Today is both a heavy day in the history of our country and an unsettlingly normal one. Our justice system has consistently failed to deliver justice for generations and the murders of George Floyd and far too many innocent Black Americans and people of color have only underscored this fact. This reality has caused Black Americans and other people of color immense pain, suffering, and trauma every time they see their people murdered and every time the justice system fails.

Even when the justice system works it only highlights the overwhelming number of cases where it did not. Our hearts go out to the families of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, and their many loved ones in the city of Minneapolis. And yet we know that thoughts and prayers in the face of a failing justice system are not enough.

Today’s welcome guilty verdict is no different and is yet another reminder that our work as a conservation organization is fundamentally incomplete while any injustice prevails.

The National Wildlife Federation is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. We know that equity and justice directly impact every aspect of our work. If any one person doesn’t feel safe even getting to a trailhead, park, or community garden to enjoy wildlife, our conservation work is fundamentally incomplete. When Black parents have to fear getting a phone call from their children each time they leave their house, the promise of nature as a healing place goes unfulfilled. And our work for clean water, air, and lands is particularly salient in Black communities which for decades have faced the disproportionate environmental injustices of polluting factories and degrading water pipes.

We must also recognize that the environmental movement has not historically been inclusive of Black people. A recent article in the Washington Post chronicled how Black activists fought for decades for environmental racism to be recognized for how damaging it is to people, wildlife, and habitat. Their work over decades has led to environmental justice becoming a core part of the National Wildlife Federation’s work, along with its recognition in legislation and at the federal level. Our commitment to environmental justice and to thriving wildlife, clean water, air, and lands is a commitment to Black communities.

We will continue our work internally by continuing to ensure that equity and justice are at the forefront of our work and in our hiring and leadership. We are a stronger organization when the voices of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American staff are heard, empowered, and celebrated.

All of these are important reasons why the National Wildlife Federation has committed to make changes that go beyond thoughts and prayers. And there are more personal reasons, too.

As a father of two young girls, I want the world they grow up in to be a safe and healthy place for them, their friends, and their families. We can’t say that is true right now. Not when the families of three Black men in Minneapolis are grieving for their lost sons. Not when the family of Breonna Taylor misses her presence and compassion each day. Not when countless parents across the United States must worry about whether their children will come back home safe and alive each time they leave the house. This is why we all must be deeply committed to building an equitable and just future together, especially those who do not face the same systemic threats as Black families currently do in this country.

This is the work we must do to build an anti-racist society, for then, and only then, can we truly fulfill our mission for people and wildlife.

Published: April 20, 2021