Statement from the Society for Conservation Biology North America condemning anti-Black racism and police violence

Dear SCB North America Members,

We acknowledge and share in the immense sorrow and anger many feel in North America over the recent deaths of Black Americans and Canadians in the presence of police and armed civilians. The deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many others confronted by police officers and civilians represent deep-seated political and moral failings of our societies. We acknowledge the trauma these events cause and call on all members to support Black communities at this time. These deaths are some of the countless injustices faced by the Black communities in North America perpetuated by institutional, systemic racism.

We cannot ignore our own part in acquiescing to broad scale anti-Black racism. The historic and continuing research and practice of conservation has consistently contributed to the marginalization of Black people. To this day Black lives are not safe to enjoy birding and other outdoor pursuits (as evidenced by Christian Cooper’s recent experience of racism). Consequently, we are happy to heartily endorse the recent efforts of #BlackBirdersWeek (organized by the BlackAFInSTEM group).

We recognize that this statement could have come at previous times, and not only following this recent series of deaths. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on non-white communities (including Black communities) is another impetus to write now, as these impacts also result from systemic racism that has compromised health and labor conditions. We do not want to wait any longer to speak out in support for Black communities and commit our community to work against anti-Black racism.

To past, present, and future members of SCBNA, especially our Black colleagues and friends: we are striving to create a professional society that takes equity and inclusion to heart, and want to be accountable to those ideals. We know that providing an inviting society for Black conservationists will require more than society members who are not overtly racist; it will require the active dismantling of systems that disadvantage our Black members. To this end we will be providing updates on our efforts in the near future. We also welcome feedback to help us plan a more inclusive society (please use this form). We commit to a sustained and collective effort to correct the injustices entrenched in our field and in our own activities.

Karen V. Root, President, SCB North America

Gerald Singh, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Officer, SCB North America