In 2020, more people than ever before have become aware of the racial injustices that harm and kill Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. As racial injustices have become more visible to the public, throes of people–from those in private industry to public institutions–have begun the paramount task of questioning the quality and efficacy of prior organizational efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
AASHE board directors and staff recognize that for us to meaningfully advance and accomplish our mission, we must question what it is about our work and ways of work that hinder diversity. Awakening to the systemic nature and prevalence of racism led AASHE to recognize that a frame of DEI would only get us so far and that we need to evolve and deepen our thinking to a frame of racial equity and social justice.
With this approach, AASHE staff are beginning to learn and use new ways of thinking that attempt to uncover blind spots that result from systemic racism and white supremacy culture. Many in our community have invested in this work too, and have advocated for AASHE to provide more opportunities to explore and learn about the intersectionality of sustainability with racial equity and social justice. Collectively, we need to understand that being a sustainability change agent must include being a champion of racial equity and social justice.
I am honored to share the following anthology of essays from members of the AASHE Advisory Council DEI Committee. The essays provide insight and guidance as to what sustainability change agents can do to champion racial equity and social justice. The anthology begins by delving into the how and, most importantly, the why of the essay project. The second essay answers the question of how equity is connected to sustainability. The next three put concepts into practice–collaborating with campus partners around racial equity, integrating equity into sustainability programs, and attracting and building socially-minded staff.
This project will evolve as AASHE continues its journey to center racial equity and social justice. We’ll be adding more resources and stories, and uplifting the voices of Black people and People of Color. AASHE is deeply committed to serving our community–by learning and engaging everyone in the work of becoming antiracist, and ultimately advancing sustainability in higher education. This is the bold next step.
On behalf of AASHE, my gratitude goes to the contributing authors of these essays and the members of the DEI committee. Thank you for supporting the growth of our community!
Meghan Fay Zahniser