Scott Stanford: Brotherhood helps us see 'Boat

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Scott Stanford

Scott Stanford is general manager of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Call him at 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com

The revelation this week that the Rev. Al Sharpton is a descendant from slaves once owned by the family of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, a renowned segregationist, caught my attention.

It would be appropriate irony, not unlike the Rev. Ted Haggard story, if DNA tests reveal Sharpton and Thurmond are, in fact, related.

I grew up in the state that delivered Thurmond to the U.S. Senate for term after term after term. It's a state that fired the first shots in the Civil War and still flies the confederate flag.

In South Carolina in the 1970s and early 1980s, laws may have changed, but society, like Thurmond, had not.

Sixty percent of my hometown was white; 40 percent was black. Beyond school and work, there was little evidence of integration. Our churches, our neighborhoods, our nightclubs and our social activities remained segregated. For the most part, whites lived north of King Street and blacks lived south of it. My high school had three, all-white sororities whose segregated formal dances were more important to white teens than the integrated prom.

I never saw a Klan rally, but I did see roadside signs advertising them.

When I graduated from high school in 1983, I did not know other places were different from Camden, S.C. But they were, and that's a good thing.

Camden has grown in the past 24 years. When I go home to visit my family, more neighborhoods are integrated, including the one I grew up in. My nieces and nephews are far more color-blind than my generation. They move comfortably in a much more integrated youth social structure. Progress comes slower than it should, but it comes.

Even Thurmond - who, we learned after his death, fathered a daughter with his family's black housekeeper - softened as he grew older.

I would not change the experience of growing up where I did. I love my hometown - more than anything else, it shaped my beliefs, my politics and my sense of right and wrong. It shaped my character. I enjoy going back there. I enjoy seeing the changes. I believe the South was a better place when I was growing up than it was when my parents were and that it's a better place now than when I was young.

If anything, I wish I could give my daughters more of that experience.

So many people say Steamboat is a great place to raise kids. I don't disagree. But I do worry that being raised in such an exclusively affluent, white community ill prepares them for a world that often is neither.

The U.S. Census says 97.2 percent of our population is white. Fewer than 20 black people call Steamboat home - less than one-tenth of 1 percent of our population. In such an environment, issues of race are, at best, theoretical discussions.

The National Brotherhood of Skiers is in town this week. The group is an association of ski clubs dedicated to the promotion of winter sports among minorities. The group is by and large black, and an estimated 2,000 members are here for the group's annual summit.

I talked with Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., about the importance of the Brotherhood. From an economic standpoint, Wirth said Steamboat and other ski resorts would be foolish not to embrace such groups. The baby boomers built the ski industry, but their children, the echo boom, will sustain it. Make no mistake, there is a significant difference between the ethnic makeup of the echoes as compared to the boomers. Ski resorts can't, as they have in the past, survive on white people alone.

More importantly, Wirth noted the Brotherhood's mission - to put more youths of color on the U.S. Ski Team - meshes perfectly with Ski Town USA. "This group fits Steamboat," he said.

I wholeheartedly agree. It has been refreshing to go downtown or to the grocery store or to the mountain and see more diversity than I ever have in six years in Steamboat.

Here's hoping there's a day in the future when it doesn't take a National Brotherhood of Skiers summit to produce such diversity in the 'Boat. That might be a pipe dream, but I figure if Al Sharpton can be kin to Strom Thurmond, just about anything is possible.

Scott Stanford's From the Editor column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4221 or e-mail sstanford@steamboatpilot.com.

Comments

JustAsking 7 years, 6 months ago

Diverse or exclusionary?

Scott, the mission statement (taken directly from the website) of the NBS is " To identify, develop and support athletes of color who will WIN Olympic and international winter sports competitions representing the United States and to increase participation in winter sports. "

Seems to me that this "brotherhood" is openly discriminating and should support ALL athletes regardless of color.

Surely, Jessie Jackson would be flying into Steamboat with the national press if a group with a charter supporting only Caucasian athletes showed up!

Does the NBS give more "development and support" to member athletes that have more "color " over those with less color? Would the criteria would be ability or just having the most color?

Do they say "Sorry Chinese applicant, you just don't have enough color?"

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katrinkakelly 7 years, 6 months ago

I have absolutely enjoyed the "Brothers" presence here in our town!

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WZ 7 years, 6 months ago

Since we're on the subject of minorities, skiing and the ironic, how about '06 Olympic bronze medalist, Toby Dawson's story...!

http://www.skiracing.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5008&Itemid=2

If you think the NBS is such a great thing and diversity is needed in Steamboat Springs, Scott, why aren't you a member then? Or how many other people living in Steamboat, aka "Ski Town, USA", who feel the same way are members? We could all point fingers like JustAsking, or, we could do something about it. Get involved. Integration and diversity starts at home. Maybe you, or better yet, your 2 daughters could head up a local pledge drive??? Talk about a white bread learning experience for people living in such a centrally isolated small white town...

