HomeNewsSystemic racism, George Floyd, and the work we need to do: a message from our director

Systemic racism, George Floyd, and the work we need to do: a message from our director

Dear IonE community,

Tomorrow in Minnesota, we will observe the first memorial service for George Floyd.

I am writing today, on behalf of our Institute, to stand with the people and communities who are traumatized and grieving, to share our own sadness and anger – and to convey, with humility, our commitment to listen, learn, and act.

The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers is a tragedy. It is not an anomaly. It is yet another example of the systemic racism, violence, entrenched inequity, and culture of white supremacy in our country.

These injustices are interwoven with the issues we, as an environmental organization, purport to care about and work on. They are inseparable, part of one system. As the New York Times said so clearly: Racism makes it impossible to live sustainably.

And we can do better. The pain and outrage we’ve all experienced or witnessed this past week is a stark reminder that diversity, equity, and inclusion, and actively anti-racist work, is our work, and how much more we need to do.

I want to pause here and underscore that this is our work to do.

We have been making organizational progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but not enough – and not fast enough. Over the next months, I will be calling on the entire IonE community to join me in listening and learning, to make this moment a turning point.

We will work toward becoming an explicitly anti-racist organization. And we will share our progress and plans with all of you. To those of you who have been doing this work already – raising your voices, demanding we do better, teaching us – thank you. I see you.

In the short term, we require justice for George Floyd.

In the longer term, we commit to change.




Jessica J. Hellmann
Director & Ecolab Chair for Environmental Leadership, Institute on the Environment
Russell M. & Elizabeth M. Bennett Professor, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior

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