WEEKLY BLOG EPISODE 21 | BLACK LIVES MATTER

posted in: The Weekly Blog | 3

I wasn’t sure how to tackle this week’s weekly blog, whether to write anything or nothing. It’s been quite a week in this world we call home. And while I’m not normally particularly vocal with political, social or cultural commentary, I know that saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing, so I made the decision to use my little corner of the internet to share some thoughts and resources on Black Lives Matter. This is where I share my life, my experiences, my opinions, and today should be no different.

Last week I posted a couple of short paragraphs on the death George Floyd at the top of my weekly blog, offering some words about hatred and a link to some resources. I know that my own social media feed has not been as full of this issue as some others, but please know that I am paying attention and have been spending a lot of time this week reading, learning, and thinking.

As a white British female, it is more difficult than it should be to express feelings on this topic in an articulate way. The reason I’ve not been all over this in my Instagram captions is because I have found it impossible to explain my horror at what is going on in the world at the moment. Racism, police brutality, tear gas, rubber bullets, curfews, arrests, looting, violence, and the rest, is utterly abhorrent. It might all seem like a long way away – I mean, we can’t even travel to the US at the moment – but the fact is this isn’t a problem confined to America. Racism is, sadly, ingrained in the foundations of society. I do not and have not ever considered myself to be racist, but I know I see it around me, I notice it, it is huge. And the world is waking up to it.

I’m not about to write a blog on how we can fix all this. I can’t and I won’t provide a quick list of the five ways we can help to halt racism, or even explain where all this started or how we ended up here. That’s not my place and not my expertise,. But what I can do ask that you do one thing with me: learn. It is the very least we can do.

School history lessons here in England tend to concentrate on the two World Wars, and while we do hear talk of the British Empire, and we might even touch on the slave trade and the Pilgrim Fathers, we tend to be shown our past through rose tinted glasses. I mean, we might read To Kill a Mockingbird in our English lessons, but it’s not enough. We need to know the other side of the story, and I thank my father for lovingly teaching me the nastier bits so that I’ve grown up understanding that no country has ever been “the goody” throughout, and that people everywhere are equal regardless of race, colour or creed. Some people seem to think that because the English had something to do with the abolition of slavery that means we are not racist country, and because we have not been taught American or Jamaican or Indian history that it can’t have been that bad.

We only have to hear some people talk about immigration for a few minutes and it’s right there, open, obvious and in our faces. It’s also incredibly subtle, in our humour, in our search for diverse photos for a project to make sure we have a token Black person, in not acknowledging that privilege leads to success (sorry, but it’s not all about hard work), in the afore mentioned History syllabus, even in the decision to stay out of politics (which I admit I do a lot of the time).

We must educate ourselves, however uncomfortable that might make us feel. It isn’t the only thing we should be doing at this time, there are a huge number of ways we can do our part, but it is a very important thing, and it is where I am starting. Through education we can be better informed, and only then can we see the full picture. There are lots of books and articles on topics covering racism, society, black history, white power, and injustice. Penguin have compiled this list of books here which seem like a sensible book shelf to begin with.  

The other thing I’m taking action on straight away, is to do something about my very white Instagram feed. It sounds ridiculous, but my feed, which is predominantly outdoors and travel themed because that is my escape, is not very diverse at all. It’s not completely white, but there are very few Black people on there. This has never been intentional, but still, it is the truth. I could very easily blame the terrible lack of diversity in the outdoors industry, which is a very important conversation we need to be having with our favourite brands and organisations, and I am pleased to see one or two pipe up this week and say they are intending to do something about that. I’ve had lots of fun today seeking out new people to follow, and I have found a lovely bunch of adventure and travel instagrammers to make my feed richer.

I know that following a handful of BIPOC on Instagram isn’t going to solve this thing, by any stretch of the imagination, neither is reading a few articles about systematic racism on a Sunday afternoon. But having a more genuinely diverse range of images in your feed, by giving a signal boost to this community to make people who look different more visible, we can help to wear away the outdoors is white bias. It is one small step in the right direction and towards becoming an ally.

If you are looking for a starting point on where you can help, or resources to learn about the issues, there is a useful resource list curated by Caolan McKendry here, a list of educational resources and relevant organisations curated by Ms Adetoro here, and I’ve found posts by @wastefreemarie on Instagram very useful as a starting point.

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CALL YOURSELF OUT (Part1/3) Dear the adventure, travel and outdoors community, ⠀ We are failing. We need to do more. ⠀ The silence from the majority of key influencers in our community on the Black Lives Matter movement is shocking. We have to do more than post a black square and consider a box ticked – where are the meaningful conversations around diversity in this space? It feels like there is a genuine shot at change right now, let’s be part of that. ⠀ And that means having difficult conversations about the the fact that white privilege has dominated the travel and adventure world for too long. If you’re white it’s likely you’ve been and are the problem. I know I have been/am. ⠀ I share this story, not to centre myself but in the hope the reflections and learnings may prevent others from doing the same. Two years ago I was part of a multinational team guided by the Wai Wai community on expedition in Guyana. Ego got in the way and I was posting far too many photos and stories of myself and not of our guides. Doing so only perpetuated a history of colonialism and racism that has existed in our industry for too long. Like so many aggressions perpetuated by “well-meaning” white people, it was unintentional but the impact was still racist.For this I was, and still am, sorry. Ella Al-Shamahi (@littlemsfossil) was the only person to (rightly) call me out on this. She should not have had to do this. However, I am so grateful she did. If you don’t already follow her please do, she’s someone who I respect and admire in this industry and has consistently and repeatedly stood for what’s right. Her comments sparked a journey of learning (and unlearning) for me on both this issue and my past body of work – and although I’m likely still failing on this we, as a privileged community that has the ability to travel, have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable – we can no longer remain silent or we are continuing to be the problem. ⠀ (See part 2/3)

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And if you’re interested in BLM and the outdoors industry, this post by @pipstewart is interesting, and this post from @fieldmag has some amazing outdoorsy people you might find are missing from your Instagram feed.

Please don’t think that by posting this I’m looking for praise or reinforcement or likes. Rather, as someone with an online space and a series of regular “this is normal life” posts, it seemed only right that I put my hand up and said racism is wrong, let’s do something about it. And as we can only start at home, that is where I am. Thank you for reading.

3 Responses

  1. Shybiker

    This is the PERFECT response. The first step toward addressing a subject as serious as racism is to educate ourselves. You make that clear. The second step, which you also take, is to “raise your hand” and be counted among those who recognize the problem as a problem. Too many privileged people are failing to do either of these things. Kudos!

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