As the world reacts to the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, and the systemic rottenness it exposes, we at UKC and UKH are joining millions across the globe who seek to listen, learn and stand with people of colour in the fight against racism. The outdoor community is not known for its racial or cultural diversity, and it's arguably beyond time that we actively discuss the ways in which systemic racism, individual biases, cultural norms and barriers to participation have shaped the outdoor and adventure spaces we inhabit.
In a recent report titled 'Sport for All', Sport England concluded that people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be physically inactive than those who are white, and that sport is therefore 'letting down' BAME groups and not leading the cause for more equal participation. According to the report, 62% of adults met the UK guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but just 56% of black and 55.1% of Asian people (excluding Chinese people) reached this minimum level.
The British Mountaineering Council's Equity Steering Group was set up in 2007 to work towards greater participation and representation in the following groups: BAME, Mental Health, Disability, Women's Development and LGBTQ+. James McHaffie, secretary of the Equity Steering Group, told UKC:
'In terms of ethnicity, there has been some movement. The 2006 BMC equality survey (appendix 20) had 98% white respondents. The 2016 survey had 95% white, 3.3% non-white with 2.4% preferring not to say. The 2019 survey had 3.9% non-white respondents. This could be due to the increase in the number of climbing walls which have been built in areas with a more diverse ethnic population, primarily the bigger cities, helping to increase the pool of people entering climbing from more diverse backgrounds.'
Notably, in the online 2019 BMC equality survey, 0% of respondents identified as Black, Black British, Mixed: White and Black or Black: any other. Anecdotal evidence would also suggest that UK participation by black climbers is particularly low.
In the past, the BMC has run equity symposiums to support outdoor leaders in the BAME community and has arranged some bursaries with Mountain Training for hill skills courses. James is currently putting together the BMC's future BAME strategy for the sub-group leader, Mohammed Dhalech, to approve.
Although there is no hillwalking-specific participation data, non-detailed Mountain Training figures stand at 3% BAME for hill and mountain skills course attendance, and just 1% of qualification holders are BAME. Mountain Training report that they are beginning a more detailed analysis of figures from recent years.
GB Climbing Team member Zoë Peetermans emphasised the importance of recognising the distinct groups within the BAME collective. She told UKC:
'Different groups face different forms and levels of racism and under-representation so it's important to identify them independently.'
In a UKC article on the growth of indoor climbing, Mikhail Martin, founder of US-based Brothers of Climbing, commented on the invisible barriers that can stand between BAME people and experiencing the sport.
'The lack of minority groups is mostly due to lack of awareness, opportunity, and interest. People of colour walk by climbing gyms every day and they still don't know they exist. They might assume it's just a spot for kids' birthday parties.'
Mikhail also highlighted the importance of role models. 'Seeing someone like yourself do something can give you the validation that you're also capable of it.'
Crucially, Mikhail pointed out that there are no major non-BAME groups doing outreach to members of the BAME community who are not "at-risk":
'There are people within the BAME community who are physically, mentally, and financially capable, but nobody is trying to get them into climbing.'
We hope to cover this issue in greater depth in future months as we educate ourselves and speak with BAME outdoor activists and athletes, but in the interim, here's a list of resources - some specific to the outdoor sphere, some related to the wider global anti-racism movement - for people to read, watch and listen to. Most of these outdoor-specific organisations are US-based, but they are nonetheless valuable in our own context. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, we are happy to update this list - please comment in the forums or email us.
Thank you to everyone who helped to compile this list, many of whom are listed below.
BAME Outdoor Athletes and Activists
Here's a list of some BAME athletes and activists who have spoken out about the #BlackLivesMatter movement of late. It's by no means an exhaustive list. While it's important to diversify our climbing reality, please don't flood their inboxes with questions and condolences at this time.
