White People Outraged at The North Face’s 20 Percent Discount for Taking ‘Racial Inclusion’ Course

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The North Face, a well-known outdoor clothing and gear company, has stirred up controversy with its recently launched digital course on allyship and racial inclusion in the United Kingdom. The course, which offers a 20 percent discount to those who complete it, has sparked outrage among white people and conservatives, leading to calls for boycotts and accusations of the company being “woke.”

The North Face’s Controversial Course

The North Face’s hour-long digital course, launched in November, aims to educate people about the challenges faced by people of color when accessing the outdoors. The course provides training and resources to help participants become better allies. However, the course’s content, particularly its mention of “white privilege,” has triggered a backlash from some individuals.

Source: Flickr/Dwane H

The course presents statistics highlighting the disparities in outdoor access between people of color and white people in England. It states that people of color are three times more likely to live in nature-deprived areas compared to white people and that a 2017 study found significantly lower percentages of Black and Asian people spending time in the countryside compared to white people.

Mixed Reactions to the Course

While some individuals, such as an Irish writer, found the course “genuinely eye-opening, very thoughtful and mindful,” many others, particularly those identifying as conservatives, have expressed outrage on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter). They accuse The North Face of being a “woke” company and threaten to boycott the brand.

Source: Flickr/Jason Howie

One person described the course as “completely bonkers,” while another claimed that The North Face would cease to exist without its white customer base, suggesting that the company has attacked its customers by offering this course. Some users declared that they would no longer purchase from the brand, with one stating, “I used to be a regular customer. Gone.”

Controversy Surrounding “White Privilege”

The course’s mention of “white privilege” has been a significant point of contention for many critics. The North Face explains that in the context of outdoor access, white privilege means that one’s race and skin color can provide access to the outdoors, while others may be excluded due to historic and enduring racism and biases.

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The course clarifies that acknowledging white privilege does not imply that white people have not or cannot experience struggles in life; rather, it means that any struggles faced by a white person are not related to the color of their skin. Despite this explanation, many individuals on social media platforms remain upset by the concept.

Accusations of Pushing “Woke Garbage” and Divisive Racism

Critics have accused The North Face of “selling politics, not clothes” and “joining the ranks of companies pushing woke garbage and divisive racism.” A U.K.-based group called The Free Speech Union claimed that the course is “open to all customers willing to learn woke dogma by rote in exchange for slightly discounted access to its clothing range.”

Source: Flickr/Tom Magliery

In response to the backlash, The North Face stated to The New York Post, affirming its belief that the outdoors should be a welcoming, equitable, and safe place for all. The company stated that the course aims to bring light to the barriers preventing all people from sharing equally rewarding experiences in the outdoors.

The Divide Between Supporters and Critics

The controversy surrounding The North Face’s racial inclusion course has highlighted the deep divide between those who support efforts to address racial disparities and those who view such initiatives as “woke” or divisive. Supporters argue that the course is a step towards creating a more inclusive outdoor community, while critics claim that it unfairly targets white people and promotes a political agenda.

Source: Flickr/Vivienne Das Neves

As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how The North Face will navigate the backlash and whether the course will have a lasting impact on the company’s reputation and customer base. The incident serves as a reminder of the ongoing tensions surrounding issues of race, privilege, and inclusion in various aspects of society, including the outdoor industry.

The Importance of Inclusivity in the Outdoors

Despite the controversy, many argue that initiatives like The North Face’s racial inclusion course are necessary to address the long-standing barriers and disparities faced by people of color in accessing outdoor spaces. Studies have consistently shown that racial minorities are underrepresented in outdoor recreation, often due to factors such as lack of access, cultural differences, and systemic racism.

Source: Flickr/Mark Horrell

Proponents of inclusivity efforts maintain that creating a more welcoming and equitable outdoor community benefits everyone by fostering a greater appreciation for nature, promoting environmental stewardship, and strengthening social connections across diverse groups. They argue that companies like The North Face have a responsibility to use their platform and resources to drive positive change.

The Role of Brands in Social Justice Movements

The North Face’s racial inclusion course is part of a growing trend of brands taking a stand on social and political issues, particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and increased calls for racial justice. Many companies have faced pressure from consumers and employees to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Source: Flickr/ Matthew Roth

While some applaud brands for using their influence to promote positive change, others criticize these efforts as insincere or “performative activism.” Critics argue that companies should focus on their core business rather than engaging in political or social issues, while supporters maintain that brands have a responsibility to use their power for good.

