Beyond Sentiment and Statements

In the wake of George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of police and the subsequent expressions of community outrage, the easy thing for me (a white male executive) to do is express sorrow and solidarity with Mr. Floyd’s family, friends, and the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. I have done that. I have also said that Freshwater acknowledges our responsibility to take an active role in eliminating racism and promoting environmental justice. In our recently completed strategic plan, we said we would work for equity, inclusion, and diversity. We have said everything that needs saying for such a time as this, but is saying it enough?

The harder work is to look in the mirror and ask, “Beyond sentiment and statements, what will I do, what will Freshwater do, to change the systems that repeatedly cause such injustices?” That work involves some challenging and critical conversations that will take Freshwater and me beyond our comfort zones.

As an organization of people working to protect and restore water in Minnesota, Freshwater is historically well educated, white, and suburban. That is our starting point. We need to face our whiteness and begin by connecting, listening, and learning from non-white, non-suburban voices with a different knowledge base who have historically been left out of Freshwater’s work and other important environmental conversations. We will begin by examining ourselves through the Intercultural Development Inventory, as a board and staff. This work will lay a foundation for the harder work of connecting with others to listen, learn, and act for equity – including water equity.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had much to say about the silence of the majority. I have been largely silent in the face of injustice, enjoying my privilege of being white and in the majority. Now, it is time for me to step into the conversation about justice for all and start working for it.

– John Linc Stine, executive director