Taking a stand against racism and oppression

June 4, 2020

To the Black community: Your life matters. We see you. We hear you. We are in solidarity with you and we will do better for you.

At the Coalition, we believe everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors. But as an organization that was founded by and is still led by white people, our vision has been written from a place of privilege. Our privilege has led us to believe the outdoor spaces we have helped create and protect are equitable and accessible to all. But access to the outdoors cannot be equitable while society is not equitable.

A black man was murdered by police in broad daylight. His name was George Floyd. A black man was murdered for going on a run. His name was Ahmaud Arbery. A black birder, Christian Cooper, asked a white woman to obey the law—and she called the police. This is our world. A world in which black people encounter overt and covert racism whenever they venture outside—and invasion and murder even within their homes, as was the case with Breonna Taylor.

We are among the many people and organizations who are opening our eyes and acknowledging that this is the world we live in, and we also acknowledge that we are late. We can no longer overlook the fact that we are not serving everyone, and we are far from serving everyone equally. We can either be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. So, the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition is taking a stand against racism and oppression.

Our state and our society are—at their very core—built upon racism. Institutional racism. Structural racism. Overt and covert racism. This racism damages every institution and organization in our nation, including the Coalition and our partners. As white Americans—which I know most of you reading this are—we must work to address our own biases, dismantle the racist structures around us, and stop excluding BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) from the discussion. We must stop allowing the burden of fighting racism to fall to people of color. It is time for white people to educate ourselves and to take on our share of this work. Racism will thrive as long as we continue to be silent.

The environmental and outdoor sectors have a lot of work to do and I am committed to doing this work, both personally and with my team at the Coalition. The Coalition staff is developing a set of concrete goals and actions we, as a team and as individuals, will take to address inequities in our work and lives. We will share those with you all as we develop them and work on them—we invite you to join us in this process and to hold us accountable and call us out when we make mistakes.

Our goal is the same today as it was when we were founded 30 years ago: ensure ALL Washingtonians are able to enjoy the great outdoors—be it close to home or in the backcountry. The environment and social justice are inseparable. This is not just about the land; it’s about the people, ALL people– ESPECIALLY those who have suffered at the hands of this system.

Signed in humility and gratitude to those who have begun my education on this critical topic,

Christine Mahler
Executive Director Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition

NOTE: This piece focuses on the experience of black Americans, but is not meant to ignore or minimize the experience of Indigenous and other POC (people of color) who likewise experience discrimination and racism in the outdoors and everyday life. However, this piece is inspired by and is in response to recent blatant examples of anti-blackness in the outdoors and across America.

Make a donation to #DiversifyOutdoors

Organizations & Nonprofits Diversifying the Outdoors

Black Girls Trekkin’
Outdoor Afro
Color the Crag
The Outdoor Journal Tour
Color Outside
Brown Folks Fishing
All Mountain Brothers
Just Add Water
Black Girls Run!
Diversify Outdoors
Black Outside, Inc
Brown People Camping

Summer Reading List

So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibrahim X. Kendi

“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

“White Fragility” by Robin DeAngelo

Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Davis