Systematic Racism is an Environmental Issue

Columbia Riverkeeper encourages our members to consider donating to the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund, and our thoughts are with his family and community as they grieve.

Systematic Racism is an Environmental Issue

A photo of Tyre Nichols standing by the water.
Photo: Tyre Nichols (credit: Tyre Nichols Family).

Recently, Memphis officials released video footage of police killing Tyre Nichols—a father, skateboarder, photographer, and beloved member of his community. Authorities have criminally charged the officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ killing, and people across the nation are grieving yet another police killing of a young Black man. The Nichols family is accepting donations for the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund. Columbia Riverkeeper encourages our members to consider donating to the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund, and our thoughts are with his family and community as they grieve.

Police violence and racial violence disproportionately impact Black people in the communities where Columbia Riverkeeper advocates and organizes. Structural, deep-rooted racism causes Black people and people of color to experience more violence, more pollution, more health risks, more injustice, and sometimes direct threats to Black people connecting with the Columbia River. Police shootings and killings of Black men in Vancouver and Clark County prompted NAACP Vancouver and many other organizations to request the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate policing in Vancouver and Clark County. The reality of systemic racism in policing represents a profound, ongoing injustice throughout Columbia River communities. 

We stand in solidarity with local and national efforts to pursue justice, equity, and an end to police violence and racist violence of all kinds. We support justice for Tyre Nichols, his family, and a deeper change to policing in our communities—including specific demands made by members of the Memphis community where Tyre was killed. Every person deserves to live in a community that values and protects their basic rights.

In this 2020 essay, Environmentalists for Black Lives Matter, Columbia Riverkeeper’s Simone Anter wrote, 

When Columbia Riverkeeper writes that we support Black Lives Matter, we must not do so as an organization that sees itself as disconnected from systemic racism and police brutality. But as an organization that can articulate just how that systemic racism and police brutality impact our environmental work and have blocked and burdened Black people and all people of color from engaging in the work that we do…Black Lives Matter. Ending police brutality and systemic racism is an environmental issue.

More than two years later, we affirm our commitment to solidarity, to supporting policing reform that protects the dignity of Black people, and to amplifying calls for justice.  

These issues touch every community in America. “Say Their Names” highlights the names and photos of some of the Black people killed by police or civilians through police brutality and racial violence. In 2022 alone, Sinzae Reed, Keshawn Thomas, Dante Kittrell, Jayland Walker, Christopher Kelley, Ruth Whitfield, Pearl Young, Katherine Massey, Heyward Patterson, Celestine Chaney, Geraldine Talley, Aaron Salter Jr., Andre Mackniel, Margus Morrison, Roberta Drury, Patrick Lyoya, Donnell Rochester, Amir Locke, Isaiah Tyree Williams, Jason Walker, and James Williams were unjustly killed. 

Additionally, this partial list from Say Her Name highlights the names and photos of Black women whose lives were unjustly taken by police or civilians. In addition to the Black women named above, these Black women include, Fanta Bility, Latoya Denise James, Ma’Khia Bryant, Monica Goods, Brayla Stone, Priscilla Slater, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Titi “TeTe” Gulley, Dominique Clayton, Pamela Turner, Jassmine McBride, Aleah Jenkins, Charleena Lyles, Alteria Woods, Deborah Danner, Bettie Jones, Sandra Bland, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Meagan Hockaday, Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Yvette Smith, Renisha McBride, Kayla Moore, Darnesha Harris, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Kathryn Johnston, Alberta Spruill, Mary Mitchell, Sharon Walker, Eleanor Bumpurs, Alberta Odell Jones, and Della McDuffie.

We support the following calls to action from We hope that you will, too.
  1. Learn and listen to Black people.
  2. Speak up and vote: silence implies acceptance.
  3. Give, however you’re able, to the many organizations working to address issues around inequality, the broken criminal justice system, and police reform.
  4. Support Black businesses and entrepreneurs.
  5. Learn more here:

Black Lives Matter and the violence must end. The killing of Tyre Nichols reminds us that structural change is necessary if we hope to build just, equitable, healthy communities free of systemic, racist oppression. Learn more about efforts to change policing.

Our Vision

A Columbia River that unites people to fight for clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and our climate. We are committed to achieving this vision by advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in environmental decisions and our own actions.