Dear Ende Gelände activists,
shortly before the action, would like to share some notes from the anti-racism working group of Berlin’s local Ende Gelände group.
This year, we’ve had quite a few debates about (anti-)racism in the climate justice movement and voices of BIPoC (1) – that had previously not been heard much at Ende Gelände – have become louder. Since BIPoC (in the Global South) are right now and will be more strongly affected by the climate crisis than (white (2)) people in the Global North it is even more important to talk about anti-racism practices. Now we will do another action in the Lausitz, which does not only mean „stop coal – now“ but also „let’s show our solidarity in practice“.
The following section targets mainly white (2) people (for BIPoC, there is another section below):
Do you think that the goal of climate justice already shows solidarity in itself? We think: power relations and injustice also have direct effects on our actions. People have more or less privileges in society. In recent years, gender inequality has been the main issue addressed at Ende Gelände. We think it is time to talk more about racism, because it exists in all areas of our society, including in radical left structures (e.g. at Ende Gelände). Most Ende Gelände activists have white privileges. This does include not being aware of these privileges and having them pointed out by others. In addition, white people can choose whether they want to concern themselves with their privileges or not. This also encompasses (unconsciously) deducing from oneself to others, i.e. neglecting that not all people have this white privilege. In actions, this becomes visible, e.g. when white people do not recognize racist situations or do not realize that BIPoCs are in greater danger of becoming victims of violence and repression.
Below we have written a few hints for you (not complete), so that everyone can feel more comfortable in the action and in our climate movement:
Part of BIPoC’s criticism of Ende Gelände is that many people do not reflect their white privileges. So, start learning more about (anti)racism and your whiteness. Because critical whiteness is also a part of anti-racist practice. There are books and podcasts (see links below) and workshops. Also question who you mean when you talk about „we/us“.
2) Cultural appropriation
One topic you will come across is cultural appropriation. It appears constantly in left contexts, also and especially in the climate movement. It is often linked to ideas of „naturalness“ and is interwoven with colonialism. An example of this is that many BIPoC cannot feel comfortable in a plenum or an action in which white people are wearing locks (locks, because dreads is a negative term). Often, these people are not aware that locks are a symbol of Black resistance and that it offends many Black people when white people adopt this symbol. Or white people are aware of this, but ignore it. While Blacks wearing locks are confronted with racism, white people retain their privileges even with matted hair. Cultural appropriation is a complex field and closely linked to colonial violence, capitalism and privileges. Therefore, it is not limited to wearing locks. We want you to deal with cultural appropriation and its critique in order not to reproduce colonial structures of violence. Below you’ll find text recommendations to keep you engaged with the topic.
3) Repression & Racist Police Violence
BIPoC are much more likely to be affected by repression and racist police violence. At Ende Gelände actions, many white people feel protected from repression by the crowd. Racist attributions make the risk for BIPoC greater to stand out in a crowd and end up in the focus of the police. Together we have to find ways to make BIPoC feel more protected in a crowd. The first step as a white person can be to become aware of having white privileges in a crowd. This is not self-evident.
Those who are involved with activism know that there is a lot of repression. Those who can enjoy privileges, such as scholarships, well-off parents and/or a well-paid job, can also be sure that the costs of repression will not be such a problem. Such privileges are often related to white privileges, and not everyone has them. There are groups that support people in solidarity with their repressive costs. In order that not only privileged people can „afford“ activism, we must all strengthen these structures together. Even though we all have to fear repression as activists, it is important to keep in mind that people are affected by it in different degrees. Here, too, social power relations and injustices are reproduced.
The danger of being attacked by Nazis is much higher in the Lausitz than in the Rhineland and has already led to several discussions in advance of the action. At the action in 2016, Nazi attacks already took place. Since Ende Gelände has now decided not to set up a camp in the Lausitz, the danger is less, but nevertheless attacks can happen at train stations, vigils or „on the way“. BIPoC activists are much more at risk being attacked from Nazis than white leftists. Everyone should have this on their radar and consider strategies how we can behave in such situations.
