Addressing Racism in the Sierra Club Past and Present

  • Posted on 22 July 2020
  • By Angeles Chapter
In acknowledgment of the recent blog (en español) penned by Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune, and subsequent stories from the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times on racism in the history of the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, the Angeles Chapter reaffirms its commitment to examine and learn from our past and our substantial role in perpetuating white supremacy. 
Sierra Club is a 128-year-old organization with a complex, problematic history, some of which has caused significant harm to Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. We are also a vibrant and multi-dimensional community of humans - changemakers, activists, justice seekers, environmentalists, and more - who believe in repairing harm we have caused; examining, learning, and reckoning with our past so we can transform ourselves from the inside out; and, rebuilding the future Sierra Club we are proud to be part of. Please help hold us accountable to this mission-critical work. 
The most well-known and widely cited example of the racism of Sierra Club’s founders and early supporters is John Muir. His writings included hateful and dismissive references to Indigenous and Black people. While there were many things of value about Muir’s writings and his work, his attitudes carry an especially heavy weight for our allies who hold marginalized identities and whose lives are disproportionately affected by climate change and racial injustice. 
The Sierra Club has failed to make welcoming and inclusive spaces for staff and volunteers. No more -- we are radically reorganizing the national organization on the basis of equity as we speak. We have walked the halls of power and failed to invite the people impacted by the issues we advocate about to the table. No more -- we are learning to follow our partners whenever possible when they lobby and meet with funders. We’re still growing into this practice, but we are committed to becoming a truly equitable, inclusive, and just organization.   
Despite our failures, we continue on a journey of learning and self-transformation. Some of us are further along than others. We are a community. We are trying to do better. We will do better.
In Solidarity, 
Sharon Koch, Chapter Chair
Morgan Goodwin, Senior Director
Blog Category: 


The club, the Chapter, and all its entities must find ways to be more inclusive, in keeping with our changing population. I find this to be an exemplary goal. We should pursue that. In the process, perhaps we can also understand that people learn, and change; and evidently John Muir did, from what we know of his writings later in life. We should also remember that one overarching goal, which affects all of us, red, white, blue, green, amber, orange, black, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, must be to take on climate change. Like COVID-19, climate change doesn't care who, where, or what we are. Nor should we forget that the Sierra Club began as an organization to explore, enjoy and protect the mountains of California - and has broadened that - but if we broaden it too much we risk losing focus.

I applaud the club's statement acknowledging past racism, and commitment to change and accountability. How will we know when changes have been made?

Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.