KNC Statement on Racism
This statement was written in response to national events that occurred in the summer of 2020.
The Kalamazoo Nature Center joins our community and nation in expressing its steadfast resolve in righting the wrongs that were laid bare by the racist killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks. Their loss is the latest chapter in a painful history that stretches across 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, redlining, racial profiling, police brutality, and more. It is perpetuated with racist provocations such as the recent one against Christian Cooper, a Black man whose only “crime” was to go bird watching in New York’s Central Park.
First, we believe it’s crucial to acknowledge our own indifference. When it comes to being, or even working to become an equitable institution, KNC has largely failed. Compared to many of our peers in this community, we are behind in this work. KNC has been a white-dominated space since its founding and we recognize that it remains an overwhelmingly white organization in terms of its leadership, staff and membership.
By now, you may have read dozens of statements such as this one. Many have voiced their solidarity in the fight against individual and institutional racism. It is good and necessary that they publicly do so. Similarly, this pivotal moment has led KNC to consider how it can best support this essential movement for societal change.
Since its inception, KNC has been a force for conservation, education and stewardship. Nationwide, we are known as a leader and innovator. But as a model for our sector, we also have a great responsibility to lead in the area of racial equity. At times, we know that our lack of humility, ignorance of internal racist systems, and failure to change have created an environment where Black people may have been made to feel unwelcome. For this we are profoundly sorry. We own any past mistakes, and more importantly, will actively work to identify and eliminate racism from our organization.
Yet apologies and platitudes are deeply insufficient. Instead, we now commit ourselves to systemic changes that will make KNC a safe place for Black people. To that end, we will work to dismantle every part of KNC that makes whiteness the assumed norm or dominant culture; we commit ourselves to a journey of anti-racism that will result in making KNC a place for all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). With that in mind, we will undertake these actions:
1. We commit to long term, in-depth Equity and Inclusion training and will institutionalize this training for current and future staff: We are pursuing funding for this work and expect to begin training in the months ahead.
2. We will add, review and rewrite policies, procedures, programs, and narratives to change internal systemic issues that support racism in our institution.
3. We will establish and maintain Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership on our board of directors, executive team and staff. Where this does not currently exist, we will establish pathways for communication and BIPOC-led decision making and advising concerning our mission to connect people and nature.
Some may say that anti-racist work strays from our mission, but we strongly believe otherwise. KNC exists to connect people with nature and to inspire them to care for our environment. We know that everyone can benefit from the life-giving force of nature in their lives; it is our human birthright. We also know that everyone -- especially children whose physical and mental well- being suffers from the toxic effects of racism -- need the wonder and healing that only nature can provide. Knowing that, why wait any longer to pursue the changes we describe here? The time for incrementalism and half-measures is past. We cannot offer our best to some unless we can equitably offer our best to all.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.