Western Sandpipers, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitchers / Mick Thompson / Eastside Audubon Society
Seattle Audubon is concerned by acts of censorship within online birding groups, following the Central Park attack on Christian Cooper and throughout #BlackBirdersWeek. Under the guise of “no politics” policies, administrators of some online groups suppressed and deleted posts addressing the intersections of race, racism, and birding and banned group members who raised these important issues. Following a public outcry, some groups have wisely chosen to reexamine their policies, but others have remained troublingly unmoved, specifically “Western Washington Birders” in our local area.
Silence is equivalent to complicity with these decisions. While acknowledging our own history of failure to authentically engage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), we must still speak out against racism where we find it and back up our condemnation with action.
Seattle Audubon will no longer promote its events, classes, field trips, or other activities on channels that do not allow the free and respectful discussion of these topics or engage in any other discriminatory moderation of content. We ask that all our members and volunteers follow suit and not share Seattle Audubon content on these platforms.
We do not take issue with policies meant to keep groups free of partisan bickering. Bullying or harassment should similarly never be tolerated. However, to use such policies to exclude discussions of racism—something which should be universally condemned—only upholds white supremacy. Offering users a haven or escape from the often-harsh realities of everyday life might appear harmless on the surface, but escapism is a privilege not equally afforded to everyone. Prioritizing the emotional comfort of online community members, over the physical safety of birders of color in outdoor spaces, is indefensible. Systemic racism thrives under the illusion of objectivity and neutrality.
This is not a blanket reprimand of the many thousands of members within these online groups, a majority of whom may be unaware of these recent actions or their implications. Our criticism is limited to the administrators of these groups, who alone hold the power to choose a different path. We welcome conversations with any group administrator in need of support transitioning to a more inclusive framework.
Seattle Audubon encourages its members to instead engage with groups that promote conversations covering the full breadth of the birding experience and celebrating a diversity of perspectives. These groups currently include, but are not limited to, “West Coast Birders” and “Washington Birding.” Seattle Audubon’s own Facebook page also actively shares information related to these topics, as we continue to learn from and amplify the messages of BIPOC birders, scientists, and activists.
Claire Catania, Executive Director
David Garcia, Equity & Justice Committee, Chair
Jennifer McKeirnan, Board President
Seattle Audubon advocates and organizes for cities where people and birds thrive. To learn more, visit http://www.seattleaudubon.org or follow @SeattleAudubon on Twitter.
Seattle Audubon Society
8050 35th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98115