The news is out: [LOS ANGELES — The Sierra Club apologized Wednesday for racist remarks its founder, naturalist John Muir, made more than a century ago as the influential environmental group grapples with a harmful history that perpetuated white supremacy.
Executive Director Michael Brune said it was “time to take down some of our own monuments” as statues of Confederate officers and colonists are toppled across the U.S. in a reckoning with the nation’s racist history following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Muir, who founded the club in 1892 and helped spawn the environmental movement, is called “father of our national parks.” He figures prominently in what Brune called a “truth-telling” about the group’s early history.
“He made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life,” Brune wrote on the group’s website. “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color.”
Muir, who was born in Scotland, came to the U.S. as a young man and traveled and wrote extensively, romanticizing nature in breathless passages. He emphasized the need to preserve the land but also expressed disdain for American Indians and Black people.
He also kept company with other early club members and leaders, such as Joseph LeConte and David Starr Jordan, who advocated for white supremacy and promoting the race through eugenics, which called for forced sterilization of Black people and other minority groups, Brune said.]
If the Sierra Club can apologize, I expect God to come down and get on his knees. And it ain’t for praying.