Sundaes Outside in Rainier Beach (photo by Glenn Nelson)
Compiled by the Equity & Justice Committee:
Q. The National Audubon Society already is financing a process about our namesake; why don’t we just wait and see what it produces?
The clear-cut racism associated with the Audubon name harms Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and each additional and unnecessary second under that name negatively impacts our work toward anti-racism. We are a separate organization and already know what we want to do, so are following a more urgent timeframe.
Q. Don’t we benefit by considerable national and local brand recognition with this name?
This is presumed, without supporting data, by those already inside the Audubon bubble. Outside, in a younger, more diverse population, it is our experience that the name has little to no significance. Many of those who are moved to consider Audubon for the first time will certainly discover the legacy of racism and scientific fraud. That tarnished legacy constitutes a substantial barrier to their inclusion in our work – which is not marked by our name, but by more than one hundred years of conservation relating to birds and the people who have done that work.
Q. Won’t we risk losing the support of those who believe in the Audubon name and thereby jeopardize the financial future of this organization?
Our public commitment to anti-racism, which includes investments in Point B consultation and creation of the Community Director position, already has cost us members and donors, and the organization continues to thrive. Our surveys consistently show a membership that is at least 90% white – a population that is in numerical decline, here and nationally. The bigger risk to our organization’s sustainability would be a failure to shift financial and mission support to BIPOC and other currently disengaged communities, whose wealth and populations are rapidly rising and will be the majority before we know it.
Q. Still, won’t a name change and associated re-branding be expensive?
Some of the costs are unavoidable. Short-term outlays include new signage, printing, and obsolete Nature Shop inventory. There are other, much larger expenses – including website redesign, updates to sister web properties (eg., Bird Web, Neighborhood Bird Project), branding/naming/mission consultation – that the staff already has been creative with, particularly with volunteer assistance from University of Washington programs in Communications and Human Centered Design and Engineering. A logo refresh or redesign would be another step to consider.
Q. What’s the hurry?
We’ve already mentioned one source of the urgency, which is the harm the name inflicts on BIPOC and other marginalized communities. We are alarmed by even the small role we might play in preventing people of color from participating in conservation. This is an environment justice issue of the largest magnitude as BIPOC communities suffer the impacts of climate change first and disproportionately.
Furthermore, the core of EDI work is building trust with marginalized communities. It has taken all of us centuries to reach this point in history and the process of unwinding its consequences will be painstaking and deliberate. We already feel disingenuous about approaching communities and affinity groups, because of our name, so the work in which this organization is so clearly invested already is delayed.