Combat Zone

Student skips RPNC because she recycles

“I actually don’t see bin color” — illustration by Pagliaccio

Junior Suzie Johnson deems herself a “steward of the environment,” which inhibits her from engaging with other social justice issues. Her commitment to protecting the environment led her to believe that she does not need to attend the Race and Pedagogy National Conference (RPNC), which is free for all Puget Sound students and easily accessible.

“I’ve heard of racism,” Johnson said, “but people don’t understand how much emotional labor I go through every time I” — Johnson paused as she held back tears — “Every time I see a piece of litter.”

Johnson then explained the self-care regimen she participates in after a long day of recycling. “First I put my plastic-free bath bomb, from a local vendor in Olympia, in the bathtub, but I never fill the tub with water because I don’t want to be wasteful.” Johnson spends a lot of time sitting in dry bathtubs, surrounded by bath bombs, but has never bathed.

“While my time in the bathtub is helpful, self-care isn’t all about bathtubs and face masks. I can’t always fight the good fight and sometimes I have to take a break,” Johnson said. She then explained that on days when recycling becomes too hard, she allows herself to toss everything in the landfill.

Senior Amy Thompson, Johnson’s close friend and housemate, commends Johnson’s role as an educator. “When we host parties, ‘Blackfish’ always plays on a loop in the background,” Thompson said, “and we give the ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker to the guests with Priuses.”

Johnson explains that her work as “a citizen of this planet and child of the earth” has impacted her life as a student. She does not do any assigned readings or use a computer because paper is detrimental to the planet, as are the earth metals found in computers.

“Not doing the reading is my form of resistance,” Johnson said. “I have my critics, but every radical does.”

When confronted about why she would not be attending the RPNC, Johnson said she would be too busy watering her succulents. “Besides, I turned off the lights in my room before I went out last night, and that took a lot of social justice energy,” Johnson said.

“Also, I don’t see color; I just see earthly beings living in harmony,” Johnson said before complimenting the vibrance of Thompson’s red sweater. As you may have gleaned, Johnson is white.

Two years ago, junior Deb Callaway began a conversation with Johnson about the many intersections between environmental justice and racial justice, but this prompted Johnson to hurl her 85 metal straws at Callaway so fast that the dialogue did not get far.

“It was a harrowing experience. Ever since then I’ve used 15 plastic straws a week to seek revenge,” Callaway said.

“I just can’t find the time to think about all of these different issues,” Johnson said. “When I have to engage with all of this negativity, my chakras don’t align and I have to down 18 bottles of kombucha to get my inner light back up.”

Johnson said she adamantly supports the diversity measures the Puget Sound administration has taken. But upon further questioning, Johnson expounded that she was referring to the diversity of kombucha in the Diner.

Thompson suggested that if Johnson sampled each of the Diner’s diverse kombucha brands before the next RPNC then she might be able to attend.

“I don’t think I ever need to go. I’ve never gone to SeaWorld, and if that’s not activism, then I’m not sure what is,” Johnson said.

If you want to reach Johnson, it will be challenging in the coming months. Next semester she is studying abroad in London where she plans to knit 3,000 beanies for the endangered Whitefish.