Fighting Racism In The Outdoors

All people should have equal opportunities and access to engage with nature.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
Equity & Inclusion Committee
June 02, 2020

All people should have equal opportunities and access to engage with nature. Our members, and the greater community at large, should be free to enjoy the outdoors without fear. They should be able to go birding (#ChristianCooper), go for a jog (#AhmaudArbery), walk to the store (#MikeBrown), walk with their family (#CliffordGlover), breathe (#EricGarner, #GeorgeFloyd), and live (#FreddieGray, #BreonnaTaylor) without being targeted for the color of their skin. Black lives matter, and we are committed to continuing to fight for equality.

Today, the experience of being outdoors is not the same for all, and that’s not okay. The recent murder of George Floyd is the latest manifestation of systemic racism and injustice in our society. Black folks, along with other communities of color are being disproportionately harmed by police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic hardship. Remaining silent through the reckoning we’re seeing in the greater community would make us complicit in the continued oppression of black and brown bodies, directly contradicting what we stand for as an organization.

Achieving equality for all people by addressing racism and racist systems in our country is going to take all of our collective efforts. And, at a time like this it’s important for organizations like ours to follow and amplify the work and emotional labor of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who have been engaging in racial equity and social justice for decades. 

Change starts at home by educating yourself on the history of racial violence and racist systems in our country. You can get started by choosing which voices to highlight and engage with. Sometimes a small shift in what we consume can make a big difference. Here are a dozen names that were recommended to us:

Educate yourself, then activate your network and share what you’ve learned with other people. And if you personally benefit from the resources you have learned from, consider making a donation to the individual directly or to one of the places they recommend. 

You can also engage by picking 2-3 things from this list: 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice, or we have a limited number of race-related resources available on our Equity & Inclusion Committee page

We want to recognize the emotional labor of many BIPOC who have provided their input to The Mountaineers in recent years to help illuminate our shortcomings and implicit bias. We join our partners in unequivocally condemning statements and behavior that undermine the rights of people of color to safely enjoy the outdoors, and we remain committed to creating an outdoors where all people feel a sense of belonging.


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Mike Kretzler
Mike Kretzler says:
Jun 02, 2020 08:06 AM

Excellent! Thank you.

SuJ'n Chon
SuJ'n Chon says:
Jun 02, 2020 08:48 AM

Thank you for stating our values as an organization and community so explicitly. None of us are free unless we are all free.

Amber Carrigan
Amber Carrigan says:
Jun 02, 2020 08:58 AM

I really appreciate the leadership from our E&I committee in this extremely important work. Thank you for prioritizing equal opportunities and access to the outdoors!

Jerry Logan
Jerry Logan says:
Jun 02, 2020 10:06 AM

Appreciate these statements of principle and recommend we all watch all 22 minutes of this speech: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-in-speech-to-the-nation-plans-to-denounce-president-trumps-actions-against-protesters-and-vow-to-heal-racial-wounds/2020/06/02/5b86af6e-a4ce-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html . This country is on a journey and we need to get back on route.

Tess Wendel
Tess Wendel says:
Jun 02, 2020 10:57 AM

For folks looking for more direct action consider donating to your local bail fund or calling/writing your local officials.

Phone/email script:

I am writing/calling you today because I want you to take action to end racist police violence in our city and to hold police accountable for using excessive force during the protests this past weekend. I am asking you to organize a community-led investigation into Seattle Police conduct at the Saturday JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protest and make sure that the officers responsible for misconduct, excessive use of force, and brutality be disciplined or fired immediately.

Seattle City Mayor Jenny Durkan (jenny.durkan@seattle.gov): 206- 684-4000

Lisa Herbold (lisa.herbold@seattle.gov): 206-684-8801

Tammy Morales (tammy.morales@seattle.gov): 206-684:8802

Kshama Sawant (kshama.sawant@seattle.gov): 206-684-8803

Alex Pedersen (alex.pedersen@seattle.gov): 206-684-8804

Debora Juarez (debora.juarez@seattle.gov): 206-684-8805

Dan Strauss (dan.strauss@seattle.gov): 206-684-8806

Andrew Lewis (andrew.lewis@seattle.gov): 206-684-8807

Teresa Mosqueda (Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov): 206-684-8808

Lorena Gonzalez (lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov): 206-684-8809

Skye Stoury
Skye Stoury says:
Jun 02, 2020 12:25 PM

Thank you for posting this, very well written and helpful.

