“If we genuinely want to attend to our climate and environmental crisis our work must connect Christian histories of colonial and racial domination with communities struggling with environmental racism today. ”
Blackness Weathered argues that black resistance to Christian settler-colonialism and environmental racism offers decolonial ethics that can be a resource for our climate crisis. The first part is an ethnographic exploration of black women’s resistive practices to environmental racism in Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens—a historic black public housing project that was built at the turn of the twentieth century and is surrounded by air, water, and soil pollution. It explores the activists’ resistive environmental practices and moral visions for the earth and argues that rather than focus on environmental racism as another instance of black suffering or inequality, black resistance points us toward alternative moral imaginaries for a more sustainable future on earth. Complementing my ethnographic inquiry is a historical investigation of how black migration to urban cities at the turn of the twentieth century ushered in a variety of experiments in which conceptions of blackness as weather facilitated the ways the U.S. could be imagined as a pure, homogenous, and virtuous space. This is most apparent in the work of social gospel leader Josiah Strong. To quell black resistance to the emerging environmental and social order, he espoused an imaginary of the U.S. as a white masculine Christian landscape, set against the black “climatic others,” whose character and abilities were said to be linked to “immoral” weather patterns from Africa. Attempts to weatherize blackness reveal angst about the uncontainability of black resistance and the struggle to settle the U.S. as a white masculine Christian landscape. Black resistance, thus, frustrates Christian settler-colonial projects and shows how reading with a lens toward black environmental resistance opens a pathway to a history of decolonial environmental practices and ethics. Blackness Weathered is an interdisciplinary project that brings together black studies, decolonial poetics, environmental studies, and Christian social ethics.