As a transition from our last theme, Justice, to our current theme, Loss, I offer words from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between the World and Me.” In this book, which is written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates shares his experience of being Black in America, offering much food for thought for his son, and all his readers. In the closing chapter, he offers the clearest description of Environmental Justice I have yet encountered, without ever using the term. He states very clearly what is at stake for us all, and, as I read it, illustrates with great clarity the meaning of collective liberation. I offer an excerpt from his book in which he refers to “people who need to believe they are white” as “the Dreamers.”
“… should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them. Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not a belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.
… the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for use. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce than Marcus Garvey is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas. The two phenomena are known to each other. It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age. It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into the subdivided woods. And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.”
What I glean from this is that all the efforts in our country’s history of people who believe they are white to isolate, segregate, incarcerate, or escape from people they have decided are different and “less than” is a spiritual tragedy carved out of the illusion that we are separate from one another and all of life. All the efforts to keep this illusion alive are feeding the destruction of our earth as we refuse to recognize we all share the same backyard. I expect our greatest losses are yet to come if we don’t change course, and recognize that we are all inextricably interconnected with one another and all life. I pray humanity will rise up and overcome the fear, greed, and the abuses of power that feed “the Dream” for the sake of generations of beings to come. What are we called to do to turn this lose-lose scenario into a win-win?