Sarah Taylor
Sarah Taylor says:
Jun 02, 2020 10:37 PM

Instead of pushing the ownership onto others to "get educated" and "take action" how about taking action within your own organization? For example, why is there is not one single minority/POC on your entire team of staff? Of your 27 board members only 3 represent minorities and there and 0 POC. What are you doing to change this? How can you expect to reach and engage a community that you don’t even represent? What are you doing to provide financial assistance to whom the privileged, elitist world of climbing, mountaineering and skiing is out of reach? Without action this is nothing but virtue signalling.

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 03, 2020 11:36 AM

@Sarah Taylor - Thank you for your feedback. You’re absolutely right. Three of our 23 board members are POC, including our current board president, far below where it should be. We’ve also fallen short when it comes to the racial diversity of our volunteer leadership and staff. We know this is a problem and it’s one we’ve been working on. Our Equity & Inclusion Committee is looking at our recruitment progresses for leaders and our Nominating Committee is focusing on long term strategies to increase the racial diversity of our board, specifically by opening up more transparent processes. We also did a complete overhaul of our hiring process last year to address our lack of POC on staff (we do have a few POC staff at Mountaineers Books), but have had little opportunity to hire since.

We do have robust scholarship programs (https://www.mountaineers.org/membership/scholarship-financial-assistance/scholarships), offered on a need-based basis for every one of our courses and for membership. We launched a gear library (https://www.mountaineers.org/youth/gear-library) to support our youth programs two years ago in collaboration with Washington Trails Association. And we have been supporting programming for POC youth through our Mountain Workshops program (https://www.mountaineers.org/youth/get-your-youth-group-outside-with-us) for the last five years.

We have a long way to go, and we’re listening and learning. Our next round of board elections will take place in the fall, and it’s our intent to have a much more racially diverse slate of candidates for consideration. Representation is important, and we are working to show a better example.

Pamela Gunther
Pamela Gunther says:
Jun 04, 2020 07:58 AM

Will this only be a limited time that the Mountaineers cares? Or is there something that we can do proactively? What about going to inner city schools and helping youth get outside? Would that help them feel more comfortable in enjoying the outdoors as an adult? Experiences as a child resonate forever. Can we (Mountaineers) make a long-term difference and contribute to a solution?

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 04, 2020 08:06 AM

@Pamela Gunther - thank you for your engagement. We launched our Equity & Inclusion committee in 2018, and have actively been working to break down barriers within The Mountaineers for the last two years. And we have been supporting programming for POC youth by through our Mountain Workshops program for the last five years. You can learn more here: https://www.mountaineers.org/youth/get-your-youth-group-outside-with-us

Jamie Adams
Jamie Adams says:
Jun 04, 2020 08:43 AM

Can we please stick to the outdoors and not recommend heavily politically biased material that has nothing to do with the outdoors?

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 04, 2020 09:06 AM

@Jamie Adams: Outdoor culture is a micro-community in the greater society, and everything that happens in the community at large impacts the people here. No one can escape their culture and identity by simply going outdoors. We believe all people should have equal opportunities and access to engage with nature, and highlighting resources to raise awareness of racism in our country is a small way we can help make the outdoors an equal place for all people.

Lisa Katzman
Lisa Katzman says:
Jun 04, 2020 12:14 PM

Thank you for this post!

Brian Booth
Brian Booth says:
Jun 04, 2020 12:41 PM

Local racial discrimination history, including particularly the employment practices of Safeway Foods, is well documented in "Seattle in Black & White" (Singler, Durning, Valentine and Adams).

Jamie Adams
Jamie Adams says:
Jun 04, 2020 12:58 PM

@The Mountaineers, do you think it is appropriate for this organization to send out political material from the likes of Howard Zinn, tell your members what authors they need to read and not read, and even go so far as to tell them who they should push their children to befriend based purely on their skin color? Is that really accomplishing the goal of "Helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond."?

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 04, 2020 01:16 PM

@Jamie Adams - These resources were recommended to us by a number of BIPOC individuals, and we in turn offered them to our members. The goal is to start a conversation, and our hope is that members will continue to seek out additional opportunities for learning.

We believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. This is a reflection of our core values, which were written by our community. In order to achieve an outdoors where everyone has equal opportunities and access, we need to work to make public lands safe and equitable for everyone. We cannot achieve this while members of our community continue to live with the impacts of racism. Highlighting resources to raise awareness of racism in our country is a small way we can help make the outdoors an equal place for all people. Please share any additional resources for our community to consider.

Laura Black
Laura Black says:
Jun 05, 2020 11:37 AM

The Mountaineers needed to say something and I'm glad you did, but this reads to me like leadership took a safe rather than bold approach in this message. As an outdoors organization it's important to acknowledge racism in the outdoors, but we should be doing that all year long. This is the time to be calling it out in every form, not just the one most comfortable to the subscribers of this group, particularly since Mountaineers membership is so white. I wish this message had more accountability or action on part of Mountaineers mostly white leadership. The tools are important and the call out to white folks like me to do our personal work is important, but it's feeling a little empty to me. I hope the organization takes this on in an intentional and actionable way in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Thomas Gibbons
Thomas Gibbons says:
Jun 05, 2020 03:55 PM

Did anyone else notice the goings on in Fork, WA yesterday? It's even on the town's Wikipedia page. This is a town that gets a large part of its income from outdoor activities. Can't The Mountaineers publicize this and perhaps get, not only people of color, but those of conscience to avoid the place?

Anna Constance
Anna Constance says:
Jun 05, 2020 06:25 PM

Thank you so much for writing this statement and for the diversity, equity, and inclusion work you are doing. It is so critically important and long overdue that we address the injustices that systems of oppression create. I especially appreciate that you name the people we have lost and the activities they were doing when they were murdered. Saying their names is critically important and stating what they were doing when they were murdered illustrates just how unjust their deaths are. Black and brown people (and all other groups of marginalized people) should not have to live in fear of doing every day activities. I also appreciate that you acknowledge the emotional labor (and heavy emotional toll) it takes for the BBIPOC community to teach white folks about oppression/privilege. It is time for white folks to be accountable and take action for change. Honestly, if you wouldn't have written this statement and the Mountaineers hadn't emailed it to their whole membership base, I was considering ceasing my membership because I can't invest my time and energy in organizations that aren't striving to undo systems of oppression to make the world more just and equitable. Thanks for inspiring me to continue to be a proud Mountaineers member. In solidarity for justice!

Siana Wong
Siana Wong says:
Jun 05, 2020 10:22 PM

@ Laura Black. Your'e spot on for calling this out. I'm a volunteer member of the Mountaineers E&I Committee and Board of Directors- I can tell you with confidence that the Mountaineers is committed to addressing inequities and racism in the outdoors all year long. The E&I Committee was establsihed 2 years ago as a commitment to this core value: to help make the Mountaineers community a more welcoming and inclusive place for all people. Our current priorities include developing tangible resources for leaders and course instructors, developing leadership training, and developing strategies to increase the racial diversity of our Board. Past and current efforts of the Mountaineers include: supporting POC youth through its Mountain Workshop programs, addressing the Mountaineers hiring process to address lack of POC on its staff, establishing a scholarship program for courses, and establishing an internal process to address problem behaviors. We are still learning and growing, making mistakes along the way, and are receptive to constructive feedback. We appreciate the support of many of our members as we continue to take on the these challenges in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead.

Melanie Mayock
Melanie Mayock says:
Jun 06, 2020 08:00 AM

Thank you. How can I get involved? Also, has the Mountaineers made any kind of statement or post about the family of color that went camping near Folks and was intimidated/threatened and forced to leave? That seems like a huge thing us white folks need to do something about.

Stephen Bobick
Stephen Bobick says:
Jun 08, 2020 12:26 PM

I don't appreciate the Mountaineers forcing a political agenda on its members. We should stick with what unites us (a love of the outdoors), period.

The Mountaineers
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 08, 2020 03:27 PM

@Melanie Mayock - you can join our working group! We'll follow up with you individually.

@Stephen Bobick - Saying Black Lives Matter does not invalidate other lives, nor is it political statement. What it does is recognize a deep, systemic injustice that continues to hurt black people in our society. Outdoor culture is a micro-community in the greater society, and everything that happens in the community at large impacts the people here. We believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. This is a reflection of our core values, which were written by our community at large.

Stephen Bobick
Stephen Bobick says:
Jun 08, 2020 06:03 PM

Mountaineers says: "We believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity,". You are actually excluding other opinions, encouraging conformity and tearing your membership apart by taking on these highly controversial positions - totally unnecessarily. You should rethink this. Stick to climbing education and outdoor stewardship
, please!

