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White patriarchy won’t solve the climate crisis: antiracist, feminist leadership is what we need right now

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Independent Media Institute, February 2021

The following excerpt is from Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy, by Jennie C. Stephens. Copyright © 2021 by Jennie C. Stephens. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, D.C. It has been adapted for the web.

A new kind of leadership is emerging to confront the climate crisis in an inclusive way. We know that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, we know that we need to transition to a renewable-based future, and we know that we need to invest in our communities to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerabilities in the face of growing climate instability. But we are paralyzed by inadequate leadership in the United States. White, patriarchal leadership has been focusing too much on technocratic investments based on narrowly defined results and quantitative outputs. The prevalence of this rigid leadership style, based on assumptions of domination and competition, has been exacerbating the climate crisis, reinforcing racial and gender disparities, and excluding diverse voices and perspectives. But as the Squad grows, a new kind of leadership is emerging and widening the circle of power and opportunity. New coalitions of leaders are calling for public investment in collective, collaborative action that harnesses human potential, nurtures people, and builds strong communities.

Antiracist feminist leadership is essential to effectively address the cli-mate crisis and to accelerate a just transition to a renewable based society. So what do I mean when I refer to antiracist and feminist leadership?

To understand the term antiracist, I refer to Ibram X. Kendi’s powerful 2019 book, “How to Be an Antiracist.” In this book, Kendi explains that anyone who declares that they are not racist is signifying neutrality, but, he points out, in the struggle with racism, there is no neutrality. Kendi explains that the opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist,” but is “antiracist”—whenever we ignore issues of race we are inadvertently perpetuating racism. Given the deep legacy of racial injustice embedded in our culture, our institutions, our communities, our economy, and our policies, those who do not actively resist racism are in fact supporting it. Antiracist leadership requires continual recognition and active resistance to racism in all its many forms and structures.

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