That’s the number of days since George Floyd was murdered; his murder a manifestation of white supremacy in our society. Our whole country was faced with institutional racism.
At Washington Conservation Voters, George Floyd’s death compelled us to examine more deeply the ways that racism and white supremacy manifests in our support of candidates and our statewide electoral work.
Since 2017, we have worked intentionally to incorporate values of social and racial justice into our work — ultimately creating a racial equity action plan. We know that the same beliefs, practices, and systems that create and perpetuate interpersonal and institutional racism, are also those that create and perpetuate environmental destruction.
There can be no environmental justice without racial justice. This understanding bolstered the launch of our Evergreen Future campaign, too, which is a campaign that ties together our commitment and understanding of the intersectionality we see with our environmental work and social, gender, economic, and racial justice.
Environmental and racial justice made clear the need to have a more representative endorsement process that reflects how we want our organization and the Washington state political landscape to evolve. Over the years, we’ve made tweaks and adjustments to the process, but the system was always designed with candidates in mind who were already represented in our democracy — candidates who are more entrenched in the political system and more likely to be white.
While many aspects of our political, democracy, and community building work helps uplift Black, Native, and people of color and underrepresented candidates to run for office and succeed, our endorsement process still favored white candidates more entrenched in traditional political systems. Even when some signs pointed to an endorsement decision being the wrong one for environmental and racial justice we made that call because we didn’t have a process that elevated those same pieces of evidence.
We cannot authentically say we want our political landscape to be more diverse and representative when we have not fully examined how our systems and processes uphold racism and white supremacy.
This year, we are changing structures and practices within the WCV endorsement process that run contrary to our values of fighting for environmental and racial justice.
- We spent time in community, listening to partners with openness to gather feedback and input on how to orient our endorsement process toward equity
- We rewrote the endorsement questionnaire to focus more on racial justice (particularly Anti-Black racism), Tribal Treaty Rights, inequities in environmental degradation and policies, and a candidate’s commitment and connection to their community
- We are dedicating staff time on more intentional outreach to candidates, particularly first-time candidates, to encourage them to participate, make sure they have all the information they need, and to ensure the endorsement process works for them
Our aim is to elect environmental justice advocates that represent their communities. To do that, we need systems and structures that support Black, Native, people of color, youth, LGBTQIA+, womxn, people with disabilities, and all candidates who are ready to stand up and fight for justice but who have been historically left out of the political process.
Candidates who are willing to join us in our commitment to environmental and racial justice are best equipped to shape our communities. By electing candidates with these values, we can systematically prevent manifestations of racism and white supremacy towards people and the environment.