Balancing Business and Social Responsibility

As The North Face faces backlash over its racial inclusion course, the company must navigate the delicate balance between its business interests and its stated commitment to social responsibility. The outdoor industry, like many others, has historically struggled with diversity and inclusion, and some argue that meaningful change requires bold action and a willingness to engage in difficult conversations.

Source: Flickr/Race Ethnicity

However, the company also risks alienating a portion of its customer base by taking a stance on a controversial issue. The North Face will need to carefully consider how to move forward in a way that stays true to its values while minimizing potential damage to its brand and bottom line.

The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in the Outdoor Industry

The controversy surrounding The North Face’s racial inclusion course is just one example of the challenges and opportunities facing the outdoor industry as it grapples with issues of diversity and inclusion. As more companies recognize the importance of creating a welcoming and equitable outdoor community, they will need to find ways to effectively engage with these issues while navigating the complex landscape of public opinion.

Source: Flickr/Mark Fischer

Some potential strategies for promoting inclusivity in the outdoor industry include partnering with diverse communities and organizations, investing in outreach and education programs, and working to remove barriers to access such as cost and transportation. By taking a proactive and collaborative approach, companies can help create a more inclusive and sustainable future for the outdoors.

Lessons Learned from The North Face Controversy

The backlash against The North Face’s racial inclusion course offers valuable lessons for other companies looking to engage in social justice initiatives. One key takeaway is the importance of clear communication and transparency about the goals and content of such programs. Companies should be prepared to explain the reasoning behind their efforts and address potential concerns or misunderstandings.

Source: Flickr/Rebecca Schley

Another lesson is the need to anticipate and plan for potential backlash or criticism. While it may be impossible to please everyone, companies can work to mitigate risks by engaging with diverse stakeholders, listening to feedback, and being willing to adapt their approach as needed. Ultimately, the most successful initiatives will be those that are authentic, well-executed, and aligned with the company’s core values.

The Power of Consumer Activism

The controversy surrounding The North Face’s racial inclusion course also highlights the growing power of consumer activism in shaping corporate behavior. In an age of social media and instant communication, consumers have more tools than ever to hold companies accountable for their actions and demand change.

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This trend has led to a rise in “vote with your wallet” campaigns, where consumers boycott or support companies based on their stance on social or political issues. While this form of activism can be effective in pressuring companies to take action, it also raises questions about the role of consumers in driving social change and the potential for unintended consequences.

The Complexity of Addressing Systemic Racism

At its core, the debate around The North Face’s racial inclusion course reflects the ongoing struggle to address systemic racism and inequality in society. While initiatives like this can play a role in raising awareness and promoting inclusion, they are just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Source: Flickr/Province of British Columbia

Truly dismantling systemic racism requires a sustained and multi-faceted effort that includes policy changes, institutional reforms, and a fundamental shift in cultural attitudes and beliefs. It also requires a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths and engage in difficult conversations about race, privilege, and power.

Moving Forward with Empathy and Understanding

As the outdoor industry and society as a whole continue to grapple with issues of diversity and inclusion, it is important to approach these conversations with empathy and understanding. While debates around issues like white privilege and systemic racism can be polarizing, progress is possible when people are willing to listen to each other’s experiences and perspectives.

Source: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

Companies like The North Face can play a role in facilitating these conversations by creating spaces for open and honest dialogue, providing resources and education, and leading by example in their practices and policies. By working together and maintaining a commitment to justice and equality, we can create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

The Journey Towards a More Inclusive Outdoors

The controversy surrounding The North Face’s racial inclusion course is a reminder of the ongoing challenges and opportunities in creating a more diverse and welcoming outdoor community. While the path forward may be difficult at times, it is a journey worth taking.

Source: Flickr/Graham Smith

As individuals, companies, and society as a whole continue to engage in these important conversations and take action toward change, we can work towards a future where everyone has equal access to the joys and benefits of the outdoors. By approaching this work with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to justice, we can create a stronger, more vibrant, and more inclusive outdoor community for generations to come.

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Matty Jacobson

Written by Matty Jacobson

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