Mary Cummins Animal Advocates Los Angeles California Wildlife Rehabilitation Real Estate

Mary Cummins Animal Advocates Los Angeles California Wildlife Rehabilitation Real Estate

Saturday, July 11, 2020

IWRC - Cultivating Anti-racism in Wildlife Rehabilitation - Zoom webinar - Mary Cummins Animal Advocates

There is sadly some racism in the field of wildlife rehabilitation in California. Obviously not all rehabbers but quite a few. It's also not a diverse group of people. Most rehabbers are middle aged and older white women with a few men. I have never met another Latino rehabber or an Asian or black rehabber. I realize one reason could be time, money and having your own home. Not everyone is as fortunate to have the ability to spend thousands of hours and dollars on wildlife. You have to be well off and/or retired. Most domestic animal rescuers are the same. I still think there should be more outreach and support to help diversify rehabbers. The people we take wildlife from are diverse. Rehabbers should be as well. We attended this meeting.

"It's time for this month's Coffee and Tea with the IWRC! Recently, the US and the world have been actively confronted with the ugly reality of pervasive racism. In light of this, we want to discuss what we can do in our circle to improve and be better. This week we will be broaching a sensitive but timely and important topic of how we can cultivate anti-racism in the field of wildlife rehabilitation and how our community can become more inclusive and diverse. 

We will have a small panel of speakers addressing the ways we can improve in our organizations and our community internationally. We will then open the discussion up to the group. This talk is meant to be productive and positive so that we can strive toward a better future for those participating in wildlife care. 

Please find the registration information below: 

When: Thursday, July 9, 2020
What time: 11 AM Pacific/ 2 PM Eastern (US and Canada); 7 PM BST; 9 PM EEST; 11:30 PM IST; 4 AM AEST (next day)hank you for attending our Coffee & Tea discussion on cultivating anti-racism in wildlife rehabilitation. IWRC is committed to making our field, and organization, one that is open and welcoming to all people. We hope that our discussion today has given you some food for thought. We understand that for some, this topic may be challenging or spark uncomfortable feelings. We encourage you to recognize these feelings, sit with them for a bit and then discuss them with someone you trust. 
Fight against racism!

Notes from the discussion:

Acronym to know: DEI - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Click here for an Abridged History of Nature, Conversation, and the Black American Community compiled by Aya Cockram.


Kai Williams - Executive Director of the IWRC

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is all of our work and at its core is about building relationships.

  • Long path but we need to start taking steps.

    • Look at your mission and community

    • List out personas in your region and cross out the ones you are reaching

    • Those not crossed out are the gaps in DEI

  • Start internal discussions, dialogues, and collaborate with other non-profits and institutions.


Ernesto Dominguez - Medical Director of The Wildlife Center of Virginia

Concerns and Experiences as a Hispanic Wildlife Veterinarian working in the US

  • Pleased that DEI is a topic of discussion.

  • Personal concerns that

    • Knowledge and skills will be questioned or doubted

      • Feels that he must do more and work harder to be taken seriously

    • Accent is not a barrier, but often highlighted negatively as a difference

      • Jokes

      • Requests to “say it normally"

    • Exclusion or over inclusion at meetings

Josh Saranpaa - Executive Director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast

Organization is taking steps to assure DEI

  • Recognized lack of diversity in board, employees, volunteers.

  • Organization is taking action to help ensure people of diverse backgrounds and races feel welcome.

    • Released statement in support of DEI

    • Checking language used in documents

    • Staff decided to read White Fragility as a book club

From the Chat Box: White Privilege in Conservation and Rehabilitation

Growth comes from acknowledgement

  • Racist themes of the conservation movement in its interaction with Native Americans
    • Indigenous Peoples have been limited by colonialism for generations

    • Renaming rivers, mountains, and lands for the white population

    • Removing Native Americans from their land for national parks

  • The Rehabilitation Field and Implicit Bias

    • Income affects who can participate 

      • Time commitments for volunteering 

      • Use of unpaid internships 

        • Members of the Society for Marine Mammology have drafted a letter asking leadership to not support unpaid positions

        • Read the statement here

      • Many rehabbers pay out of pocket for expenses

  • Do all communities feel equally comfortable and safe bringing animals to us?

    • People may worry about judgment, blame.

    • Ensure people know rehab services are free to them

  • “It's critically important to listen to communities different from our own, but we cannot expect others to fix our problems. We need to have the internal conversations, education, and do the work.”

  • Words of Importance

    • Anti-racism 

      • "Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably." - NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity
      • Acknowledges that we can have deeply internalized racism AND be committed to working to combat it.
      • There is no neutral ground- again this is an active process 
    • Inclusion
      • We don’t want to include people in a system that is broken.

      • Should we use the word inclusion?

Take Action!

  • Educate yourself, be open, listen

    • Avoid white savior complex 

  • Organize a book club

  • Start a focus group or committee for DEI

  • Host a diversity workshop or audit 

    • Check documents for language that may be exclusionary

  • Collaborate with organizations outside of the wildlife field 

  • When speaking or presenting discuss things from a culturally relevant point of view

    • Understand your audience (cultural differences, religious beliefs, different environmental conditions, etc)

    • Be proactive, do pre-planning and ask questions on if there are topics or information that will make your presentation more useful or interesting to your audience.


Suggested Reading Materials:
  • The Home Place: Memoirs of A Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature  by J. Drew Lanham
  • How to Be Anti-Racist                                                                                by Ibram X. Kendi
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson
  • Wilderness and the American Mind                                            by Roderick Frazier Nash 
  • African American Environmental Thought: Foundations                 By Kimberly K Smith
Poll Results
Worried about making a mistake when discussing race and racism? Listen to this short clip, "Lean into Discomfort" When Talking About Race
The IWRC wants to facilitate this discussion in the long term, do you have ideas of how we can do this? Do you have resources you want to see? Contact us! 
Contact Us

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.

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