If you should see or notice that a BIPoC is affected by racist (police) violence, do not remain inactive. It is important, if possible, to always ask the affected person first how he or she is doing and what he or she needs. Because there is not one solution. Possibilities include staying nearby, observing the situation, interfering, attracting attention to it, calling the EA (Investigation Committee), or getting support – but: all actions can have different effects on the affected person and may even make the situation worse. That’s why you should talk about such situations beforehand. 🙂
If you witness a verbal racist situation, such as a racist comment, it should concern you as well. White people can learn to recognize racism and have the responsibility to name and criticize it. This is not about patronizing BIPoC (or those affected) or about BIPoC not being able to defend themselves without your help. People can and want to defend themselves. As a white person you can show solidarity, support them and perhaps strengthen their back. There is no one way to do this either. It depends on the situation and the person affected, but also on you. But you can only develop strategies if you start with it and try it out.
6) Preparation in affinity groups
Talk in your affinity groups about your fears and the risks about the action beforehand: not only fears and risks in general, but also those related to racism. It is not solely the responsibility of the people who have less privilege to address this, but your shared responsibility. Privileges are not always visible – so, talk about them 🙂
The following section is especially for BIPoC:
There are people who take care of awareness and security during and after the action. The desire and attempt to build up an awareness structure has already come up during the last action: what was wished for was a visible and recognizable team of people who declare themselves as contact persons for people who experience discrimination during the action – which above all affects marginalized groups. Now there is such a team. Unfortunately, however, our honest assessment is that these structures do not have sufficient capacities to provide a comprehensive contact point for people who have experienced racist attacks or are affected by them. We also believe that it is a hard task that takes a lot of time and capacity to build a comprehensive and effective structure. That is why we see it as a good first step for the movement, which we should continue to pursue to support each other in the process of self-empowerment and resistance.
(If anyone feels that their* work is not seen, we are sorry. Then please understand it as an invitation to communicate more about your structures).
We also know that there are already many people who deal with the topics that we describe in the mail and are looking for resistant strategies as well as building them up: such as empowerment. We know that such a form of work, and especially the one carried by BIPoCs, is often invisible and is made invisible. That is why there is the lack of knowledge about it in the climate movement. Our concern is to make exactly this work (more) visible in order to put solidarity into practice and to give all allies and affected people the opportunity to network with each other – at least this is our wish. We think that this can be a prerequisite for BIPoC and marginalized groups to participate in an action.
If you take part in the action and experience racist attacks, we can recommend these contact points:
As a working group, we will document racist incidents, we hear about. If you experience incidents with the police, Nazis or other activists, you can send us your report to our e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Of course, we will not publish anything without your permission.
Since there is no real camp, there will be no BIPoC Safer Space. Because everything is decentralized, there is also no phone number that can be called if BIPoC want to be picked up somewhere. But you can always call the Investigation Committee (EA) if you are standing alone somewhere in Lusatia at the train station and feel insecure. Then they try to organize people who can pick you up.
BIPoC stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The term, which originates from the US-American civil rights movement, is a self-description and does not describe the biological characteristics of humans, but a social construction that assigns people a certain social position. What BIPoC have in common are shared experiences of racism, exclusion from the white-dominated majority society, and collective attributions of „otherness. The concept sees itself as emancipatory and in solidarity. It positions itself against attempts at division through racism and culturalization as well as against discriminatory designations by white majority societies.
White, in contrast to terms like Black and People of Color, is not a political, empowering self-description, but describes a dominant position that is usually not named. The name serves to make white privileges visible, because they are usually invisible to white people. Racism also structurally assigns white people a certain social position. This position is associated with privileges, dominance and a standard for judging non-whites, without itself being marked white. To make clear that whiteness is not an empowering self-designation, we write it in white small and italic letters, in contrast to the empowering self-designation Black, which we write in capital letters and non-italic.