Auckland, NEW ZEALAND – Less than two years after Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg inspired protests and the creation of the “School Strike 4 Climate” movement, the Auckland chapter has shut itself down because they decided that they were racist.
School Strike 4 Climate Auckland (SS4C AKL) posted an explanation on its official Facebook page on June 12 that explained why the organization had disbanded.
In short, it decided that white people cannot lead the climate change movement because people of color are more egregiously affected by it.
The group said in the post that the suggestion to do away with the group was made “under the suggestion and guidance of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) members of our group.”
“We are not holding any more climate strikes in the Auckland region… BIPOC communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, so the fight for climate justice should be led by their voices and needs, not Pākehā ones,” the post read.
Pākehā refers to white New Zealand residents.
The group didn’t stop at calling itself racist and included the larger organization in its Facebook message.
“We are disbanding because, since 2019, SS4C AKL (as well as the wider national group, though we can’t speak on their behalf) has been a racist, white-dominated space,” the post read. “SS4C AKL has avoided, ignored, and tokenised BIPOC voices and demands, especially those of Pasifika and Māori individuals in the climate activism space. As well as this, the responsibility and urgent need to decolonise the organisation has been put off for far too long.”
“SS4C also delayed paying financial reparations for the work BIPOC groups/individuals within and alongside the group have done for this organisation in the past. This is a non-exhaustive list,” the Auckland group added.
The post apologized for the “hurt, burnout, and trauma” it had caused to people of color – including current and former members – and also apologized for “the further trauma caused by our slow action to take responsibility.”
“We recognise that this apology can never be enough to make up for our actions on top of years of systemic and systematic oppression, racism, and the silencing of those who are the most affected by climate change. This apology is just one of our steps in taking accountability for our actions,” the post read.
“Our disbandment is well overdue,” the group added.
The group painted its national organization as racist, too.
“We acknowledge that our attitude has been racist and dismissive of the voices that have rightly spoken out against us and we apologise deeply for the pain we have caused. In saying this, we also need to acknowledge that racism is a big problem within the SS4C NZ team as well, but that we have made this decision independently from them,” SS4C AKL wrote.
Then the post listed a bunch of individuals to contact at other organizations for people who wanted to help stop climate change and said white New Zealanders shouldn’t be leading the charge.
“The climate justice space must be led by BIPOC groups and others who are disproportionately affected by climate change,” the group wrote. “In Aotearoa, this especially means Māori and Pasifika groups.”
Pasifika refers to people with Pacific island heritage.
Indigenous youth climate advocacy group Te Ara Whatu, one of the groups that was on SS4C AKL’s referral list, celebrated the move, The Guardian reported.
“I hope their decision destigmatises disbanding. I think there’s quite a few groups who could do the same,” the groups spokesperson, Anevili, said.
But not everyone agreed with the group’s decision to disband, The Guardian reported.
“It is sad, disappointing, and most especially divisive,” Mary Moeono-Kolio, the Wellington coordinator of 350 Pacific, said. “The climate movement needs everyone’s involvement and commitment.”
Some of SS4C AKL’s first members agreed with that assessment.
“I’m a little concerned that this sends a message of division or that not everyone is needed,” Sophie Handford, one of the founders of SS4C New Zealand, said in an email to The Guardian.
But she also said she thought “there is a real need to cede space to Indigenous-led [policy] … and to transform the movement so that it can properly uphold the collective aspiration of climate justice.”