It has been nearly a year since I began a series of columns on diversity in the Adirondacks. Much has happened since then, most notably a challenging, motivating and well-received symposium held in August, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks.”
The symposium was a good start to addressing the important challenges in making the Adirondack Park more welcoming and inclusive, thereby increasing the Park’s role in the betterment of the lives of all New Yorkers and giving it a richer, more robustly supported future. But if a good day of conversation was all we accomplished it would amount to very little. So a number of initiatives are underway to the further the work. It is our sincere wish to make diversity part of the cultural DNA of the Adirondacks, as surely for human beings as it is for the natural world.
Over the next months you will hear much more about these initiatives here at the Adirondack Almanack. Starting today I will be offering a monthly column, Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks. Many different people will be contributing, offering a variety of perspectives on diversity and inclusion in the region.
Dave Gibson wrote a fine review of the symposium a month ago. His big take away was that diversity is not inclusion; diversity by itself is not enough. You can read his article here. Today’s column will not be another synthesis. Instead I will offer some excerpts from notes taken of the day’s proceedings, without comment. I do this to offer food for thought as we look forward.
This selection is by no means comprehensive enough to be representative of the richness of the day. Also please note that these are not direct quotes, thus they are paraphrases and interpretations – mostly mine – from my notes and the notes of others.
Voices from the Symposium
I don’t yet feel valued in the Adirondacks. I am accommodated, but not celebrated.
Children are increasingly without any direct contact with nature. Handhelds are a diversion from their harsh reality. Phones are getting smarter, not people…
People who came to work in the mines were ethnically very diverse: Poland, Cuba, Western Europe. They respected each other and their cultures. But being black was not afforded respect.
We all need training. Are the police departments providing diversity training? Are big institutions doing training? Hotels are training staff. Is there diversity training in the schools?
We start by acknowledging that we are unconsciously incompetent on this issue. We have to be each other’s allies. We have to work together on this.
I’m a white male. This is not about guilt. It’s about moral outrage. In my home county the graduation rate for black males 14 to 18 years of age is the same as the incarceration rate. I my old inner city neighborhood, life expectancy is ten to fifteen years less than in the suburbs a few miles away.
Moral outrage is not good enough. What’s the bottom line? What is the economic incentive?
What’s your music? You can tell from body language. What are you doing to help me feel safe?
There is still a lot of racism here. It is covered up.
What are you doing to make others feel more welcome?
People don’t know how to talk to gay people.
I don’t want to be a token.
Gays didn’t exist before 1971.
We don’t want color blindness. I’m really proud of the color of my skin.
We grow up orphans in our families. We are everywhere.
I am afraid of the stereotypes that people have in their heads about me.
This is about trust.
Will you come into my house when I open up to you on Thanksgiving?
I remember growing up here was very difficult. My father was fearful of the criminal justice system.
Diversity is not inclusion. I never felt included. I was not invited to parties. I was not part of the basic social life of the community.
Privilege itself is not evil. It’s the stuff that goes with it. Who gets it? How do I feel about my privilege? How do I wield it? It’s something everyone wants.
Privilege establishes a gradient that says that there are haves and have-nots. White heterosexual males reside at the apex of privilege.
I have a hard time between me and white people. It’s ingrained. Our trust has been violated so many times. I have been in situations with people friendly to me but the n-word slips out. This is very very difficult, for black people to trust white people. We can do things together. But you’ve got to prove it to me.
This is everyone’s future. Everyone deserves a voice. What are our responsibilities to nature and future generations? The Adirondacks are the poster child for conservation, the great experience. Here we faced acid rain and won. We all need to be there.
Is history important? There is much diversity in the Adirondack past. But the dominant paradigm became the Anglo-Saxon, proud, risk taking, self-made, white, straight, male.
There was a movement where environmental purity was paired with desire for racial purity, this at a time of massive immigration.
Adirondack women were largely left out of the story. For example, their names were often not put on deeds.
I’m a little uncomfortable talking about demographics. How do we insure that they help us to protect the Adirondacks? Tell me how you feel about me. Don’t tell me about statistics. I want to hear you say that you want me here for what I contribute, who I am and what I can provide.
Something magic happens in the forest. Get the kids away from their screens or the hood. The quiet is what affects them. To them it is quiet when something bad has happened. So this takes a couple of exposures. Get them outdoors. When they come back the conversation is different. Now it isn’t hard to get them to come up again.
People of color have resided here from the first days of European occupation as workers.
Broaden your awareness by coming up here. Fly fishing is not just about fishing, it’s about critical thinking. It’s more than recreation, it’s real education
Here is the T-shirt worn by Albany’s Nubian Empire Ski Club: “Who says we don’t?”
We need more staff training. We don’t do multiple languages on our displays. We need French, Spanish, and Chinese.
When straight white privileged people talk about diversity they mean others. Use humanity.
Someone analyzed marketing materials for the Park. There were 859 pictures with people. Almost all were white. In 58 photos race or ethnicity couldn’t be determined. 11 could have been non-white but it was hard to tell. There were no pictures of someone with a disability. There were 49 photos depicting Euro American history – canons, redcoats and so on – only one picture made mention of Iroquois. One caption talked about the Underground Railway Museum. One made mention of women’s suffrage. None directly depicted Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people.
Majority-minority is a political reality in New York State in next 15 years, by 2030. They need to become connected to the ADKs. This park is their park. How are we perceived by the rest of the State?
Be realistic. Big grand visions don’t work. Start with yourself. How do you incorporate it internally?
This is a model of the world for environmental land use policy. Can we stretch and open up and insist on it being a model of hope?