We have witnessed horrific, unacceptable, unkind, unbelievable racial injustices in recent weeks and months. Tragically, some people are far more impacted than others.
In the shadow of the murder of George Floyd came the video of black birder Christian Cooper peacefully and rightfully asking a woman to leash her dog in Central Park. The outrageous and racist actions of the white woman drove home the painful reality that some bird watchers in our community aren’t afforded the same respect that many of us enjoy. This is not new to those who have been denied these rights for generations, but it is a long overdue wakeup call for the rest of us.
At a meeting of the WSO Board of Directors on May 16, prior to the events in Minneapolis and New York, we pledged to work to bring diversity to our organization. Our focus was to be on creating a community that represents our whole state, from north to south, across gender and ability, and, of course one that reflects this state’s diverse racial and cultural demographic. We feel an urgency to accomplish this in a meaningful, respectful and impactful way. We are ready to lean into the discomfort of understanding our role in how some people in our state feel disenfranchised and excluded and we pledge to work to change that. WSO must be an organization where everyone feels accepted, welcomed and valued.
This is a change that will not happen quickly and cannot be accomplished without direct input from everyone, including those who have not felt welcomed in the past. We know we don’t have all the answers, but we are listening and learning and hope that by admitting our own shortcomings, we can begin to grow and be of service to anyone with a passion for birds, a love of nature and a concern for the future. We are hopeful that through this process we will all become better birders, conservationists and human beings.