an ally. To be silent is to be complicit.
I have been waiting to use my voice…and now is the time. So, using my platform of the President of the Western Section of The Wildlife Society, I urged our Board to add a voice of support. The Board of the Western Section was fully involved in developing a response to this important time.
What do we, as the Board of the Western Section, believe? To our membership, the Board says in our collective voice that diversity is a priority for the Western Section. As a Section, we stand up for inclusivity, we embrace diversity, we aim to recognize you and your voice, and we strive towards promoting an organization that values integrity, supporting and listening to its members of every background.
As the Board of the Western Section, we collectively affirm:
- We state unequivocally, #BlackLivesMatter.
- Racism is a systemic problem, and we will work within our Section to deconstruct systemic racism where it may persist.
- We condemn police brutality.
- We denounce white supremacy.
- The Section, through the leadership of its Board, commits to dismantling any practices that create barriers for engagement and advancement of Black scientists within our organization.
- The Section commits to listening and learning to better ourselves and our culture to be true allies.
- The Section commits to examine how we embody lasting and meaningful change, where needed, by reopening for the scrutiny of improvement our Strategic Plan and our Operations Manual.
- The Section commits to making positive changes durable with achievable goals and bold vision.
For all of our members, we encourage you to listen and learn, and – as all good scientists do – research. We suggest starting with the following resources and organizations. These recommendations will also be posted to our website and updated regularly.
- The Breakdown with Shaun King (The North Star): https://www.thenorthstar.com/
- Code Switch (NPR): https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch
- Pod Save the People (Crooked): https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-the-people/
- Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment (Season 2 Ep 3) (Revisionist History): http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/13-miss-buchanans-period-of-adjustment
- Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s Decolonize Science Reading List: https://medium.com/@chanda/decolonising-science-reading-list-339fb773d51f
- The 1619 Project (New York Times): https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html
- Decolonize Your Mind Reading List: https://bookshop.org/lists/decolonize-your-mind
- How to be an AntiRacist: a book by Ibram X. Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race lecture by Ijeoma Oluo
Organizations and Groups:
- Black Lives Matter: www.BlackLivesMatter.Com
- Outdoor Afro: https://outdoorafro.com/
- Diversify Outdoors: https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com/
- The Black Outdoors: https://www.theblackoutdoors.com/
- Greening Youth Foundation: https://gyfoundation.org/
- Backyard Basecamp: https://backyardbasecamp.org/
- Big City Mountaineers: https://bigcitymountaineers.org/
- Black AF in STEM: https://twitter.com/i/lists/1266155155743027202?s=20&mc_cid=6482f4cbe4&mc_eid=c45c8bb096
- Mary Annaïse Heglar’s Green Voices of Color: https://twitter.com/i/lists/1087490564977819648?mc_cid=6482f4cbe4&mc_eid=c45c8bb096
- General statement by scientists in support of people protesting police brutality against Black communities – Link to Petition
Please contact me, or any Board member, directly, to share your ideas for how we can improve. If there are actions that this Board or Section has previously taken, or things that have happened at Section events that have been hurtful or harmful, we want to hear from you. We stand ready to hear from you and are committed to listening, learning, and working together to make positive change. Also, please get involved in our Diversity Committee. This Committee provides a key voice in Board discussions and actions, and serves to diversify the voices at the table. I am urging our Board to change the Section Bylaws to make the Diversity Committee a standing (rather than ad hoc) committee, to give the Committee Chair a voting position on the Board. We want you at the table, helping this Section improve so that it effectively serves and supports all within our community.
To the Black scientists, wildlife biologists, resource managers, educators, and students in our community, I am here to say: Your Voice Matters. And we, the Western Section Board, are listening and we stand with you.
Kelly Holland, CWB & President, Western Section of The Wildlife Society
(and the entire TWS–WS Executive Board)