So the past week included a celebration of Women in Science and in some of the larger organizations, we still saw what is constantly projected to us. White bodies being science, with a bold one even saying 'this is what science looks like'.
And with that I politely asked if we could be more inclusive, especially with so many BIPOC humans following this agency and hoping to be a part of the work they do, I did not get a response.
I'm intrigued at how Conservation agencies often find themselves undiverse at the top while doing work in BIPOC communities… wondering when do Black people matter enough to be posted and featured on traditionally undiverse pages.
I couldn’t help but wonder how representation is viewed in these organisations, was representation teaching in Black communities? Does representation only matter outside and not within the organisation? Is the departure point to be a monolith?
I don't know.
Then I had to go back and look at the definition of science to confirm it was what I thought it to be, essentially, that anyone could be a scientist. The definition says : The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
This is important to me in a world where not everyone will get access to these higher institutions of learning, and once that barrier to entry has been overcome, there’s the next.. and the next… and the next.. the endless jumping through and around hoops to prove your voice is valid when its always been valid.
I wondered how it was that big organizations failed to make diversity an important and intricate part of their make up, perhaps how this narrative of one can keep existing in the world.
Why does representation matter? Because when we see people that look like us doing things we’ve never done, we start to believe we can too and that it doesn’t belong only to everyone else but us too.
When authority is all white, teaching in BIPOC communities, it furthers the colonial mindset of missionaries, though noble, was harmful. Because then authority looks like the teachers and not its people, the question of access to the same ability is not fully yours.
Conservation organizations have largely operated as charity houses that aren’t businesses, but in most instances, someone is drawing a salary too, and there is money to lease an office and buy stationary so perhaps there is money to be an empowering change too but might require a reallocation of funds in order to make space.
If BIPOC haven’t been in the space, its usually due to the challenge of means being a prerequisite for participation, volunteering and unpaid spaces are hard when you don't have food at home and still need to put together money to get to the organization and back.
Thats the thing about the Ocean space, that it can say a lot without saying anything at all - only this list of prerequisites and you can shut out an entire people.
From the gent who once asked me ‘what was my call to action’ was and after my effort to respond didn’t message back, I now make a point to add this in,
Check your Boards, is your Board diverse?
Is Management diverse?
The people around the table in day to day running, are they diverse?
The authority figures you are placing in-front of the BIPOC communities you operate in, are they diverse?
Do you check yourself prior to roll out to ensure your work looks to benefit humanity not advance old narratives of saving?
This weeks instagram live was with the phenomenal Chi Felton, read more about her below, and you can listen here.
Chi Felton is a TDI and PADI technical diving instructor originally from the UK, and is currently running a technical diving facility in Bunaken National Park, Indonesia.
She did her first dive in Bali in 2014, and then went on to complete her recreational dive training in the Red Sea and the UK. In 2015 she left London to dive full time and pursue technical diving as a career, first beginning her Divemaster and technical dive training in the Maldives and Thailand, then going back to Europe to complete her instructor development course. Since then she has lived in Bali, Sri Lanka, Germany and North Sulawesi working as a dive instructor and resort manager, and eventually qualified as a technical instructor in 2017.
Happy Monday all!