This month, Shaver’s Creek is hosting a book club featuring Black Faces, White Spaces by Dr. Carolyn Finney, which focuses on the underrepresentation of African Americans in the outdoors. Every Thursday of this month, we will meet on Zoom to discuss our reactions and personal connection to the content of the book. Dr. Finney herself will join us for the last meeting for an intimate conversation with book club participants. If you are not able to join us for the book club meeting but would still like to be part of the conversation, a weekly summary of book club conversations will be posted on the blog for you to read. We would love for you to share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Week 3 Summary
Last week, the book club met for its last content discussion. We used the second half of Black Faces, White Spaces as inspiration for this session, however, the conversation carried similar themes as last week. In the short time that we had, we dove deeper into topics such as representation, intention, and fear.
Early on in the session, the topic of representation, specifically in outdoor company catalog ads, came to the forefront. One participant shared that she couldn’t help but feel angry as she flipped through a catalog to find that a majority of the models depicted were people of color. She was not angry because they were being represented, but because it seemed like the intention of this was to check a diversity box for the outdoor company; that it was ungenuine to include these models. While some nodded in agreement, others were quick to chime in with differing opinions. One shared that they felt we should be careful when pushing back on this. Although we can correct or suggest a more appropriate approach, we should not be pushing away those that are at least trying to make a difference. Personally, I shared how I was glad that we were in a place where we could have a conversation about the intention of selecting BIPOC models for outdoor magazines, rather than the continuous lack of representation. Another came forward to share that, in her opinion, diversity was never disingenuous. As a black individual, she was always thinking about the demographics she was trying to reach as she prepared presentations for others; why shouldn’t the magazines?
One participant, when asked for his opinion, shared that he was a little confused on what the problem was. First it is an issue that BIPOC individuals were not being represented, but now that they are, people are upset about that as well. To him, this seemed like a step in the right direction, and he didn’t quite understand the hesitation in celebrating that victory. He went on to disclose that he lives in a culturally isolated town and recognized that he may not be getting the full story, but feels that the violence and hatred that has been unfolding recently has almost taken us back in time 50 years. What about the progress we have made? To this, a brave individual spoke up to share that he, too, lives in a predominantly white neighborhood, and he shared stories of the discrimination that he experiences on a regular basis as a black male in his own town. These stories are real, and they are happening now whether we see them or not.
This topic was steered in a similar, but different, direction when two white individuals that had not shared were asked their opinion. Both of them shared that often times they are afraid of doing and saying the wrong thing because they do not want to be a part of the problem. Or they worry that what they contribute will not be enough. Instead, they take a back seat in the conversation. It took a little while to digest this, but after thanking those two for their vulnerability, a woman chimed in to explain that the fear of doing the wrong thing is a lesser fear in this conversation. BIPOC individuals have a legacy of hurt forced upon them and go day-to-day with fear for the life and freedoms of their loved ones and themselves. Letting fear cripple the conversation is dangerous. There is neither growth nor healing when fear is the determining factor. “If your heart is in the right place, you won’t be part of the problem,” she stated.
We could have gone on for hours, but we unfortunately ran out of time. Ultimately, it seemed that the individuals in the room were left with a lot to think about. How were they contributing to the issue at-large? Are steps forward with questionable intentions still steps forward? How can we get over the fear that often cripples our desire to speak up? While we may not all have answers to these questions yet, joining the conversation is a great first step.
We’re getting ready for Carolyn Finney to visit the book club and go over all we’ve discussed! If you are interested in joining the conversation on Thursday, April 29, at 7:00 p.m. (ET) via Zoom, please register by visiting the link below.