“Under the suggestion and guidance of the BIPOC members” of the group, a New Zealand youth environmental protest group inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg disbanded, accusing itself of racism.
School Strike 4 Climate’s Auckland chapter wrote on June 12:
School Strike 4 Climate Auckland is disbanding as an organisation. This is under the suggestion and guidance of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) members of our group, as well as individual BIPOC activists and organisations. We are not holding any more climate strikes in the Auckland region. … BIPOC communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, so the fight for climate justice should be led by their voices and needs, not Pākehā ones.
“Pākehā” means white New Zealanders.
The group continued that there was an “urgent need to decolonise the organization”:
We are disbanding because, since 2019, SS4C AKL (as well as the wider national group, though we can’t speak on their behalf) has been a racist, white-dominated space. SS4C AKL has avoided, ignored, and tokenised BIPOC voices and demands, especially those of Pasifika and Māori individuals in the climate activism space. As well as this, the responsibility and urgent need to decolonise the organisation has been put off for far too long. SS4C also delayed paying financial reparations for the work BIPOC groups/individuals within and alongside the group have done for this organisation in the past.
“Pasifika” refers to people associated with the Pacific islands.
An apology followed in which the group insisted that “systemic and systematic oppression, racism, and the silencing of those who are the most affected by climate change” had been taking place for years:
We apologise for the hurt, burnout, and trauma caused to many BIPOC individuals, including current and past members, as well as BIPOC-led groups. We also apologise for the further trauma caused by our slow action to take responsibility. We recognise that this apology can never be enough to make up for our actions on top of years of systemic and systematic oppression, racism, and the silencing of those who are the most affected by climate change.
“In September 2019, the streets of Auckland, New Zealand, were a sea of protesters,” The Washington Post reported. “Across the globe, several million people were marching as part of the ‘School Strike 4 Climate’ youth movement sparked by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. But few demonstrations were more sweeping than the one in New Zealand’s largest city, where up to 80,000 marchers filled the streets.”
A spokesperson for the Indigenous youth climate advocacy group Te Ara Whatu rejoiced, saying, “I hope their decision destigmatises disbanding. I think there’s quite a few groups who could do the same.”
The Daily Wire noted in October 2019 that Thunberg was slammed by minority rights activists for being white and leading the climate change movement:
A New Zealand news outlet reports that activists who push for greater rights for indigenous peoples — some of the very same activists who are at the forefront of the global anti-climate change movement — are concerned that putting a young, white teenager at the helm of a movement that largely affects the third world sends the wrong message, especially since indigenous people have been pressing the same message for decades.
In 2019, Thunberg wrote in an op-ed that she was fighting the “colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression.” She wrote:
Schoolchildren, young people and adults all over the world will stand together, demanding that our leaders take action—not because we want them to, but because the science demands it. That action must be powerful and wide-ranging. After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.
Thunberg has stated to adult politicians, “My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong, I shouldn’t be up here, I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”
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