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Our Commitment to Change

            Black Lives Matter. This isn’t a belief or personal opinion; it is a fact. And here at RMI we feel it is time for us to speak up about it. The last few weeks have been incredibly painful and emotional, but for the Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities in our nation, the last few weeks are representative of daily life – this is just one of the times the rest of us decide to tune in. The murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others are not isolated events. They are the painful and violent windows into the systemic racism that underlies nearly every part of our lives. It is especially noticeable in the outdoors.

 

            We have always seen nature, and specifically the mountains, as the ultimate equalizers. The mountains do not care about your race, ethnicity, gender, economic background, sexuality, or disability. If the mountains do not want you to summit, no amount of wealth or privilege will get you to the top. But the mountains, and their equalizing power, come at the end of the approach, and what we often forget is that the approach is much longer for some of us than for others. So many of us take our privilege for granted, the privilege that allows us to simply put on our boots and start climbing. But for millions of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, there are countless barriers between them and the mountains. Economic restraints, white-washed media, a lack of outdoor education, subtle racism on trails and in parks, and a plethora of other issues conspire to keep BIPOC out of the outdoors. According to a 2014 national park study,  91% of all national park visitors in the Pacific Northwest are white. This needs to change.

 

            We have been asked, rightly so, why we have not released a statement clarifying our position sooner. We did not feel it was right to say something without first educating ourselves and understanding the barriers faced by BIPOC in the outdoors. The need for this education can be seen as an indictment of our own complacency over the years. A few weeks is not enough time to call ourselves fully educated on the topic, but we are trying. Here at RMI Expeditions, Whittaker Mountaineering, and Bight Gear we are now in the process of gaining that education with the goal of taking significant actions to reduce barriers and increase representation of BIPOC in the outdoors.

 

            We want to use our voice and our capital in a more meaningful way than a one-time donation or post, because this issue is endemic.  To design and implement the kind of long-term, high impact program we have in mind, we need time. We will be releasing an action plan in the coming weeks and look forward to your suggestions and ideas, as we still have a lot to learn about our privilege and the ways we can best help our BIPOC outdoor community. And once our action plan is released, we ask that you check in on us and hold us accountable, whether that is in two months, two years, or two decades.

 

            The mountains have the potential to provide adventure, fulfilment, growth, and wonder to people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. It is high time we help BIPOC communities grasp that potential.

 

Sincerely,

Peter Whittaker

Owner of Bight Gear, RMI Expeditions, and Whittaker Mountaineering


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