Our Commitment to Addressing Racial Injustice and Fostering Inclusivity

A Message from Our Director

June 5, 2020

I am writing today to express my indignation and sadness over the recent violence and mistreatment of Black Americans, including the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others. These acts have highlighted the pervasive racial injustices that have been part of our country’s history for centuries, and sadly are still pervasive today.

On the same day as George Floyd’s death by police violence, Christian Cooper, a Black birder, was falsely accused in Central Park of threatening violence while pursuing the very passion that we all hold dear. His experience starkly contrasts with the safety and comfort that I, and many of us, take for granted when we go birdwatching in public spaces.

This inequity must change.

As members of the scientific and birdwatching communities, we bear a responsibility to address the injustices faced by Black Americans. There is a lot of work to be done in all facets of society, including ours. Those of us who treasure the joys of birdwatching, taking part in conservation, and feeling free in the outdoors must constantly strive to make these pursuits equitable, broadly accessible, and universally welcoming.

Painted Bunting by Laura Keene/Macaulay Library
We were moved by J. Drew Lanham’s thoughts about the Painted Bunting’s “eye-bending beauty” in a recent article on Black birdwatchers for Vanity Fair. Photo: Laura Keene/Macaulay Library ML161536971.

Birds are such powerful symbols of community and diversity. We admire and respect the inclusive, generous work of Black birders during this painful time, as seen in social media groups such as @BlackAFinSTEM and the hashtags #BlackBirdersWeek#BlackInNature, and #RepresentationMatters. I urge you to explore these posts and to follow and support causes of social justice and inclusivity in nature.

Let me be clear: Black lives matter. We at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology commit to calling out behaviors and dismantling all traces of policies that promote personal, institutional, or structural racism in the classroom, university, our local communities, our partners across domestic and foreign landscapes, and our participants globally. We will create spaces where all members of our community can freely pursue their professional, educational, and personal objectives, not only without fear but also with conviction that all of us support them and respect them—we are all equals. Further, every one of our leaders hereby commits to finding all possible ways to make diversity and inclusion central goals in all our projects.

As always, I want to thank all Lab supporters, participants, and collaborators for your continued understanding and partnership in this important work.

With hope and commitment for a united and equitable future,

John W. Fitzpatrick, Director
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library