We are heartbroken by the killings of Breanna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and many other black victims of police brutality. As a white man I’m embarrassed. It’s hard to believe how little progress our society has made in the 400+ years since slavery began. We believe in the Black Lives Matter protests, and see them as important steps to end systemic racism in our society. We also believe in women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, body positivity, and saving the environment..
The fight to end racism starts with self awareness. In my case as a white man, that means trying to see the privileges I get to enjoy every single day. If I want to go jogging I don’t worry.. If I want to stop for an ice cream at a store in a rural area while I’m on a climbing road trip and I notice a confederate flag, I don’t think about my safety. Listening to Black voices is helping me see more of what I take for granted and what others do not get to enjoy.
“We can’t go jogging without worrying about being lynched; we can’t go bird-watching without having the police called on us. Our children can’t go outside and play without us worrying about them being gunned down and labeled ‘suspects.’ We can’t sleep in our own beds without being executed. The same rights and protections that our white peers are afforded are not afforded to us. We can’t arm ourselves without being labeled thugs and shot.” – Michael Martin of Chicago
I am hearing from black and brown people how often rude and insensitive comments come their way when they go outside to hike, bike, climb, etc.
Consider for example, Karen Taylor, the first black woman to climb the Nose of El Capitan and founder of Taylored Fit Solutions. She has been repeatedly verbally and even physically assaulted at outdoor crags, climbing gyms, and climbing competitions by whites. These incidents happened not just in the southeast, where she is from, but also here in California and other western states.
We as white people need to call it out every time we see it. Black and brown people cannot get this done without whites doing our part. Yes we should donate, but that is not enough. We need to speak up even when it makes us feel uncomfortable.
Theresa and I appreciate the value of living in a multicultural community. We both grew up in San Francisco and we embrace the values of tolerance and diversity that shaped our childhood.
California Climbing School is committed to creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for all people on our programs, regardless of race, ethnicity, body type, disability, gender, age, sexual orientation, or religion. We are educating ourselves in how to be anti-racist and and talking to our son about racism and privilege in our society.
We are working towards the day when black and brown people are hiking, climbing, skiing, fishing, biking, bird watching, collecting wild plants, sailing, and mountaineering just as often as whites.
We all need the therapy of the outdoors.
Suggested Reading Materials & Places to Donate
So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Guide to Outdoor Allyship by Melanin Base Camp https://www.melaninbasecamp.com/trip-reports/2019/7/7/mbc-guide-to-outdoor-allyship
Top 15 black women and genderqueer climbers to follow on instagram https://www.melaninbasecamp.com/trip-reports/2018/6/20/top-15-black-women-and-genderqueer-climbers-to-follow-on-instagram
Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund https://www.naacpldf.org
Diversify Outdoors https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com
Dr. Tee Williams anti-racism educator @imdrtee https://imdrtee.com