A working group of skateboarding organizations has launched a pledge to address racism in the skateboarding industry. The "Commitment to Anti-Racism in Skateboarding" is facilitated by The Goodpush Alliance, a platform created by skateboarding non-profit Skateistan to share knowledge and resources between social skateboarding projects worldwide, in collaboration with a number of skate organizations, including Surf Ghana and the Harold Hunter Foundation.
The Commitment contains a pledge along with actionable goals towards building an anti-racist community and is open to anyone involved in skateboarding to sign. Rhianon Bader, The Goodpush Alliance’s program manager explains the premise behind the initiative: “Skateboarding brings people from all backgrounds together — which is an amazing thing — but a lot of us skaters like to think of ourselves as color-blind to race, which is just not the reality. We all have biases ingrained in us, and the first step is admitting that. The Commitment lays out some clear moves that companies can take to challenge racism and become more inclusive. There is just so much work to be done by all of us in the industry (and any skater) on a personal level, especially anyone with privilege, to notice and call out the micro-aggressions or stereotyping that happens based on race. Skateboarding should be a space where everyone feels comfortable in their own body.”
Despite being a subculture that operates largely within its own boundaries, skateboarding (like any aspect of modern-day culture) is still a part of wider society and adopts its structures and, equally, its biases. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, a number of skaters of color came forward sharing their experiences of racism within the industry, pushing the global skate community to self-examine the structural racism that exists within it. Many brands were quick to react, releasing anti-racism statements, donating funds, and spreading messages of solidarity, but to what extent these promises have been fulfilled remains questionable.
“In the last 12 months, a lot of skateboarding brands have made an effort to be more inclusive in their communication campaigns,” says Sandy Alibo, founder of Surf Ghana, who acted as commitment coordinator for the working group. “But what is important is not the performance, but that we are really doing something really deep, deep in the ecosystem. That’s the main goal — to create a healthy, more inclusive ecosystem. They really need to work deeper and make sure that it's not only skateboarding athletes, but also that more filmmakers, photographers, marketing managers, founders of brands are BIPOC people. We have high expectations and we are watching them.”
The idea to create the Commitment emerged during a series of webinars The Goodpush Alliance hosted with the social skate sector to self-reflect and support each other to improve in anti-racist policies and attitudes. Patrick Kigongo, a board member of The Harold Hunter Foundation and the creator of the Black List, supported in drafting the pledge and providing outreach strategies. “It’s not enough to identify what’s wrong with the world around, you also have to shape a positive alternative vision,” he says. “Ideally, the Commitment can serve as a reference point for consensus building. Hopefully, it can be what future actionable items can be measured against.”
The Commitment to Anti-Racism in Skateboarding already has dozens of signatures including from Deluxe Distribution, Quartersnacks, SKATEISM, and Antisocial Skateboard Shop. While the initial response is a positive sign, what actually matters is the actions that follow. Bader explains: “We want those who sign on to recognize that signing is the very beginning, it is not an "anti-racism seal of approval" — it's a serious commitment and businesses and organizations should only sign if they are genuine about learning and pushing in a better direction as a community.”
To learn more about the pledge and sign it, head here.