Date: 6/14/20 10:38 am
From: Whitney Neufeld-Kaiser <whitney.n.k...>
Subject: [Tweeters] The intersection of racism and birding
Tweeters -

On June 9, the Facebook group Western Washington Birders (WWB) was archived
by the administrators, with this announcement, “Dear Ones, today Western
Washington Birders endured a coordinated assault for our No Politics
policy. We have had to archive the group until we can address the matter.
We hope this will be temporary.”

This was in response to several people posting to the group about
#BlackBirdersWeek ( and about

the assault on Christian Cooper (a Black birder) in Central Park by a white
woman after he asked her to leash her dog (a well-known rule in that part
of the park). The posts were all deleted by the admins and, in some cases,
the people trying to share the information with the birding community were
removed from the group.

On June 12, the group was re-activated with this message, “Dear Ones, thank
you for allowing this breathing space. To stay on topic, all posts will be
held for moderation. Welcome back!”

WWB has 10,878 members. The administrators could have used their influence
and that platform to moderate a much-needed conversation about the very
real intersection between racism and birding. Instead, they shut it down
and are now censoring the group.

Racism is a political issue because it is institutionalized in our
country. In our government, in our education and healthcare systems. The
birding community is not immune, which is an uncomfortable reality for
white birders like me to face. But racism is not a partisan issue, it’s an
issue of human rights and dignity. For white people like me to remain
silent, for white people to ask that we keep the discourse about the birds,
is white complicity.

Facebook is a challenging way to have a dialogue. It’s too easy to
misconstrue what someone has posted, too easy to be disrespectful, because
we’re not in the same room talking face-to-face. This listserv may not be
a good way to have a dialogue either, but in this time of pandemic and
social distancing, it’s one of the best tools we have. Sam Terry led the
way last week with his posting asking white birders to be sensitive to the
complexity of looking for the Black-Billed Magpie in the New Holly
neighborhood. Can we continue the conversation? The birds need us to do
this work. The efforts to conserve ecosystems, to bring birds back from
their steep decline, need everyone. Everyone caring, everyone having safe
and equal access to the beauty of the natural world and the birds that live
in it.

If Facebook is part of your life, consider leaving WWB (as several folks
including me already have) and joining West Coast Birders, a group created
on May 28 with the explicit goal of building a “…community of people who
share a love for birds and a desire to make birding accessible, safe, and
enjoyable for everyone.” The group “serves as both a celebration of West
Coast birds and a place to discuss the challenges to birding. The
challenges are diverse and intersect complex topics that are ecological,
social, and political.”


Whitney Neufeld-Kaiser



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