A Message from Citizens for a Healthy Bay’s Executive Director, Melissa Malott

June 5, 2020

Black lives matter.

I speak for everyone at Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB) when I say we are simultaneously heartbroken, disgusted, ashamed, and unsurprised about the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David MacAtee, and so many, many more black Americans at the hands of police and emboldened, racist murderers. Here in Tacoma in March, police killed Manuel Ellis, a black man, by asphyxiation, even though he was immobilized. All of this is while the pandemic disproportionately impacts black workers, who are overrepresented in the front lines of the health care and service industries. 

African American men are over 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people; for African American women, the rate is 1.4 times more likely.1 Even though black Americans make up only 13.4% of our population, they are incarcerated five times more than white Americans.2

This is a systemic, deeply rooted problem. This system prioritizes violence against the black community via militarized police forces in order to uphold a racist system of white supremacy. This system indiscriminately destroys black lives and is the same system that leads to climate ruin, tramples on indigenous sovereignty, illegally detains immigrants, under-invests in poor and POC (people of color) neighborhoods, creates unjust economic stratification, and leaves millions of Americans without proper healthcare. This system devastates our families and community. This system threatens our community’s children and grandchildren. 

This system is unacceptable. 

As an environmental leader, I acknowledge environmentalists have a legacy of racism, injustice, and anti-Blackness. Black folks experience disproportionate impacts from climate change and suffer the greatest effects of environmental racism, but the environmental field, which has traditionally been overwhelmingly white, has been active in a way that served the interests of a wealthy, white privileged class. That means the environmental community has historically been complicit in upholding a system of white supremacy. I have been complicit in upholding a system of white supremacy.

We white environmentalists can no longer be silent in our disagreement with racist acts while reaping the benefits of a white supremacist system. It is time we acknowledge the role we have played in perpetuating and upholding systematic racism. 

Racial injustice is not separate from the work that we’re doing. I believe our fight against climate ruin and environmental degradation will not be won until we destroy white supremacy. The interconnectedness of the climate crisis and racial injustice, and the resulting immoral suffering of black people on a daily basis, presents us with a responsibility that is well overdue: people like myself, who have privilege and a voice, must join the fight to dismantle this racist system. 

CHB’s board, staff, and I stand in solidarity with the black community. We are committed to anti-racism and are developing short and long term plans that will allow CHB to play the most effective role we can in dismantling white supremacy. For the immediate future, we are investing everything we can; like many nonprofits, the pandemic has affected our financial health, but we are prioritizing Diversity-Equity-Inclusion training and an anti-racism and anti-blackness assessment as essential to our operations this year. For our upcoming fundraising event, we will be contributing 10% of the proceeds to black-led organizations in Tacoma directly working to support healing in the black community. 

I know there is much more to do, and this is only a start. I know this will change me and CHB as an organization. I welcome it with humility if it makes us better allies and more effective in fighting racism.  

Check below for some resources to follow that will aid our collective understanding of racism and how to advance racial justice both locally and at a national level.

I have no doubt a healthy climate and thriving ecosystems go hand in hand with racial justice, and I ask you to join all of us at CHB in bringing our environmentalist community into the fight for racial justice.

Melissa Malott
Executive Director