USA and Canada
Kai Lightner - @kailightner (former USA Climbing Team athlete and pro climber)
Meagan Martin - @meaganmartin89 (former USA Climbing Team athlete, pro climber and broadcaster)
Raheim Robinson - @rahrobinson (actor, creative and climber in NYC)
Mikhail Martin - @kaledoesit (founder of Brothers of Climbing)
Sasha - @nibblekit (equity advocate and Brown Girls Climb leader)
Mélise Marie - @meliseymo (climber, neuroscientist and founder of MUSE, a mentorship scheme to increase diversity in STEM)
Irene Yee - @ladylockoff (adventure photographer)
James E. Mills - @joytripproject (journalist and author of The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors)
J. Robert Harris - @jrinthewilderness (backpacker, speaker and author)
Teresa Baker - @teresabaker11 (activist working to increase diversity and inclusion in the outdoor industry)
Summer @summerseeking (non-binary climber)
Kathy Karlo @inheadlights (director of No Mans Land Film Festival)
Sabrina Chapman @sabrinachapman80 (Canadian climber)
Brandon Belcher - @mr.bigstrings (US photographer, climber and outdoor brand rep)
Tonde Katiyo - @tonde_san (professional route setter)
UK and Europe
Molly Thompson-Smith - @mollyts123 (GB Climbing Team member and recipient of the 2019 BMC Rehan Siddiqui award for promoting equality and diversity)
Zoë Peetermans - @peetermanss (GB Climbing Team member)
Mickaël and Bassa Mawem - @lesfreresmawemofficiel (French Climbing team members, both Olympic-qualified for Tokyo 2020)
Anoushé Husain - @anoushehusain (UK paraclimber and public speaker, co-founder of Paraclimbing London)
Zahrah M. - @the_hillwalking_hijabi (Scottish-based hillwalker)
Ayesha K - @eesh_kebab (Leeds-based Canadian)
Xian Goh - @xiangoh (London-based climbing coach)
BAME Outdoor Groups and Organisations
Color the Crag - @colorthecrag
Black Climbers Collective - @blackclimberscollective
Brothers of Climbing - @boccrew
Black Girls Boulder - @blackgirlsboulder
Brown Girls Climb - @browngirlsclimb
Brown Girls Climbing - @browngirlsclimbing1
Brown Girl Outdoor World - @browngirl_outdoorworld
Asian Bouldering Crew - @asianboulderingcrew
The Brown Ascenders - @thebrownascenders
Indigenous Women Hike - @indigenouswomenhike
Clmbxr - @clmbxr (a London-based black-run business and community organising climbing sessions to change the culture of climbing)
Project One Climbing - @projectoneclimbing (a group dedicated to the inclusion, increase and support of BAME people within UK climbing)
Black Girls Hike - @bgh_uk (a Manchester-based diverse walking group for women)
Boots and Beards/Bonnie Boots - @bootsandbeards (Scotland-based diverse walking groups for men and women)
Sheffield Environmental Movement - (working with BAME groups to widen participation in the natural environment)
Backbone - (celebrating diversity through adventure)
Books, Articles and Films
The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James E. Mills.
Way Out There: Adventures of a Wilderness Trekker by J. Robert Harris
An American Ascent - a film about the first African-American expedition to tackle North America's highest peak, Denali.
Climb Your Dreams, Joshua Greenwood/Raheim Robinson - a Banff Film Festival finalist, also selected for the VIMFF World Tour about escaping New York City for the wilderness, with a parallel theme of diversity
'Black Men Walking' theatrical play - a Guardian feature
See an list of non-outdoor specific books on anti-racism
A list of films to watch
Urban Uprising - a UK charity working to give the opportunity for young, underprivileged people to experience and take up climbing
Global organisations, charities and petitions
Sign a petition and campaign for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate number of BAME deaths due to COVID-19
Donate for Free
This YouTube video is donating all ad revenue to bail funds and advocacy projects. It also shares an extensive list of petitions to sign.
Check your Bias
You might be 'not racist' and anti-racist, but you likely still harbour implicit bias as a product of growing up in a predominantly white environment and culture. Take the Harvard implicit bias test on race and skin tone. The test might reveal that you have unknown, implicit preferences for white or lighter skin. If so, try to broaden your social media and media consumption, and try to slow your thinking down. Jennifer Eberhardt, a psychology professor at Stanford University, explains how you can overcome implicit bias in this interview.
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