Voice of Leadership: Sidestepping Stereotypes and Propelling Outdoor Diversity
Do we want to increase outdoor diversity, or are we just paying lip service to the matter? This is a question I ask myself. Most people are familiar with the ongoing efforts within the hunting and outdoor industries to increase the racial diversity among America's hunters and outdoors people. Many have noticed how disproportionately “white” hunting and the outdoors have become. This unequal participation is a cause for concern, and many have taken steps to get more minorities actively engaged in the outdoors. While these steps involve a lot of talking, planning and the forming of organizations to work toward diversity, how successful are we?
The problem is that many are doing a lot of talking without producing results. Over the past 11 years that I have been working to bring racial diversity to hunting and the outdoors, I have heard countless speeches about the importance of increasing outdoor diversity. I have also heard just about every excuse imaginable as to why companies cannot produce results. “Oh, they [minorities] just aren't interested in the outdoors” and “Well, they [minorities] can’t afford the equipment needed to participate” are two excuses that I commonly hear. Minorities are interested and can afford the necessary gear. I believe such excuses allow companies and agencies to stay within their comfort zones without producing results.
Jim Curcuruto, executive director of the Outdoor Stewards of Conservation Foundation, said, “It is hard to believe we are talking about almost the same issues with diversity recruitment today as we were more than a decade ago.”
Some progress has been made but more needs to be done, including featuring more diverse images on outdoor-related websites and in marketing efforts, adding diverse staff members, partnering with organizations focused on diversity recruitment such as N.onT.ypical Outdoorsman, and adding people of color to executive teams or boards of governors. With the rise in firearms ownership since the pandemic, there has never been a better time to grow hunting and shooting sports, but it will require more action.
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