I have worked at the Johnson Center Rock Wall for three years. In that time, I have noticed that although there is some diversity (in terms of some international students) there are still very few black students who rock climb. If they do, they climb one or two routes and rarely come back to try it a different day.
This realization made me wonder if the case was isolated to UK’s campus or more wide spread. An article titled “Lack of Diversity in Climbing” published by Climbing Magazine reported that “a research group at Clemson University found that only 1.5 percent of USA Climbing members and affiliates identified as African American. The numbers for mixed race climbers were not much better, making up only 4.7 percent.”
There are a few reasons that article and others blame for the lack of diversity in climbing. For starters, the expense of climbing gear and gym membership can make climbing inaccessible to some. Climbing can also be intimidating. It has a list of jargon that make climbing difficult to understand. To make it worse, since there are next to none famous black rock climbers, some students may not be able to see themselves as climbers.
To work on bringing more diversity into climbing, first try it yourself. It may look scary, but it can be really fun. Maybe invite someone who you think is different from yourself and try it together. In that way we can slowly bring a more diverse crowd to the JC Rock Wall.