Those who produce knowledge about something wield considerable power over it.(1) Control of information about entry and participation in a given space gives holders of the information a false feeling of superiority and entitlement; and the idea that they have the authority to decide who belongs in that space and who doesn’t, ergo creating gatekeepers.
Gate keepers assume the power to decide who gets particular resources and opportunities, and who does not. Moreover, participation on one’s own term is not allowed. When participation is allowed, the how, when, and where of their participation is determined by the dominant culture (2) established and upheld by the gatekeepers through popular perception.
Social activities and events are also designed in such a way that excludes undesired people from the onset while maintaining the position that all are welcome. In Diversity in Climbing: A Difficult Conversation, Johnson (3) interrogated the statement that rock climbing is “a free and open sport in which everyone can participate”. The more he researched, the more he realized that this was not the case.
When you are disrupting an existing system, a gatekeeper’s invitation should not be construed to be a welcome. Resistance from those who thrive in the status quo is a given.
Words of encouragement and approval in the open veil stealthy attempts to maintain control and assert dominance. Pulling you in just close enough to police your moves and cast doubt on your approach, the gatekeeper will keep you busy proving yourself and explaining yourself at every turn.
Toni (4) called it. Covert though it may be the function remains the same – distraction. Concealed in the fabric of gatekeeping and anchored in the guise tradition and history. Distraction she said “keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being.”
The Sharp End
What then does one do to escape this prison of explaining that distracts from the task at hand? Throw off the cloak of invisibility (2), embrace your vulnerability and get on with it! Take on the sharp end. Focus on real solutions and action. Do the work that needs to be done. Make yourself strong and keep yourself strong (4). Choose to stand against the critics who are waiting for you to stumble and fall as they point out your shortcomings (5). Such is life, we will always fall short in someone's eyes.
Take the lead. Keep your focus on the rock and away from distractions. Climb!
Don’t just tell your story. Live it.
Pailey, R. N. (2016) Where is the ‘African’ in African Studies? in African Arguments June 7, 2016.
Finney, C. (2014) Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, The University of North Carolina Press.
Johnson, I. (Sep 15, 2016) Diversity in Climbing: A Difficult Conversation.
Morrison, T. (1975) A Humanist View speech at Portland State, May 30, 1975.
Roosevelt, T. (1910) Citizenship in a Republic speech in Paris, France, April 23, 1910.