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Flashpoint: Why Is The Outdoors Still So White?

The word diversity GETS USED A LOT THESE DAYS, especially in the outdoor community. You may have seen the latest media campaigns focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Actually, I’m sure you’ve seen them—diversity is sexy, trendy, and the IN thing in the outdoors.

If you don’t have a person of color represented at the forefront of your ad campaigns, social media feeds, and magazine covers, then you’re doing it wrong, it seems.

So what’s the big deal? Why is everyone jumping on this diversity bandwagon, at this particular time in history? Is it a trendy fad? Will it dry up like a raisin in the sun, or will it remain a priority for the outdoor community?

My hope is that it will challenge those who maintain their innocence around issues of discrimination, microaggressive behavior, and implicit bias to acknowledge their indifference to others’ lived experiences and perspectives.

Many an outdoor company has taken on this work full throttle, engaging “ambassadors” and “influencers” in diversity-flavored events that may or may not include panel discussions, keynote speakers, and “activations”—showing up in places where diversity happens.

But is this enough? Is this representation of non-white, non-male,  non-cisgender, non-thin, differently-abled folks enough to dismantle the deeply entrenched, systemic notions of who belongs/who doesn’t belong out in nature?

No.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoor community requires much more. To be clear, representation is a priority, obviously, because when you see folks who share some characteristics with you (whether cultural or not), you are better able to see yourself doing the same. When you view someone similar to you in a magazine or on the interwebz engaging in outdoor activities that you previously thought were reserved for a different type of person, you begin to believe that you can also do these things.

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