On white supremacy and fossil fuels: Injustice Boycott

Timo Rissanen makes a case for participating in the Injustice Boycott and following what happens with the Dakota Access Pipeline. He is worried about justice and the continuation of human life.

Timo Rissanen makes a case for participating in the Injustice Boycott and following what happens with the Dakota Access Pipeline. He is worried about justice and the continuation of human life.

Water is Life

Timo Rissanen

Injustice Boycott

December 5th, 2016 saw the launch of Injustice Boycott in the United States. Injustice Boycott is a response to the ongoing police violence targeted at people of colour, and the nation’s inability to confront and deal with this deadly issue. Shaun King, activist and senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, is the force behind the campaign.

Injustice Boycott is a response to the ongoing police violence targeted at people of colour


King writes: “On this December 5th, the anniversary of when Dr. King and others began the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, we are launching our own Montgomery Bus Boycott to show every city, state, institution and corporation in this country that meaningful, reasonable, achievable reforms on police brutality and injustice are not our long-term dreams. They are our immediate emergency priority.” The first phase of the campaign, as announced by Shaun King, targets New York City, San Francisco and Standing Rock. The campaign is granting the three cities 43 days, until January 16th, 2017, to meet the “humane demands” of various activists; the cities apparently know who these activists are and what the demands are. To my best knowledge the demands have not been made public. If the demands are not met, the boycott starting January 17th will comprise:

1. A full tourism boycott of those cities

2. A comprehensive divestment plan, in which people are encouraged to pull their money out of banks, financial institutions, and investment plans that have been determined to support injustice or have remained silent on issues of injustice

3. An announcement of a targeted national boycott of businesses in the three cities that have directly supported injustice or remained silent on the issues

4. Creatively disrupt through protest designed to inconvenience and shut down business and government

 

As King notes, while New York City and San Francisco have reputations as progressive, liberal cities, that reputation did not protect Alex Nieto, Jessica Williams, Mario Woods, Eric Garner, Deborah Danner or Kalief Browder, all killed by police in the two cities. The list is longer.

Having lived in the US  for seven years now, I have attempted to educate myself on the conditions of the context I have chosen to place myself in. That education will never end, for the simple reason that as a white man I cannot ever know what it is like to be a person of colour in this country, or what it is like to be an indigenous person in this country. I will, however, continue to read and continue to listen, to expand my understanding, to effectively redirect my actions to dismantle the structures that keep injustice in place and alive. To live in the US is to live among survivors of genocide and among survivors of slavery. Millions did not survive. Millions live with generations of trauma in their family histories and in their DNA. This is not a historical trauma left in the past: millions live it daily in the present. To live as a white man in the US is to acknowledge myself as the settler, as the coloniser, as the oppressor. To live as a white man in the US is to confront head on my white resistance to being educated and to share my privilege, my white insistence on being right and my white fragility in the face of 500 years of injustice and murder.

The Dakota Access Pipeline

The US presidential election was a violent wake-up call that has forced me to take notice of the bubble I live in: what seemed unthinkable in my world happened. Acknowledging my bubble, I don’t know how much attention the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a pipeline project by Energy Transfer Partners, has received outside of the US or outside my Facebook feed. To sum: this under-construction pipeline was diverted from its original route north of Bismarck, North Dakota, due to concerns for the drinking water of the mostly white residents of Bismarck. The revised plan had the pipeline running further south, just upriver of the Standing Rock reservation. Until December 4, 2016, the pipeline was proposed to run under the Missouri River. If it were to rupture – and that concern was behind the initial rerouting of the pipe – the Standing Rock Sioux would lose their access to clean, safe drinking water. This is what government-sanctioned colonisation was looking like in 2016. This is what government-sanctioned environmental racism was looking like in 2016. Examples of environmental racism in the US abound. The water crisis of Flint, Michigan, has exposed some of the most vulnerable children to lead in their drinking water; the impacts will be known in decades to come. Residents of Navajo Nation have suffered the impacts of past uranium mining for decades.

Since April, an ever-increasing number of water protectors have gathered in Standing Rock in peaceful resistance in three camps. I assert that the water protectors of Standing Rock are protecting water, and life, for all of us. In light of the accelerating impacts of climate change, there is no future for fossil fuel infrastructure like the DAPL. The Standing Rock Sioux know this. Their stand for water and for life is a stand for all of us and a stand for generations yet to come. On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve permits for the pipeline to be built under the river, and an alternate route would be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement. Organizing works; we must move forward vigilantly.

