“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” — James Baldwin and Margaret Mead
As we stand witness to the horrific murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd, we acknowledge the deep injustices and systemic racism embedded in everyday life in America. This inequity appears everywhere: in employment and economic opportunity, in healthcare, in education and in our criminal justice system. We stand in solidarity with our fellow Black and Brown citizens, and all others, in fighting for a more just and equitable society. We would like to share with you how Aspen Skiing Company is rethinking our role going forward.
We have thought hard about how we might address these issues, fully aware that we sit among the elite and privileged, and that we are part of an industry well-known for its lack of diversity. But movements need support from all corners, and none of us should feel detached or exempt from dealing with the pernicious issue of racism. We speak out on climate change because we have influence and often host powerful and connected people. We have welcomed the LGBTQ community in an effort at outreach and understanding. We will use those same strengths to shine a light on racial inequality, support peaceful protest, and ultimately help advocate for and affect broad reform.
On Monday, Aspen Skiing Company shared a quote from James Baldwin, one of the most insightful thinkers on the nature of race in America: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We offer another thought at the head of this letter. Of course, we need to do more than just post a quote. We don’t have all the answers, and we honestly need to better understand how we can be most impactful. Looking through the lens of our guiding principles helps us sort out where we go from here:
- Create New Perspectives. We must start seeing education on these societal issues as an obligation. Here are some resources to begin this process: this Trevor Noah video helps explain how we should prioritize our concerns about the state of the nation; this 14-part podcast “Seeing White” by Scene On Radio describes how whiteness defines perception; and this interview with Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How To Be An Antiracist,” drills down on why being “not racist” is not enough.
- Honor Place. This summer, Aspen Skiing Company will launch a community-wide read: “Between The World And Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a book about American history and ideals and offers a framework for understanding current racial disparities. The subjects of racial, economic, and social justice will become central to our Aspen U speaker series, as we have started to do with LGBTQ issues. When this community engages, it is a powerful force for good.
- Build Connections. Over the past year, our Humanity Board has been working to see, reveal, and address unconscious bias at Aspen Skiing Company. We have already done some training and will host online discussions this summer to help employees understand injustices in our world and reflect on our roles in the system.
- Lead with Action. We will not tolerate any form of bias or racism in the workplace. The Humanity Board and a third-party-managed hotline work to ensure all employees have a voice and a safe path to report any instances of bias or other concerns. Importantly, we will also diversify our workforce through active recruiting efforts.
- Take the Long View. Our community and our country function best with an engaged and informed citizenry. We all have an obligation to learn, participate, and — most importantly — to vote. The act of voting is crucial not only for a healthy democracy, but also for a just society. As we continue our long-standing work to get out the vote and support climate-friendly candidates, we recognize that the work on democracy and progressive policy inextricably links to social justice.
We expect that almost everyone reading this letter regards Aspen as a special place on the planet. We are not naïve as to why skiing and ski towns are seen as the epitome of white privilege: a lack of economic opportunity keeps many visitors from joining us; our community does not provide the range of employment needed to develop a truly diverse community; finally, though our residents are extremely open for those who actually make it here, there is a wide spread perception that our lack of diversity means we will not welcome difference. This must change. We are not experts and are still learning how to be most effective. We are open to input and a more expansive conversation into how we might heal these divides. We are late to this fight, and we have been complacent. We desperately need to expand our perspective. Please know we are here, first to listen and learn, and to make a difference. The point of this letter is to affirm our solidarity with the movement, to acknowledge America’s glaring equity problems, and to outline how we wish to move towards a more humane society. We will persist until social justice is served, and we will not tolerate a return to complacency through silence.
Paula and Jim Crown, for the Crown Family