Gary Zink
Gary Zink says:
Jun 12, 2020 11:20 AM

In the opening statement to this Blog, “Today, the experience of being outdoors is not the same for all, and that’s not okay.”
In my 20 year of observation with the Tacoma Mountaineers, that statement is NOT true. The experience of learning to be outdoors has been the same for everyone, regardless of personal differences. I wonder what such a stupid statement is based on? Has Seattle Branch, or any other Branch, experienced prejudicial bias by Mountaineer administration, lecturers, class instructors or trip leaders against students of different color, creed or gender. I have never seen or heard of any discrimination by any other Mountaineer against any person.
Of course, “Achieving equality for all people by addressing racism and racist systems in our country is going to take all of our collective efforts.” That’s true, but what does that have to do with the Mountaineers? Everyone should be and is practicing respect and concern for others in the Mountaineers organization, at any activity, everywhere and all the time. Keep social politics out of the Mountaineers, and keep it a sanctuary for outdoor peace, kindness and equal opportunity for everyone, as it has been, as it is, and as it should be forever.
In the above referenced blog, I totally agree with Jamie Adams:
Jamie Adams says:
Jun 04, 2020 08:43 AM
Can we please stick to the outdoors and not recommend heavily politically biased material that has nothing to do with the outdoors?
Unfortunately, the Mountaineers response is garbage; we need much better leadership at the admin level:
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 04, 2020 09:06 AM
@Jamie Adams: Outdoor culture is a micro-community in the greater society, and everything that happens in the community at large impacts the people here. No one can escape their culture and identity by simply going outdoors. We believe all people should have equal opportunities and access to engage with nature, and highlighting resources to raise awareness of racism in our country is a small way we can help make the outdoors an equal place for all people.
1. The outdoor culture is NOT a micro-community of our regional society. That statement is likened to a empty canoe that got away from its Mountaineer paddler and floats adrift to go wherever the current takes it. The author is obviously not a social studies student. I wish the Mountaineers contained a more diverse culture within it’s membership, but is does not match our Puget Sound region. I would like to see more BIPOC among Tacoma class students, but we have what we have – that’s it. Typically, the smaller the institution compared to the regional social population class, the less micro-community is represented, and vice versa. A sorority or fraternity has almost no cross sectional representation whereas a mega church a government institution may have considerable representation. Comparing the Mountaineers membership count to the Puget Sound region, makes our membership look like a tiny speck on a vast landscape as you look down from the top of Mount Rainer. We are certainly not a micro-community with proportional representation.

2. Of course “all people should have equal opportunities and access to engage with nature . . . “

At the Tacoma Chapter, I have never seen or heard of unequal opportunity of any person. All are treated with equal opportunity and respect, as they should be. Here we don’t need a policy or directive from admin because its already etched into hearts of the Tacoma leadership. I’m sure all other Chapters would agree and hopefully the Seattle Chapter as well. If there should ever be any discrimination among us, let it be discrimination by blood color, not skin color.

As a young boy in the 1950’s I remember seeing signs at a public swimming beach in Indiana, “Whites Only”. I have never forgotten that sign. What a travesty to humanity!
The Mountaineers says:
Jun 04, 2020 01:16 PM
. . . In order to achieve an outdoors where everyone has equal opportunities and access, we need to work to make public lands safe and equitable for everyone.
How do we do that? More important, why? Of course, our public lands should be and ARE already safe and equitable for everyone already. I have never seen a “Whites Only” sign at any trail head nor will I ever. County, State and USFS trail heads are by law open to very one, as they should be. If there were a problem, it lies not with the government or the Mountaineers to resolve, but in the hateful mind of a few bad characters. No work of any kind will combat against personal hate. Forget this extra work and let’s just keep doing what we have been doing.
I agree totally with Stephen Bobrick, he said it all:
Stephen Bobick says:
Jun 08, 2020 06:03 PM
Mountaineers says: "We believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity,". You are actually excluding other opinions, encouraging conformity and tearing your membership apart by taking on these highly controversial positions - totally unnecessarily. You should rethink this. Stick to climbing education and outdoor stewardship, please!
Let’s keep the Mountaineers free from discrimination as it has been and free from social and political issues. If not, it will only cause division among our members and could even cause a loss of membership. I’ve seen it happen in other organizations.