The essay anthology aims to provide higher education sustainability professionals an ongoing platform to share insights and expertise on integrating racial equity and social justice into sustainability work. Several DEI committee members have crafted inaugural essays to provide additional support for those wishing to model these practices.
In making these essays and resources available, we hope to inspire higher education sustainability practitioners to:
- Gain a deeper understanding of how social justice relates to sustainability;
- Provide culturally appropriate and inclusive messaging to your students, staff and faculty;
- Collaborate and learn from other equity-focused staff and offices at your institution;
- Develop cultural competency and attract diverse talent; and
- Take an intentional and place-based approach to building inclusive programming and supporting anti-racist, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
History of the Project
This essay anthology has been several years in the making. All circumstances to the contrary, no single incident triggered its conception, although many factors have increased the sense of urgency around this project. AASHE has a long history of providing speakers around racial and environmental justice at the annual conference including Dr. Julian Ageyman (2010), Majora Carter (2011), Shalini Gupta (2015), Dr. Marcia Chatelain (2016), and Dr. Heather Hackman (2017).
In 2016, AASHE’s Advisory Council created the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Committee that advises on strategies, policies and practices that advance DEI in higher education and AASHE programming. One of the committee’s earliest projects involved research around diversity, equity, and inclusion statements and resulted in the release of AASHE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement in 2018. In 2020, AASHE responded to the Black Lives Matter protests with “Standing in Solidarity,” and by creating space on the website for Racial Equity and Social Justice Resources. In addition, in August of 2020, AASHE hosted a discussion series on Racial Equity, Social Justice & Sustainability. The AASHE DEI committee and AASHE staff compiled resources for sustainability staff working to support racial equity and build linkages between their efforts and those of diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility, and multicultural center staff at their institutions and in their communities. These resources are now part of the AASHE’s community resource: Racial Equity and Social Justice.
Several DEI committee members have crafted inaugural essays to provide additional support for those wishing to model these practices. These essays include:
- Equity is Great, but What does that have to do with Sustainability;
- Collaboration Strategies for Sustainability Officers;
- Building Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your Program; and
- Attracting and Developing Diverse and/or Socially Minded Sustainability Officers.
Our inaugural essays are inspired by pieces on white allyship and ask us to reflect, learn, and grow. We offer perspectives on why equity is relevant to our specific jobs, discuss how to support existing DEI efforts on our campuses, make a start on setting a culture and tone in the sustainability office that supports DEI, find ways to attract and develop diverse talent, and offer some information on learning about the histories of the environmental and social justice movements in the United States.
The essay anthology assumes you already have some familiarity with structural racism, white supremacy, white fragility, and other foundational knowledge. There is always room to grow and there are many dedicated and experienced organizations that have expertise in anti-racist practices as well as the history of racism and anti-racism in the United States. We defer to the expertise mentioned in the community resource: Racial Equity and Social Justice, rather than reinvent what has already been done so well.
We would like to acknowledge the many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color as well as the civil rights and social justice organizations that are working to make our society socially just, racially equitable, and sustainable every day. Their work has inspired us to create this anthology. Many inspirational works can be found in the accompanying community resource on Racial Equity & Social Justice. We also wish to acknowledge current and past members of AASHE’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee for their contributions to this project.