After spending the last week reflecting, listening, learning, reading, and watching, we wanted to reach out to all of you – our wonderful friends, family, and the snowboard industry as a whole – to chat about some things we want and need to address both independently, and together.
As you may know, the entire reason we started Niche was because we cared about both the environment, and snowboarding. And at the time, there were no companies striving to make all their products less harmful to the planet. We wanted, and still want, to push the industry forward, to inspire change, and to make lasting impacts within a space we are passionate about. And we have staunchly fought against performative activism and greenwashing by incorporating transparency into every part of our business. But while we’ve been working on impacting environmental change, we have failed to address a few other things that are directly related, and have missed the mark on true intersectional environmentalism.
Before we get to the connections between environmentalism and race, let’s address something not so mind-blowing: the snowboard industry is an insanely privileged, and overwhelmingly white space. And yet, in spite of this, snowboarding has also heavily appropriated black culture alongside other cultures for years, via music, graphics, and outerwear trends. And exactly how many BIPOC snowboarders do you see each time you go out on the hill, each time you watch a snowboard film, and each time you watch the X Games? Probably not that many; the representation is low, and heavily skewed. And in what ways are we giving back to these cultures when we take inspiration from them to sell our products?
How welcoming is the outdoor space, really, for people of color? That’s probably hard for us to truly comprehend, as white folks. We can understand as women in the snowboard industry, that sometimes these male-dominated spaces can feel intimidating and un-relatable. So how must it feel to be black or brown on top of that, in a sea of whiteness? We have always tried to support and showcase a global, diverse community of athletes, but there is definitely a much higher percentage of white athletes than there are BIPOC athletes. We want and need to do better at leveling this playing field, of showcasing a more welcoming and representative space to ALL groups of people, as we have always wanted our brand to be a space for anyone and everyone.
Now, as an environmentally-focused company, we have failed to address the fact that environmental issues tend to dovetail issues of racial inequality, because issues of race and class are often exploited by weak environmental protections. From Dr. Robert Bullard, who is a black scholar, activist, and the father of environmental justice, when asked why race matters when we talk about the environment, “I think it matters when we deal with the environment because the environment impacts everything— where we live, where we work, where we play, where we learn and where we worship. When certain populations are somehow provided less protection from say pollution, it’s because of race. Or at different times when locally unwanted land use is targeted for different reasons, like refineries and pipelines, it’s because of race and this becomes an issue around justice. Protection should not be distributed because of the color of your skin. Everyone deserves a clean, healthy, sustainable and livable environment. That’s why race matters.”
People of color face more air pollution than white people, and black people bear the biggest environmental burden of any group, according to a study by EPA scientists. In 46 states, people of color deal with more air pollution than white people do, this 2018 study found. Communities of color overall often face greater and more immediate impacts due to environmental concerns, and we need to do a better job of acknowledging this, and including BIPOCs in our discussions regarding environmentalism.
As a brand, we want and need to be better. And the entire snowboard and outdoor industry needs to do better, too. We plan to commit to addressing these issues with our global community by better educating ourselves on issues of race and the places where race meets environmentalism, participating in hard discussions about both of those things, working to provide a safe and representative space for all people to be a part of, amplifying voices that exist in this space and have gone unheard, reaching out to new voices, and finding places we are able to positively contribute towards change and creating a more equal society for all human beings.
We have failed to do as much as we should have been doing until now to work towards real change for others who have been suffering, and we hope this kind of honesty can open the door for others to reflect on them/ourselves, to let go of the inherent white fragility so many of us have been holding on to, and to do better. Though surely at times we will continue to fail, and won’t be perfect, we are sure as hell going to try. We invite the rest of our non BIPOC friends and brands to do the same. Black lives matter. This is a start, but let’s not let this conversation end here. Let’s chat, and keep things going, together.
WAYS WE CAN ALL HELP: