This morning I was greeted to a wall of comments waiting to be approved on my post the other day titled Have you taken the Ku Klux Klan rafting? The comments were not conciliatory. Mike Joseph, the founder of Dirt Bag paddler magazine decided to link to my post after previously stepping back from doing so. I wish to state for the record that Mike and I are on good terms with one another, as we have always been. Mike has been a great supporter of my writing from day one and for that I will always be appreciative.
The Dirt Bags have a new article up titled, One love, one river – The paddling community, race and reconciliation. Funny; I was unaware that there was any need for reconciliation. As far as I know there is no history of discrimination, racial or otherwise, in the paddling community.
In my article the other day I called Kelsey Gaffigan a trouble-maker and a hypocrite and I backed up those accusations with formulated arguments. I stand by everything that I wrote. In the Dirt Bag article today I am accused of being a sexist, a misogynist, repugnant, vile, and condescending, along with the accusation of being a borderline racist. No formulated arguments explaining why I am these things is provided. These ad hominem attacks were made by someone called Javan Robinson, a black man who has been kayaking for two years. Javan provides some background to his kayaking career:
The community and especially our club The Keel Haulers has been extremely helpful in me becoming a (somewhat) skilled and safe whitewater paddler. I was actually shocked how normal everyday people would take time out of their schedules to meet up with a person that they didn’t even know and teach them how to roll for weeks on end.
I wholeheartedly appreciate what the community has done for me and I love returning the favor, both to newcomers to this sport and experienced paddlers alike.
Javan demonstrates his appreciation for the openness and hospitality that he encountered in the whitewater community by accusing the same community of being complicit and responsible for all the problems that black people encounter in their lives.
With that said, I think I would be remiss in saying that I didn’t take a look around and realize that there aren’t very many people that are like me – or that look like me, on the river. This is something that I’ve been accustomed to throughout my life however, so it did not come as a huge surprise to me that most paddlers were white men and women.
While I never did experience any discontent or negative attitudes towards myself while out on the river, I did wonder from time to time, “Will I ever see another black person paddling?” It’s not something that keeps me up at night, but I think there are positive, constructive discussions to be had about the issue.
Poor Javan must feel so oppressed. He turned up to learn how to paddle, and by his own admission found everyone to be perfectly welcoming to him, but nonetheless he is pining for more black people to become kayakers. And although it apparently does not keep him up at night, he is concerned enough to now declare it to be “an issue”.
I’m not saying that it is impossible for a black person or a minority to become adept at a “white man’s” sport (look at me!), but making it easier, approachable and more accessible would go a long way.
Somehow Javan managed to find a way to get involved in this sport without anyone pandering to his skin color, but he cannot give his brothers and sisters from the black community similar credit to be able to push themselves to get up off their backsides and go paddling.
What follows is a directionless rant that swings from one racial injustice to the next while finishing with a demand that we must go out of our way to accept people of color and minorities.
I’m sorry, Javan, but I’m a little bit confused. You began your piece by gratefully acknowledging the acceptance you received from the paddling community but now you’re demanding acceptance from the paddling community. Sounds like you’ve got a bit of a chip on your shoulder, mate. Why am I not surprised?
On the DBP Facebook feed the other day someone declared themselves to be a female Indian ethnic kayaker. I found that to be striking in its divisiveness. I don’t go around declaring myself to be a white heterosexual male Anglo-Saxon Celtic ethnic riverguide. I’m simply a riverguide – that’s it. My identity is bound to what I do, not tribal or identity politics.
We had a saying when I was a full time riverguide – what happens on the river stays on the river. But perhaps that saying now needs to be reversed – what happens off the river stays off the river. If you identify as anything other than a paddler, or a kayaker, or a riverguide, then you’re seeking special privileges based on identity politics. It’s ironic that I should be constantly accused of needing to “check my privilege” when these same people are seeking to give minority groups privilege status based on their identity and thus creating division within the paddling community. But then, SJWs always lie.
Mike Joseph at the end of the piece declares that the magazine will not become a pamphlet of Social Justice Warrior based themes. I’m sorry, Mike, but you’ve already been infiltrated by them. There has never been division or discrimination in the whitewater community until now. And I for one know exactly what has changed.
To finish this off I will quote in full the one positive comment that I approved this morning. It is from a man who does not treat himself as a victim, no matter his circumstances. The whitewater community owes any minority group exactly nothing. All that can be expected of us is to be welcoming and accommodating to newcomers when they are trying out whitewater paddling for the first time. As Javan experienced first hand.
This is from Paul, a first time commenter on my site:
I am Hispanic and father of 4 beautiful children. We live in the poor part of town, just across from me is the local Drug Dealer that no Law Enforcement in the area of Roseburg, OR or Douglas County will do much of anything about. Our family started off with a Big 5 Sports “Intex SeaHawk II” (now the Intex Mariner 3) for $200.00 and away we went on the North Umqpua with some life jackets. I saved money. Used Contractor Grade Trash Bags and cut holes for “Splash Tops.” Met the owner of 4Corners Whitewater out of Durango Colorado and he shared with me their annual sale of all the seasons gear. I started a small business Steadfast ARPwave and saved some money and purchased used gear at 50% off for my children. We scoured the internet for a Whitewater Raft that could take us to the more juicy sections of the North Umpqua and we found a newly redesigned 9’6″ Saturn Whitewater Raft and purchased it for $1,100.00 and I found out about Werner Guide Sticks and saved for those…we slowly but surely improved our gear and skill set…we are the River Warrior Family on YouTube. The truth is…minorities do not need a hand out and the Whitewater is not a “white sport.” What I do know after a few years of doing this as a Single Father is that whitewater adventure is a lot of work. Just to take my children out for a World-class Class III section of river on the North Umpqua requires 2 hours of prep time the night before and approximately 8-12 hours the day of our run. We love it and will do this for years to come. I make jokes that I am a Pioneer in this sport being hispanic and even more so with small children as a Single Father. Truth is around here…people are taught from a very young age to be terrified of the river in all its raging white-ness🙂 To me and the children there could not be a more fantastic adventure. Every body finds time and money for that which their intellect or emotion desire in this life…the River Warrior Family choose the rivers of the world🙂 God bless & God Speed C U Down River