Marie Garlock, PhD, is an anti-discrimination educator and consultant for community-building initiatives (itisinyou.org). Marie is based in Durham, NC and works across the U.S. south and Global South on healthcare, environmental, and racial justice initiatives, including as a volunteer “Community Leader for Change” with Breast Cancer Action. (@MarieGarlock)
When Marie completed our Stop Banking on Breast Cancer letter to Susan G. Komen®, she personalized her writing to Komen with the following submission:
“My mother and best friend Barbara died of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) at just 53 years old. She lived near a coal pollution site as a child, and had traumatic events while living in poverty that studies show increasingly affect health, including cancer diagnoses (high, chronic stress). As an adult, Barbara then had a gap in healthcare coverage when changing jobs that led to missed blood assays to check for cancer’s spread when it went from stage 1 to 4, had an immense struggle to get her health insurance to cover appropriate, well-studied radiation treatments, and ultimately died of a side effect of an understudied chemotherapy used off label for MBC.
Why do I bring this up? Because Komen and other pinkwashing groups often use personal stories to get emotional purchase from donors and, unfortunately, to cover over corporate partnerships that fuel the cancer epidemic. Komen’s Bank of America partnership wraps up direct funding for cancerous fracking operations in a false pink bow. But we are not tricked, and we don’t think any other people or communities facing breast cancer in all its harsh realities should be either.
I bring up my mom’s story because it is all too common—yet is different than “survivor” stories that Komen uses to market and fund programs that distract from the real, multi-factorial and environmental causes of breast cancer, and pursuit of affordable, effective, and safe treatments for the disease.
Barbara’s experiences reveal how environmental racism and classism work (she was white but grew up in majority Black neighborhoods outside DC and Detroit that had superfund sites). Barbara’s experiences show how millions of Americans’ healthcare access and decades of cancer research need to be fixed with an ethical compass that centers patients above profits. …Yet Komen focuses its funds gained from partnerships like this Bank of America program on *none* of these pressing issues to address cancer’s troubling roots and sick fruits.
We ask you to LISTEN to cancer patients’ and affected families’ and communities’ clarion call for changing environmental health for the better—including doing *everything* you can to stop both funding and denying the effects of fracking. Fracking, like coal, is WELL-proven to poison drinking water, air, community safety, and public health with 100s of known toxins and carcinogens and with bullying policies that silence affected neighbors’ truths.
All our children—and especially Black and Brown children too often and disproportionately robbed of this basic right—deserve to live in safe, unpolluted neighborhoods, and to grow up with appropriate access to lifesaving healthcare coverage, especially if they’ve been dealt the devastating effects of fossil fuel pollution so callously and unjustly.
As someone who is deeply concerned about people at risk of and living with breast cancer, I am writing to demand your organization to phase out the pink ribbon banking card with Bank of America, a primary funder of the fossil fuel industry, an industry that is fueling the climate and breast cancer crises.
If Susan G. Komen® is serious about creating “a world without breast cancer,” you will focus on meaningful action and take seriously the environmental causes at the root of the breast cancer crisis. The first step to show you actually care about breast cancer and health justice is to phase out the hypocritical Pink Ribbon Banking Program.
The pink ribbon banking cards use the goodwill of the breast cancer community to increase Bank of America’s profits, and Bank of America in turn invests in and props up the cancer-causing fossil fuel industry. All along the fossil fuel continuum, from extraction to processing, we are exposed to harmful chemicals such as benzene, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and PFAS. The Pink Ribbon Banking Program has created a cyclical profit cycle whereby Bank of America contributes to causing the very disease you raise money to cure. This is unacceptable.
The fossil fuel projects that Bank of America funds are the source of high levels of hazardous air and water pollution that increase myriad health issues, including breast cancer. This industry also directly and disproportionately harms communities of color: during fossil fuel construction the treaty rights of many Indigenous communities are violated, they are over-policed criminalized, and subjected to state-sanctioned violence, and the rates of human trafficking and missing and murdered Indigenous women are reported to increase.
Breast cancer is a public health crisis and a social justice issue. Only through meaningful action that centers on health justice, and the knowledge, stories, and demands of those most deeply impacted by breast cancer will you truly contribute to addressing and ending the breast cancer epidemic.
Susan G. Komen®, you are in deep partnership with a financial institution that props up the fossil fuel industry, an industry that puts profit before people. If you truly want to be where the end of breast cancer begins you need to stop facilitating the harms proliferated by the fossil fuel industry through this pinkwashed partnership. It’s time to phase out the Pink Ribbon Banking Program with Bank of America.”
To add your voice and tell Susan G. Komen® that their fossil fueled partnership with Bank of America is unacceptable, use our easy advocacy tool. You can personalize your letter like Marie did, or use our pre-written form.