Last week my email teemed with what I feared were mere platitudes about Black Lives Matter from organizations with which I’m involved. Everyone is “sorry,” no one “has been doing enough.” I didn’t trash them, though, and when I sat down to read, I found them to be heartfelt and forward looking.

Los Padres Forest Watch proclaimed: “Protecting wild places, plants, and animals is inseparable from the fight for human rights. We cannot conserve the natural world while people do not have safe and equitable access to these lands, let alone jobs, positions of leadership, government, education, and other basic and essential services because of the color of their skin.”

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s letter added: “The conservation world is not exempt … This week has sharpened our awareness of our place in a social structure that was built on the principles of systemic racism and furthered by white privilege. There is significant work ahead for us to ensure that our Garden is a welcoming place for all to learn, connect, relax, and heal … Please share with us your perspective on how the Garden can be more inclusive and welcoming.”

The Wildling Museum mused: “So what does this have to do with a museum devoted to nature and art? … Art and nature bring us together and can help us process and respond to our world. Most of all, it affirms our humanity. We must continue to challenge ourselves, and our community, to be better listeners, better partners, and better advocates for one another … We pledge to not look away from the tough issues while also encouraging everyone to find moments of solace and peace in nature and with art.”

23&Me, the personal genomics company, was truth-telling. CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki wrote: “I am ashamed to say I do not have a single black employee who is at Director level or above. Our product is euro-centric but must expand to be inclusive and equitable. We absolutely have the potential to be better. Despite our efforts, I have to honestly say that we are also part of the problem.”

Although I’ve been involved in issues of justice most of my adult life, I realize my life reflects the epitome of what Peggy McIntosh described in her 1989 “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:”

“A few of the many knapsack items I’ve been able to count on:

1. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

2. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

3. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

4. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

5. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race

6. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

7. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.”

“As a CBS commentator described, I’ve been like a fish moving with the current, whereas black people and other people of color are constantly forced to swim against the current. The heartbeat of racism is denial; we have to deal with systemic racism before we can end white privilege.”

The light-skinned among us have our marching orders. Not being actively racist is not enough. Even Sambos just chucked its name after 63 years. Heir and owner Chad Stevens proclaimed:

“Our family has looked into our hearts and realize that we must be sensitive when others whom we respect make a strong appeal. So today we stand in solidarity with those seeking change and doing our part as best we can.”

Here are some ways we can take action, drawn from various local websites.

Get involved with local justice organizations including:

Black Lives Matter


Outdoor Afro

Just Communities

Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Email members of city and county agencies and police and sheriff’s departments. For addresses and BLM talking point ideas, visit

Email to show your support for Santa Barbara Standing Up for Racial Justice and follow them on Facebook.

Learn from these Anti-Racism Resources, this Resource Hub for Black History and Activism, and this aggregation of Anti-Racism Resources for Allies.

Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh and “The 1619 Project,“ a multi-media collection of essays from The New York Times Magazine. 

Watch “Why Whiteness Must Be Named,” “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them,” “The Danger of Silence,” and “Courage is Contagious.”

Our ultimate goal, as suggested in Layla E. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy,“ is to be a good ancestor. After 400 years, might our cohort, the United States citizens alive in 2020, be the ones to get it right?

— Karen Telleen-Lawton serves seniors and pre-seniors as the principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara. You can reach her with your financial planning questions at Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Karen Telleen-Lawton

Karen Telleen-Lawton, Noozhawk Columnist

Karen Telleen-Lawton is an eco-writer, sharing information and insights about economics and ecology, finances and the environment. Having recently retired from financial planning and advising, she spends more time exploring the outdoors — and reading and writing about it. The opinions expressed are her own.