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oofcboy 7 years, 6 months ago

have you asked if you could join ,you never know they might invite you in with open arms.or maybe you might have to ski the east coast

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gwendolyn 7 years, 6 months ago

NBS does not discriminate against anyone who chooses to join their organization.

Frankly, I had never heard of this organization before and it's been extremely pleasant seeing the predominantly lily white community of Steamboat Springs "diversified." Even if only for a week... They may be promoting minorities in winter sports as an organizational mission...but their impact in ski towns in Colorado is simply much, much broader than that.

Only 3 out of 20 skiers/boarders are members of a minority group. That's 15%.

http://journalism.smcvt.edu/echo/11.15.06/colleran_skiing.htm

Although 15% is 'small', the reality is that blacks only make up 13% of the U.S. total population and 'other' minorities make up ~19% -- for a total of ~32%. If the NBS consists of ONLY AA members, then I would say they are doing a helluva job promoting skiing and snowboarding among the black community -- since 15% certainly exceeds their total U.S. racial demographics. On the other hand, if their membership is racially diverse beyond AAs, then 15% is less than 1/2 of the racial demographics it should be, in terms of representation on the slopes.

http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/race/black/ppl-186/tab1ic.pdf

The NBS does not have it's racial demographics online but they do seem to have members who are not AA. Sooooo, my best guess is that they are doing an excellent promotional job...but are way behind the eight ball in promoting minority participation in what has always been a predominantly white winter sport arena in the U.S.

NBS clubs in Colorado are located in Denver and Colorado Springs.

http://www.nbs.org/clubs/clubsbystate.php

Instead of criticizing that which you know little about, it would be nice if members of this community would actually give this issue some critical thought and learn more about racial disparities that exist right here in our own community and within those sports/activities that line our pockets economically and put food on our tables.

The last time I checked, money is green. Even so, many in the ski & snowboarding business seem to have forgotten some of the basic rules of building new markets and increasing profits via sales.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 6 months ago

ADDENDUM:

To Scott,

Why no interviews/quotes from members of NBS in your column? Or, for that matter, in ANY story on the NBS that the Pilot has published this week. (If I missed it, could you provide the link?)

Also, is 97.2 white demographics in reference to Steamboat or ???? I could find stats for Routt County -- 96.9% white alone -- but gave up looking for Steamboat's demographics.

http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/phc-t14/tab02.pdf

While minorities in the total U.S. make up ~32% of the population, in the state of Colorado they make up only 14.8%.

http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-4.pdf

And, finally, when you talked to Wirth from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. did you happen to ask him about all the terrific photos of minorities on the resort's website? You know, the ones that DON'T EXIST! For a marketing guy, it seems that Wirth has missed "the 'boat" on this one. Hundreds of photos on their website and when was the last time you visited it and actually saw a face of color in one of them? Sheez.

gwendolyn

P.S. to the NBS folks: for your next summit I highly recommend Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, ID.

http://www.schweitzer.com/

Incredible slope and even more lily white than Steamboat Springs. They desperately need an infusion of color in their small community and a wake-up call that there actually are minorities who don't belong to gangs or live in the ghetto...

Oh, wait a minute. I guess that statement probably applies to the vast majority of ski slopes in this country. sigh. Nevermind.

P.S.S. To those who are wondering what MY race is, well, I'm Native American (5/16) and Irish and my skin color is lily white. I grew up poor, ate commodities (no food stamps existed back then) as a child and wore cheap 2nd hand, cotton tennis shoes to school every day. Even when my 5th grade class visited Mt. Hood in the dead of winter for a ski trip. I learned to snowboard at the age of 46 -- when I could actually afford it on my own.

If you'd like to give a child a chance to embrace skiing or snowboarding when they might not otherwise ever get that opportunity, please support the NBS's scholarship fund. Or, you might also consider supporting any of the following organizations:

http://www.sosoutreach.org/

http://www.alpino.org/

http://coloradodiscoverability.com/

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 6 months ago

Gwen:

The data come from the U.S. Census - www.census.gov. The numbers are specific to ZIP Code 80487, so technically the data go beyond the city limits of Steamboat Springs. About 14,000 people live in ZCTA 80487.

To your second point, Mike Lawrence has been working with photographer Brian Ray on a story-photo package for our Sunday newspaper about the NBS and the larger question of the ski industry's efforts to reach a more diverse audience. Perhaps we could have done a better job of promoting that upcoming package.

My column was related to my own experience - both growing up and now - but I agree with you that it would have been enhanced by comments from NBS members.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221/(970) 291-9278 editor@steamboatpilot.com

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