Does Extinction Rebellion have a race problem?

XR’s lack of diversity is not unique to the wider environmental movement – a “white middle-class ghetto”, in the words of one NGO chief, with research in 2017 finding the “environment profession” – including workers at green NGOs – was the second least diverse of all sectors in the UK, after farming. So when a small group of activists got together in a Stroud living room last year to found a radical environmental movement, it was no surprise that they were white, or that they have gone on to create a movement in their own image (…) Yet people of colour in Britain remain less environmentally conscious than their white counterparts. Research last year by the NUS showed that students who identified as other than white were less likely to engage with environmental issues, and less likely to have changed their behaviour – such as using reusable cups – out of environmental concerns. It is a tendency that Benjamin Zephaniah, the radical poet, musician and activist, has encountered through his work in universities. “Most of the black students and the Asian students are saying my priority is just to stay safe and get on, and get this grade, and kind of better my family, and move on”, he told the Guardian. “It frustrates me because I want to tell them that it’s all connected. What good is your grade if you’ve got no planet?” Zephaniah does not lay blame at the feet of climate activists for failing to reach out. “OK, it’s a lot of mainly young white people getting together and they’re protesting in a way that’s culturally relevant to them”, he said. “You can’t blame them for that. If they started growing dreadlocks and saying, ‘Yeah people, come join us’ you would claim cultural appropriation. They are doing it how it’s culturally relevant to them, that’s why I’m saying we should take our steel bands down, we should take our sound systems down.” Zephaniah points out that change is not going to come without people of colour joining the demonstrations. “What would Malcolm X think of this? We’re sitting around, waiting for white people to invite us in the struggle.”

Damien Gayle in Does Extinction Rebellion have a race problem? (Guardian)