The B&P mentoring program

Donald Trump has shown, more starkly than almost anything else one could imagine, how deeply structural racial bias and discrimination has been and is, and how it remains in many or even most cases the pivot point for social power in the United States. After the past four years we know more about this, which is to say more about ourselves, than we would under any other circumstances.  Structural bias will in many cases erode away in the face of history, but very slowly, and with the potential for retrograde progress.  It is our responsibility to bend the curve of history, to help social justice along, in consistency and speed.

I’ve been guilty, for a long time, of thinking about wilderness ahistorically, as something which is a precondition for social justice.  I still think this is true, but all too often my assumptions have jumped from wilderness and wild pursuits being physically democratic, insofar as accessibility is concerned, to that accessibility being literally effective.  I grew up spending time outside with my family, going hiking and boating from a very early age.  It wasn’t until I started rock climbing at 12 that I felt ownership over my own learning in the outdoors, and that experience, supported by my family background (read; privilege) allowed me to move on and teach myself canyoneering, mountain biking, hunting, skiing, packrafting, and so forth.  Making the venue and information of and for a given wilderness pursuit accessible is one thing.  Making the self-certainty necessary to teach oneself out there in the wild is another.

That matter is something I would like to help address.

So I’m looking for mentees in 2021, for a small handful of people with aspirations for the backcountry whose background and situation will make achieving those goals more complicated than would be the case for someone like me.  I’m not placing definitive restrictions on the race, orientation, class, or ethnicity who I hope to work with here, but white men are not it.  Yes there has been a lot of attention given to minorities in the outdoors and to social justice within the industry, and a lot of that verbiage has been monolithic and cliched, but the broader point about social justice, that we are neither the agent or architects of the more profound influences on our lives, stands intact.  My hope and intention is to use my experience, something both created and expedited by the circumstances of my birth, to provide an analogous bit of assistance for folks whose place in history would not do the same.

What will this look like?  I don’t know, but am eager to go on a journey with a few folks and find out.  I envision folks having significant and extensive access to my time, over the phone or via Zoom, regarding their hopes, goals, and the personal and skill development they’ll need to get there.  If someone wants to climb the Grand Teton, for example, or packraft the Middle Fork of the Flathead, it is easy to write up a list of hard skills they’ll need to master.  It is less simple to even define the mental aspects and less tangible skills that will be equally essential.  Things like dealing with loneliness and fear; managing layers and bedding during a 48 hour rainstorm; finding a layering system that works to your tastes and physiology.  I envision my roll as having more to do with helping people figure out the most important questions, rather than the more basic process of defining answers.  Perhaps, schedules and COVID concerns allowing, some combination of us might be able to go on a trip, or a few.  If you are based in the vicinity of Helena, Montana, that convenience would allow for more instructional options.

So, if you fit the above criteria and have some adventure goals you think might dovetail well with my knowledge base, send an email to dave at bedrockandparadox dawt com, with Mentorship Application in the subject line, and tell me what your hopes are and how you think I would be effective in assisting you.  This last part is important.  Any reader who has been around a while should be quite familiar with my style, and I think I can assure everyone that my writing does a decent job of representing who I am as a person.  Like any teaching relationship, the person to person dynamic is as important as any more direct factor, and neither of us should waste each others time if it doesn’t seem like we would be a good fit.  That said, in applying I ask for no commitment save to me reading and you writing your words, each with care.

I have no basis for evaluating the interest, but I don’t envision the application period being open for long.  I will update in this post, and notify everyone via email.

9 Comments

  1. How cool! I’ve been supporting the Dzil Ta’ah Youth Bikepacking Program the last year through fundraising to get gear and bikes for the kids and taking them bikerafting once per season (that’s the goal. We did the first tour in the fall). I’ve also just assembled a group of people of color who are already badass in the backcountry, but to take them bikerafting with this black, outdoor journalist in June. I feel much the same you do, that I have a responsibility due to my privileged life in the outdoors, to share what I have with others who might not otherwise experience it. Thanks, Dave, for your inspiring post. And good luck :)

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  2. I have to question your assumption that “structural racial bias and discrimination” is “the pivot point for social power in the United States.” Lots of lefties take this as doctrine without ever having bothered to investigate whether it has any basis in fact. They simply note a disparity (say, that black people are under-represented in wilderness pursuits) and assume this *must* be due to systemic racism.

    You might be interested in this post from a fellow blogger named Scott Alexander explores racial disparities in more depth: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/02/11/black-people-less-likely/

    Keep up the good work, Dave!

    1. Thanks Bob.

      I must admit, I fail to see how Mr. Alexanders post has anything to do with, well, much of anything. In my case, explanations for comparatively small numbers of non-white folks in backpacking/packrafting/whatever are besides the point. The point is that, taken as an average, said folks have more significant barriers to getting into the pursuits.

  3. Very cool. I offered my services in a similar role to an outdoor group that gets people outdoors who normally don’t have the opportunity. Waiting to hear back. I think this type of guiding might be more beneficial than guiding I’ve done in the past.

  4. I think it is great that you want to mentor people who do not have the advantages you did in learning about the outdoors. My question how are you seeking out these people? You don’t specifically say if you are doing more than writing about it in your blog.

    1. I have not mentioned/promoted this anywhere else. That may prove advisable, time will tell. Suggestions are certainly welcome!

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