Part III: The Outdoor Industry, Colonized

January 31, 2019

Camber Outdoors,

You'll be introducing a CEO DEI pledge tomorrow without involving any of the entities/individuals who you supposedly wish to become instrinsically a part of your so called mission, "everyone's outdoors."

In attending your work equity work group on two separate occasions, whether implicitly or explicitly, you have not once expressed any intention to partner or work as an ally of the communities that you purportedly wish to target with your DEI efforts. In fact, it appears you have disregarded such voices completely without apologies. Your work groups are filled with white-led DEI propaganda with just 3 of us POCs as your form of tokenism: we were there at the table and yet our knowledge and experience on the subject matter were underutilized, but more often dismissed.

You consistently say DEI is the most important topic in the industry and yet you allocate no funds to hire DEI experts to lead the change.

Moreover, you disregarded the CEO pledge created via Diversify Outdoors, one that could have added authenticity to your work should you have wanted your effort to go beyond mere marketing. Instead of choosing to be an ally, you decided to duplicate the idea of a pledge. Therefore, via self proclamation, you deemed yourself the entity that's righteous and qualified to assume such responsibility. You yourself created the exclusion that you are intending to overcome.

You have the money, the power and the influence. Hence, you decided to use all that privilege to minimize the involvement of communities of color in DEI efforts. In contrast, communities of color hardly possess the power that you hold. And no matter how much we wish to mobilize, the power dynamics is such that you and only you can win the race.

You have demonstrated the enormity of your privilege. One day you were a feminist driven entity. The next day you decide to proclaim yourself an expert on racial diversity et. al. And you expect no one to question that privilege or your lack of expertise on your new pursuits impacting marginalized groups that fit your profit based business model. The lack of accountability in this powerful industry protects your every move and you know that for sure.

You are drunk in the overflowing power that you are consuming right this minute, disregarding the real essence of what it means to be a real DEI advocate or a change maker.

Let's be clear of one thing, however - you took it upon yourself to place yourself on that pedestal to indulge in the recognition that your loyal blind followers are about to give you.

Tomorrow you will rejoice in the power you have taken from its rightful owners.

Unconscionable. And utterly undeserved.

While you sit in your throne tomorrow unfettered by your unconscionable actions and at the expense of people like me, we, whom you fondly refer to as "underrepresented", misrepresented or whatever vague and safe term you tend to use will quietly listen to your narcissistic rhetoric and hypocritical commitment to DEI as we see the unveiling of an unforgettable moment:

The Outdoor Industry, Colonized

Dear signatories:

Joining this superfluous Outdoor Equity CEO pledge is as much of a problem as the DEI itself. Along with Camber, you are signing on to protect the powers of the status quo: white dominated outdoor industry leadership. Don't believe the hype that this pledge will create social justice because it won't. But as a witness to the creation of it, I can guarantee you it will yield the industry's bottom line: money. In other words, you’re making a pivotal decision that will either divide or unite all of us.


Marinel Malvar de Jesus, Esq. (A lover of the outdoors worldwide and your consumer).

Note: I became a member of the Camber work equity group which so far conducted two sessions: summer 2018 and the most recent one in January of 2019. I am also a member of the steering committee for the Outdoor CEO Pledge via Diversify Outdoors. I simultaneously participated in both programs to advance the work on DEI. My conclusions set forth above are based on my first hand experience with the Camber work group sessions and one on one conversations with the leaders of Camber and the Outdoor Industry Association. In my interactions with Camber and OIA, I have insisted that both organizations address the disconnect in the DEI work and the lack of POC voices in Camber’s work group; but with no positive results.

Below is an earlier posting that I wrote before publishing the letter above:

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) stance on DEI:

Camber Outdoors should run the show to increase racial diversity in the outdoor industry.

It's my second time attending this DEI workshop via Camber Outdoors and the people leading the talk and the participants themselves are all white with the exception of 3 POCs who do not work as part of any outdoor companies. Hence, all reps from outdoor companies who are working on the increase of POCs are all irony that no one in the room seems to find eerie. No matter how knowledgeable you may be on the DEI topic, without directly experiencing the struggles/inequities as a POC yourself, your understanding of DEI and its nuances cannot even come close to being "adequate."

Reports were made that invites were sent to a number of POCs - an effort that yielded very minimal participation. If indeed this invite was made, then it is incumbent upon the POCs themselves to show up and make sure their voices are heard. Otherwise, this work group that hardly represents POCS will forge on with its measures and procedures to effectuate DEI without adequate input from those directly impacted.

On the other hand, I fully concede that it is also a valid point to argue that Camber Outdoors should make greater and better efforts to invite and welcome POCs to the table. After all, if you're an entity that is working towards DEI, you yourself have to practice the "best practices" you're preaching-- do recruitment, do better if first time doesn't work. If it still doesn't work, do it some more.

With OIA's lack of leadership on this issue, the industry's effort towards DEI is fragmented. I'm no longer hesitant to draw this conclusion:

DEI is far from being treated as a social justice issue. It's merely for the sake of profits and business driven goals.

This is why POCs must start their own companies and assume roles as CEOs and leaders to create real change. Start an outdoor company. Start a media company. Start a conservation group/organization. Start anything as long as you are the leader. Yes, start your own outdoor CEO pledge and run DEI efforts the way POCs see fit.

We cannot rely on the current gatekeepers (herein, mostly whites) to affect real change because whatever change is being created, there's only one bottom line: money. And I can tell you right now, the gatekeepers are perfectly fine with that. But are you as a POC?

POCs get invited to the party to eat and dance but the gatekeepers in this industry are just not ready anytime soon to allow for power dynamics to steer away from them.

Addendum: Camber Outdoors is an outdoor organization focused on women's leadership and advancement in the outdoors. They created a CEO pledge to create inclusion for women in the industry which seem to have led to successful outcomes. In 2018, Camber decided to expand and take charge of the racial diversity issue and take that on without much change in their staffing's diversity and leadership. The director is a woman and aptly capable of working on women's issues with her experience and background but racial diversity is a whole different thing, and to this date, no POC in a leadership capacity is involved in the DEI work on behalf of Camber. A typical symptom of the outdoor entities/orgs is this: their recruitment/DEI liason/coordinator/manager is white. Perhaps we should start first with who we put in this role and redefine "qualifications" for it as race issues are complex. When white people lead white dominated outdoor companies on racial diversity efforts, it only means one thing: A blind leading the blind. And the people that are impacted (to wit, POCs) are ironically the ones excluded in an effort to include. 

Want to learn more? Read the following:

Part 1: When Money Is the Bottom Line: The Inclusion Problem in the Outdoor Industry

Part 2: Will OIA Take a Stance?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: 26 Ways (& More) to be an Ally in the Outdoor Industry

Marinel DeJesusComment