In light of the accelerating impacts of climate change, there is no future for fossil fuel infrastructure like the DAPL. The Standing Rock Sioux know this. Their stand for water and for life is a stand for all of us and a stand for generations yet to come.

What does the DAPL have to do with the Injustice Boycott? For one, there is a connection between the ongoing police violence directed at people of colour and black men in particular in the US, and the brutal treatment of water protectors in Standing Rock by militarized police during the autumn of 2016. Police action at various times included tear gas, water cannons and attack dogs. Yes, the unleashing of dogs on unarmed water protectors in the United States has taken place in 2016. The police shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Walter Scott and too many more names of black men lost, and the excessive police force directed at the water protectors at Standing Rock are manifestations of white supremacy asserted.

The police shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Walter Scott and too many more names of black men lost, and the excessive police force directed at the water protectors at Standing Rock are manifestations of white supremacy asserted.

They are manifestations of an intention to keep centuries-old power structures in place for the benefit of a few at the expense of many.

My Action Plan

The exact action plans for the Injustice Boycott will not be published until January 17, pending action or inaction by the targeted organizations. So, while writing I took it upon myself to make my own plans. I am creature of habit: I am reluctant to change banks, but my bank, Bank of America, is invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline and in fossil fuels in general. For this reason I am researching banks and credit unions that are divested from fossil fuels altogether. My deadline to have my money out of Bank of America is January 31st. And not only Bank of America: I have set myself a December 31st deadline to research how my retirement fund with TIAA-CREF is invested. If my retirement is in fossil fuels, I will investigate and implement strategies to divest to ensure that my retirement isn’t eating away our shared future – the irony would be almost funny. I share this – both the institutions and the concrete dates – because writing about this is simply not enough. Signing petitions (I have signed several dozen in the past month) is not enough. Attending demonstrations – I demonstrated for Standing Rock in New York – is not enough. We need to commit to actions, and we need to divest our money from institutions of injustice. Bank of America is financially tied to the Dakota Access Pipeline and as such is an institution of injustice until it declares otherwise.

The science is clear: our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren, cannot afford our fossil fuel consumption. Residents of Standing Rock, Miami or Kiribati might say, they cannot afford our fossil fuel consumption today.

The science is clear: our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren, cannot afford our fossil fuel consumption. Residents of Standing Rock, Miami or Kiribati might say, they cannot afford our fossil fuel consumption today. We must aggressively move toward renewable energy, and we must engage in aggressive large-scale reforestation. Each of us – I am speaking to privileged Western readers – must aggressively curb our consumption of goods and of energy. We must aggressively curb our consumption of meat and dairy, and move towards primarily plant-based diets. I expect many readers are like me, privileged and relatively comfortable. It will be some time before we experience the most dire impacts of climate change, whether it be food shortage, water shortage, rising sea levels, and so forth. Yet, the time to act is now: for each of us of privilege, there are many disadvantaged. Our fossil fuel consumption has a global impact, for now on the least privileged but coming all of our way slowly and relentlessly. My commitment is that if I live another 40 years, I can look young people in the eye then and say without hesitation that we fought like hell. So, over coming weeks and months, whether you live in the United States or not, I ask that you pay attention to the Injustice Boycott, and act. I ask that you pay attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline; we must replicate its success with many more projects to come. As citizens of the world, I ask that you pay sustained attention to the incoming US administration, largely won on a campaign of fear and hate. I ask that you resist that administration’s fear and hate. I ask that you resist your own fear and hate, and I commit to doing the same.

Further Reading

To begin to understand racism and white supremacy in the US, I recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations, and his book ‘Between the World and Me’. I recommend watching Roland Martin interview white supremacist Richard Spencer. To begin to understand the history of systemic genocide of Native Americans by the US Government, I recommend Dee Brown’s book ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’. I recommend reading this excellent resource that distinguishes being an actor, an ally and an accomplice.

Resources on Standing Rock

Resource Packet: If you go to Standing Rock, be prepared to donate your time, money and labour (Since December 4th, there has been a request for non-Sioux to leave Standing Rock)

The Standing Rock Syllabus developed by NYC Stands with Standing Rock

Organize / join the movement in your city

Decolonize your research and writing / engage and cite indigenous scholarship: Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock

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