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Diversity is not a hashtag: an open letter to the outdoor community.

I could give you an introduction: some background about my personal life, places I have hiked, my favourite piece of gear; or I can start with a story. Maybe that will help us both to get somewhere -- to an understanding about the space I take up outdoors and why it matters that we see each other in that space, without filter.

On my first day of school in Canada (in North York, Toronto) my father came with me. As we were about to enter the main lobby, he pointed to a sign in black and white that insinuated that I was about to enter a “racism and discrimination free zone.”

My dad read that sign loud. Looking me in the eye, he explained what it meant as I didn’t speak English all that well, then. My father reminded me that the sign was there precisely because there would be racism and discrimination in the space I was about to enter. I knew it pained him to say that, because he knew there was very little he could do conceivably to shield and protect me, that there would be people who hate me for who I am, that things will happen to me based on how I might be perceived. That was my first lesson in absent signifiers; my first experience of empty statements that might be good in intent, but ultimately do more to gloss over difficult issues than work to tackle them.

You see, the outdoors is like that, too--except there are no posted signs about diversity or discrimination. Instead there are people who tell me that there is nothing political or politicised about the outdoors. Leave politics out of it, they tell me. Go outside to escape the politics¸ they offer, hoping to sound helpful or consoling.

Read the full article from Amiththan Sebarajah on Sole's website here.

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October 21, 2023

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