Is XR America Going To ‘Make XR Great Again,’ Or Is It An XR EXIT?

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Before that hot, muggy, South Louisiana summer of 2016, I had considered myself more of a witness to the climate movement than affected community. I mean sure, Louisiana loses a football field of land every 45 minutes due to disappearing wetlands and rising seas. I doubt most people can wrap their heads around that, I know I couldn’t – not really. Not until, as my daughter says, we were ‘ankle deep’ in it. That flood, and the one the next year, solidified my intent to keep climate justice at the forefront of my work.

That’s why, when I was invited to join and organize with the Extinction Rebellion US (XR US) national team, it was the Fourth Demand which compelled me to agree. It states, We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.

Unfortunately, now it is my heart-deep belief in the Fourth Demand which is pulling me away from the XR US table. That is to say, this is my resignation letter – written both to those involved in XR and to you, the reader.

I don’t have to go farther than my still floorless house to see climate change. There is no dark monster hiding under this bed. I have seen it rise up and take from me and others, time and again now. The climate crisis is in full swing, and marginalized communities are bearing the brunt of the lick. We all know this.

Why then is the “relaunch” of the oddly covert XR America completely erasing Black and Brown people?

Comparatively, the Fourth Demand for the relaunch now reads: “Government to work for global net zero and planetary repair by 2030 on the basis of equity and mutual survival interest for all communities, countries and generations.”

I mean, it’s not like it is a big surprise that XR America so white. Others have written about its UK cousin here  and here. Although the truly scary-path op-ed noting the dangers of white supremacy and the environmental movement can be found here.

The thing is that our actual national climate movement, both before but especially after Standing Rock, knows that Indigenous knowledge and sovereignty must be at the forefront of any fight on Turtle Island.

This is not the UK. These are stolen, colonized lands and what works as a strategy across the pond, may not work as well here. Refusing to listen to decades of knowledge, in exchange for the ears of a handful of new-on-the-scene activists and a couple of patriarchal white male boomers, does not change this.

Take for instance the XR Red Brigade and the harm it is causing to my indigenous sisters who are fighting so hard for the red dress campaign representation concerning the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s (MMIW) movement. That is movement that does not exist in Europe, but here we know better – or should.

Yet, XR America seemingly wishes to blindly follow these Old World strategies, holding space for future further harms to our movement.

The relaunch, which was scheduled some time in the next week, had been set to coincide with a visit from one XR UK’s founders, Roger Hallam. Hallam was unable to make the trip due to a visa denial, but yes, this is the same Roger Hallam who readily made remarks downplaying the Holocaust while speaking in Germany…

The same Roger Hallam who says going to jail is a great place to do yoga, and supports painting your hand and being caught “red handed” by reporting to the local police department. (This white boy is trying to get us killed.)…

The same Roger Hallam who has made disparaging remarks regarding the fourth demand, and claims that due to the urgency of climate change we do not have time to worry about social justice.

To be honest, I want to fight for our Grandmother Earth every day, it is what I do. I certainly understand the seriousness of the situation – the science is clear, but at the same time I am taking action against these harmful industries I am also wielding off the Klu Klux Klan. That is my reality.

Perhaps, that’s the difference, I don’t want to fight climate change because of worry about some dystopic future, my battle is right now and I have little left to lose. Sadly, as an afro-indigenous woman, I feel excluded from Roger Hallam’s XR America.

Further, it begs the question if Roger Hallam or XR America are even capable of visualizing a Native and Black led movement to save our planet? Or do they wrongly and simply assume that by centering justice they will lose certain right-leaning white people?

Roger Hallam’s potential visit here and his support of XR America is an attempted European colonization of our diverse, beautiful, growing movement. We cannot let ourselves be dragged backwards, we’ve faced enough of that under this Administration, and we must protect those most vulnerable to climate catastrophe.

The real question is what can be gained? Who, and how many, does that strategy leave behind? How long will XR America really last without us?

XR America says it wants to include everyone, but by excluding Black and Brown populations, and completely erasing the now decades old climate justice movement, it is aligned to do just the opposite. And like so many “movements” before it, it will most likely wither and die.

Now you might think that this is a call out, or you might think of this as a call in. I don’t know, but I do know that I am asking you to lean in.

I still believe in XR as a vehicle for change, and with the struggles ahead the climate justice movement will need people. There are, after all, over 100 chapters in the United States alone. I have met some great people in these local chapters, and a good many are ready to throw down.

Folks from local chapters across the US who are in alignment with the original fourth demand are also becoming a part of XR Justice, a new global working group within XRUS devoted to centering justice and the original Fourth Demand.

That is where you will find me.