Response to An Outside Article Published Nov. 13

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Below is a letter from Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton in response to an article published on Outside Online on Nov. 13 titled "A Black Traveler Confronts Racism at a Montana Resort."

I read with great sadness Prince Shakur's story "A Black Traveler Confronts Racism at a Montana Resort" published on Outside Online.

As Shakur poignantly points out early and throughout his story, racism is a national problem, one he has faced all his life: "There is no shortage of Confederate flags or white folks willing to stare at a black person for a little too long in certain regions of Southeastern Ohio."

Even more sadly to me, as the President of Big Sky Resort, is that our beautiful state is no island away from this insidious affliction that has gone on far too long.

I apologize that Shakur was unable to pursue his Abbey-inspired dreams that lured him West; the same inspiration, I might add, that brought me to this beautiful spot from Alabama over thirty years ago. As one raised in the south, I am exquisitely sensitive to this behavior in all its overt and covert forms, and have zero tolerance for its existence.

I do not see that Shakur sought redress from the actions of his co-workers and his boss, but I can assure you that the actions he described do not represent mine, or the company I lead.

We will investigate Shakur's disheartening experience. I pledge to Shakur and others that we will continue to have zero tolerance for racism at Big Sky Resort. However, I cannot, alone, counter what was perhaps the biggest source of his discomfort in Montana-isolation.

The fact that Montana is a white state is inarguable: The last census showed a population that was 90 percent white; the remaining ten percent is mostly Native American, with a smattering of Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians. It is also important to remember that Montana is sparsely populated: A million people, in the fourth biggest state in the United States. Nationally, African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population-with half of that 12 percent residing in just ten states. Not surprisingly, none of those states are in the West. Montana's whiteness is best understood as a product of demographics and migration patterns rather than a deliberate choice.

Unfortunately, Shakur's essay will do little to alleviate this racial imbalance. And why should it? In the many places in our society where racism is present, it makes sense that blacks would feel safety in numbers. As a white man, I cannot pretend to understand the isolation that Shakur experienced, but I hope that his time here with a few will not tarnish us all.

All people are owed the solace and peace that the great beauty of Montana and the West provide.

- Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort General Manager