This month's readings were by or involved women of color.
Our discussion was shaped by the fact that all the
participants at this session were white women, both working
and middle class. Although we missed direct input from women
of color, we were all clear that it is not up to people of
color to educate us. Their absence, however, gave us the
space to talk freely and honestly. Being racially homogenous,
we invariably referred to people of color as
While grammatically permissible, this word
sparked heated indignation over its innuendo of
"Other," an "us versus them" connotation.
One women suggested we make a conscious effort to say
"people of color" instead of "they."
Despite our intentions, it proved nearly impossible to carry
on a conversation without using the pronoun "they."
Frustrated by our sincere attempts to overcome dualistic
speech, this example aptly illustrated how patriarchal
language can generate divisiveness.
Cynthia Hamilton's article related the successful struggle
of working class African American women in South Central Los
Angeles to stop the city from locating an incinerator in
their community. One woman wondered why there appear to be so
few other examples of people of color fighting environmental
racism. The implied assumptionthat people of color have
a low level of ecological consciousnesswas vigorously
The following points were deliberated at length:
1) as a whole, white people certainly aren't any more or any
less enlightened on eco-issues than other racial groups; 2)
because of racism, people of color are economically held
hostage more often by "primary emergencies;" 3) the
mainstream environmental movement is defined and controlled
by a white, economically-advantaged agenda; 4) health issues are
environmental issues, and as such, communities of color are
unquestionably active; and 5) infrequent contact with
communities of color keep many white people unaware of local
grassroots ecological struggles.
The discussion became more personal as women soul
searched: Why does ecofeminism seem so white? Does
ecofeminism even speak to women of color? Is it problematic
that EVE is mostly white? Women unanimously wanted more women
of color participation and suggested additional methods of
outreach. We felt that for where we are now, though, our
existence is not necessarily contingent upon the presence or
absence of women of color.
Several women voiced that our past
discussions and EVEnts indicated an ongoing concern for
racism. Conscious to avoid any self-righteous back patting,
we agreed that it is incumbent upon us to consistently engage
ourselves with issues of race. One woman read out loud an
edifying list of 26 common occurrences detailing how white
people take even the most mundane privileges for granted
(ex., asking to speak to the "person in charge" and
being pretty sure that she or he will be someone of our own
Women were also concerned about the tendency of white
people to appropriate the heritage of other cultures
(although this is not necessarily a white phenomena).
Ecofeminism encourages all people to rediscover their own
In our readings, Marie Wilson advised
"non-Indian people...to go back in your own history, as
many Gitksan have had to do." It may be that only when
white people reclaim our own prepatriarchal history can
genuine sharing with and true respect for non-dominant
cultures become fully possible.
Back to Essay Topics