Aspen is hosting the National Brotherhood of Skiers, which is advertised to be “the largest black ski group in the United States.”
That’s nice. Welcome to Aspen, my friends.
A hearty welcome was not enough, however, for Mike Kaplan, the liberal white CEO of Aspen Skiing Company. He found it necessary to issue a memo to all employees instructing them how to behave around black people.
Kaplan instructed employees to greet the black guests “lovingly and intentionally.” He says employees ordinarily treat all guests this way but instructed them “to make an even greater effort” with the black ones. He goes on to tell employees the reason for this special effort for blacks.
It’s because “standard or even slightly bad service can easily be interpreted as bias.” And so, employees should avoid saying to customers who are black things that might be interpreted as racist, such as “that parking spot is just for hotel guests” or “you can’t park there” or “my restaurant isn’t open now, come back at 5.”
I’m not making this up – these are quotes from Kaplan’s memo.
Kaplan informs us that he knows the hurt such rules can inflict on a customer who is black because he’s talked with “friends who are black.” Notice this contrived mention of those black friends he has. I guess we’re supposed to surmise that some of his best friends are black.
OK, fine, I congratulate Kaplan for having black friends. But I think he made up the part about his black friends feeling racially discriminated against when told that a restaurant is closed or parking is restricted.
He sums up with, “In a sense, I’m asking you to see color, to both celebrate our visitors and to recognize their lived experience, not to be color blind.” (Aren’t all experiences “lived” ones?)
Let’s parse this. First, the implicit premise to Kaplan’s memo is that he thinks Aspen’s employees need it. He thinks that unless they’re reminded to be welcoming to guests who are black, they’re liable not to be.
That is inconsistent with my personal observation of Aspen employees. My personal observation is that they welcome all guests. Aspen employees think – TRIGGER WARNING! – that All Guests Matter.
As for black guests in particular, we don’t get very many but I’ve never seen a single instance in this town that could possibly be interpreted as anti-black racism.
Perhaps Kaplan sees things around his executive suite that I don’t see out on the street or up on the ski mountain. If so, he should clean up his executive suite.
Second, I have a problem with Kaplan’s instruction to treat black guests better than non-black guests. I’m old-school on this point. I believe that the color of a customer’s skin is less important than the content of their wallet. Why should some customers get treated better based on their skin color? What have white, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and other customers of other colors done to deserve worse treatment than black customers?
Let’s consider how Kaplan’s admonitions to employees will play out. Suppose you’re the valet parking attendant at a swanky hotel in Aspen. Are you supposed to let people park their cars illegally but only if they’re black?
Suppose you run a restaurant that opens at 5. If someone knocks on the locked door at 4 who happens to be black, are you supposed to let them in and scramble to cook and serve them while the restaurant is closed and the staff hasn’t yet arrived?
What do you do if the person is mixed race? Open at 4:30?
Are the other rules also suspended for blacks? Can they rope-duck into closed slopes, can they cut lift lines, can they shoplift, can they speed down Main Street drunk? Not that they would, mind you.
I wonder how far Aspen Skiing Company will go with this candid discrimination based on skin color. I can imagine Aspen’s lift ticket prices being in proportion to pallor. They’ll have a light sensor to make the measurement. A whole scam will evolve where white guys put on blackface in order to get the discounted fare – along with free parking, private dining in restaurants after hours and lift-line cutting.
Finally, I can’t speak for blacks, even black friends of whom I want you to know I have many because that’s the kind of guy I am. But if I were black myself, I’d feel condescended by Kaplan’s conspicuous show of wokeness at the expense of the dignity of my race.
If someone in Aspen said, “I’m so glad you and your kind are here, since you’re black and all, and we intend to grant you special favors because you are,” I’d flip him the bird and catch the next flight out.
I’d let it be known that I don’t need special rules in skiing, parking, restaurants, college admissions, Supreme Court appointments or skiing. I’m fully a man.
P.S. I’ll bet you can’t tell the skin color of the skier in the photo above, and you don’t really care. That’s as it should be.
Glenn Beaton was voted “Mr. Aspen” of 2021 in a poll conducted by the Aspen Times.