Updated: Jul 3, 2020
It’s far too easy as a predominantly white organization in the predominantly white outdoor industry to avoid topics that steer someone’s attention away from the harsh reality of racial divides in our country and the individual experiences of people of color in the outdoors. If we believe that the outdoors play a valuable role in our lives—in our ability to transform, heal, grow, and reach our human potential, imagine how it feels to be on the outside of that opportunity looking in. If we do not make space and intentionality around elevating the voices, needs, and justice of BIPOC and disabled communities, then who are we to say that the outdoors really brings us growth, transformation, and healing?
First off, we would like to acknowledge the lack of diversity in SheJumps programs.
Access to wealth is directly correlated with one’s ability to partake in most of the activities that SheJumps sponsors or hosts, but regardless of financial viability, we will strive to make it easier and—most importantly—more inclusive for BIPOC to tap into the ‘great outdoors’.
Access to wealth is directly correlated with one’s ability to partake in most of the activities that SheJumps sponsors or hosts, but regardless of financial viability, we will strive to make it easier and—most importantly—more inclusive for BIPOC to tap into the ‘great outdoors’. Since America’s founding moment, BIPOC communities have been disenfranchised and systematically oppressed through racist policies, resulting in the creation of predominantly white spaces in the outdoors and economic gaps between white Americans and BIPOC. This economic gap or wealth disparity is especially evident when it comes to participating in affluent sports such as camping, backpacking, skiing, and mountaineering. The outdoors may also awaken embedded generational trauma caused by the traumatic and oppressive history of racism, hate crimes, lynchings committed against Black communities in environments described as “the great outdoors''. This premise does not indicate that all BIPOC individuals carry this trauma and/or cannot afford to recreate outdoors, but it’s undeniable that the outdoors (and the $887 billion dollar outdoor industry) has evolved into a dominant white space. So, while we work to challenge our own privilege and narrative as women in the outdoors, our mission to increase the participation of ALL women and girls means we will lower as many barriers as possible specifically for Black and Indigenous women and girls of color. We will be held accountable to this goal and look forward to sharing plans and action items toward this end.
So, while we work to challenge our own privilege and narrative as women in the outdoors, our mission to increase the participation of ALL women and girls means we will lower as many barriers as possible specifically for Black and Indigenous women and girls of color. We will be held accountable to this goal and look forward to sharing plans and action items toward this end.
Second, we are committed to pursuing Indigenous land acknowledgement at our events and via social media.
The land on which we recreate was stolen from Native Americans and ceded without their consent to white settlers and colonizers, many of whom are our ancestors. An acknowledgement of the land where our events and programs are held is a basic and fundamental step that all individuals and organizations can take. It is important because it elevates the conversation around our relationship with the land. We look forward to diving into this topic in more depth to educate our community soon. A great place to learn about land acknowledgements and history is via Native-Land.ca. The website makes it easy to type in any address and learn about the history of the land.
Information abounds right now about the various ways in which individuals (and organizations) can practice allyship, but true work—in the most basic sense of the word “work”—must happen constantly and unfold at every level. This includes addressing our blind spots, and understanding that solutions privilege will be a constant hurdle towards equitable and inclusive outdoor space. That means we need to ensure our community, team members, and volunteers all have access to this information. Even a small organization like SheJumps can play in making positive change—specifically for Black, Indigenous, women of color.
Our platform has to be intentionally equitable and engaging across the industry, not just within our organization, to bring more diverse voices and perspectives to the table. If we want for diversity to show up within our programs, and if we want each of our volunteers to have the training and education to enact these values at every possible moment, then we need to be courageous in our efforts. To live an examined existence is slow and painstaking, but it’s the gasoline that we’re using now. It’s time for you to join as an ally. This is everyone’s responsibility.
Since we started writing this blog post, a great article specific to anti-racism in white mountain towns was published by Sara Boilen, a clinical psychologist and SheJumps ambassador based in Whitefish, Montana. In addition to reading and exploring texts by Black and Indigenous authors and activists, we encourage you to take the time to learn about the steps she outlines, as we feel they are pertinent to the demographic locations for a large portion of our audience.
But at the risk of being extremely clear about the work we (as white people) have ahead of ourselves, we would like to issue this piece of 'SheJumps' advice:
Don’t be scared, be excited.
I’ve heard countless friends say after a deep powder day: “Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone could experience skiing powder!” And yes, indeed. Imagine. Use your voice, your privilege, your vote, and your platform to elevate the voices and experiences of BIPOC individuals. There is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips for how to start this work, but It begins with acknowledging.
“The Outdoors community, being mostly white, has had the privilege of being able to avoid openly discussing social issues for a long time. The work of fighting racism in the world and within ourselves is deeply uncomfortable, but if there's one other universal characteristic of people who love the outdoors, it's that we voluntarily wade into discomfort with enthusiasm and resolve. It's time for us to channel that energy into something far more important.” —Gloria Liu
This is personal work that you can do to make the world a more equitable place and it involves taking the time to learn about and reflect on your privilege. Specifically, if you are learning about racism, bias, and privilege from BIPOC, it’s important that you fairly compensate them for helping you to learn.
Silence is an easy option that will result in a smog of racism, even in well-meaning nonprofit organizations. To be an ally for people of color and marginalized communities, don’t be afraid to disrupt white silence and white solidarity and ask to be held accountable by BIPOC. The hardest things in life are usually the most valuable. Allyship (also known as being a good, decent person) and DEI work is absolutely no exception. Certainly for us, we acknowledge that when we look around at our team and we see white faces—but we are working to change that—and use our privilege for good. Every. Single. Day.