Climate colonialism, trans rights, and supporting activists - Sunday Suggestions & Connections

by Abaki Beck 

Ah, April. For some, it brings heat and humidity, while others are still tightly bundled up. April showers bring May flowers, and what do Mayflowers bring? Violence against indigenous people.

Last month, indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres of Honduras was murdered. Caceres most recently was working to halt the construction of  a hydroelectric dam that people in the Rio Blanco community fear would cause irreparable damage and alter their way of life.  She also led a campaign against the construction of a dam that would have cut the Lenca people off from food, water, and medicine. Caceres won a Goldman Environmental Prize for this activism. However, her work also drew violence and intimidation - as challenging capitalist power structures often does. In fact, the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights called on the government of Honduras to offer her protection. 

Some have blamed her death on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inaction to support the reinstatement of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya after a 2009 military coup. Since his ousting, the military began to actively target LGBT people, indigenous people, campesinos (poor farmers), and other marginalized groups. Hundreds of activists have been killed in Honduras since the 2009 coup. In fact, in an interview two years ago, Caceres herself blamed Clinton for “meddling” in Honduran politics and essentially supporting the coup that caused so much destruction.

Though images of environmental activism in the United States tends to be whitewashed, struggles for access to food and water, protecting religious sites, and maintaining traditional lifestyles or homelands more deeply impact indigenous people than perhaps any other group. Like Caceres recognized, Western/neocolonial politics so often cause destruction in communities that they will not see the impact of - whether in communities of color in the United States or across the world.

Here are the readings about ways that colonialism and Western politics endanger indigenous communities and the environment ways in very real ways:

Back in the United States, politicians are obsessed with where you pee. For years, politicians, particularly Republicans, have pushed to ban transgender people from using the restroom aligned with their gender identity. Much of the rhetoric has been focused on the idea that transgender women would endanger cis-gender women and girls. However, since the 1990s, several states, including Iowa, Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada, have had anti-discrimination laws pertaining to public bathrooms, and none of them have had police reports of assaults or violence by transgender people. However, a 2013 study found that about 70% of trans people have been denied entrance to a bathroom, often facing physical violence or intimidation.

Equal access to public restrooms is important. But other huge issues continue to face the trans community beyond where they pee. Homelessness, incarceration, murder, sexual violence and exploitation, and intersecting issues of transmisogyny and racism, all profoundly impact trans communities.

Here are some important trans activists of color to pay attention to and learn from, as well as tips on being an ally.

Both of these stories highlight that though activism is necessary to continually fight for our rights, it can also be dangerous. As social agitators, we must remember to take care of ourselves and our communities. And to continue to challenge those who harm us on their actions - be they Southern Republican politicians or Democratic Secretaries of State.

Before we depart, here is a bit more suggested reading that you may have missed this week:  


Have a happy, empowering Sunday! Thank you for reading.

Abaki Beck