Interview: Why the Hall was Tanner in Ferguson, Missouri?

Interview: Why the Hall was Tanner in Ferguson, Missouri?

About one week ago, on his own dime, Tanner Hall flew to Ferguson, Missouri, where just more than a week prior an unarmed young man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer. The news—mainstream and social media driven—has been all over the story. I’ll let you Google the big picture.

Along with filmer Justin Woodcock, Tanner met locals, explored the situation and will be putting out a video of the experience, available soon at tannerhall.com. I followed Tanner’s three-day trip on social media and had a bunch of questions: Why does this matter to him? What’s the interest to skiers? Etc. But the beauty of Tanner is that I knew he would give me some answers.

Here’s a condensed transcript of our conversation.

What spurred you to head to Ferguson?

It felt like everything on the news … I don’t know if I can trust our media anymore. Especially with what’s going on in the US of A, nobody knows what’s really going on. You watch Fox News, it’s way different than CNN’s answer, which is way different than MSNBC. I mean, if you’re going to report the news, can we please get the truth? That’s what the American people are just asking for and I don’t really feel like that’s a lot.

When the ALS ice bucket challenge came around, it just was funky to me that it came around when what’s going on in Iraq, with ISIS and… I’ve got a question about [how media is] portraying that. Then with Ferguson going on, it’s just funny that something like the ALS ice Bucket challenge can happen when there’s serious times in the world and the US… why take the attention off that?

I started asking myself all these questions. Finally, I have the ways and means to get myself out to Ferguson. My mind is opening up to life outside of skiing and realizing the world is a crazy place. You should go see it yourself before you start making conclusions that make you sound like a crazy person. So two days later we were out there and submerged ourselves in the heart of what was going on.


Photo by Justin Woodcock; TheRaptorCam.com

What part of your background makes this pertinent to you or any skier?

The big thing was just being alert to your surroundings and the environment you’re living in. If you think [television news outlets] tell the truth, I hate to say it, but they’re liars. There’s one question with a lot of different outlets giving many different answers. For me, living in pretty much a predominantly white area that is not poverty stricken, I just wanted to see for myself instead of just saying, that’s the way it is. At some point you’ve got to stand up instead of making assumptions or an uneducated conclusion.

My thought was to get out there, to see the situation with my own eyes. I wanted to talk to the people who were facing the turmoil. Not just the citizens, but the police as well. We saw the craziest stuff. We saw police brutality at its finest. We saw citizens in uproar because of what they were going through, because the police look like they’re going to war.

What did you see that we’re missing from the TV coverage?

Basically, some kids who come from nothing, whose means come from the gang life mentality, and something like this happens… to see everybody unite and to see how much love and to see even the most hardcore people in the black community [basically] throw out the white and black racial issue… that was beautiful to see. Racism is rampant in the United States. We may not see it, because skiers and snowboarders come from predominantly white areas that don’t really want to see for themselves.

The color of a man’s skin is no more significant than the color of his eyes. And once people get that through their heads, the world is going to start being a better place. Pretty much, there was [someone from] every gang there, but they’d made a truce. If it’s going to start with the kids in gangs, who probably have a lot of resentment towards white people… because, they’ll even admit it’s not the most educated area, they don’t know their rights, they don’t know that much about the political system. At some point when the police state moves into your town, you really have to think bigger. That’s what [the people I met] were doing: Thinking outside the box to put that racial issue aside.

To be around [members of] different gangs, who maybe a month ago if they saw each other, it’s gonna be some shit… To see them all unite, there were signs around the city that said, “no more Bloods, no Crips, no more gangs, we are here, we are one.” For them to express that, for them to expand their minds, to see the real purpose of what is going on was really the most powerful thing to see.


Photo by Justin Woodcock; TheRaptorCam.com

What are you taking away from the experience?

For me, the biggest thing is don’t judge a book by its cover. It surprised me. A lot of the kids we met have probably lived through violence and lived in not the most righteous manner. A lot of them gave us interviews and on Saturday night they were grabbing the microphone and giving speeches to the [crowd] to let them know what was going on and to come together.

I know I’m a passionate person about the life I live and the skiing I do. To see somebody passionate about their civil rights, passionate about life and passionate about humanity and seeing everybody come together as one, I mean that’s some powerful shit. Not a lot of people ever see that in this life. Not a lot of people will stand up and buy a ticket out to Ferguson, because even when I told my mom and dad, everybody I told, said, what are you doing? What are you thinking? You shouldn’t be going out there, it’s very dangerous. Don’t do this, don’t do that. And I was a little nervous, but it only took one hour being there and I knew that something really, really big and good was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. How they’re portraying it on the media? Pshh.

We all need to start digging a little deeper about what’s happening in the United States. It’s not just Ferguson, a lot of people are dying at the hands of police. Maybe they’re not innocent; they might have committed petty crimes. That’s why police have billy clubs, they have TASERs, they have a lot of ways to take down people who have done crimes. But instead they’re emptying a clip into people who are unarmed. To me, it’s disgusting.

The New York Times described Michael Brown as “no angel,” and you were that type in the ski industry. Is there a positive you can learn by acting out?

You can act out, even like I did in the past, and there will be a reprimand, you will be punished for that type of stuff. At this point, Michael Brown might have acted out, but if anything, the worst he did was to steal two cigarellos, ‘cause he probably wanted to smoke a blunt. I know a lot of my buddies who have done that, who have taken a pack of Swisher Sweets, or have done not nice things. If the way to take care of things like that is to kill somebody? Let me say this, if I went in there and stole those cigarellos, it would be a whole different story than what happened to Michael Brown. And I hate to say it, but it’s because of the color of my skin and it’s because it was in a neighborhood with a predominantly white police force and an 80-percent black community. Whether people want to admit it, there is racism still today.

You have to be aware of your surroundings and your environment. With me, in skiing, there was always a method to my madness. Where I’m sure there is a method to a lot people’s actions in this world. None of us are here to say we are upstanding citizens, ‘cause I’m sure everybody can admit, at one point in their life, to not living in the greatest way. In the end, the bigger picture is to keep humanity going, to keep educating, to keep awareness of everything.

Let’s take it back to skiing, what’s going on with you for ski flicks and plans going forward?

In skiing, I’ve got a Poor Boyz movie dropping right now. I can’t really tell you too much about it, but I’m pretty much putting out the best segment of my life, so definitely check that out. This winter, I’ve linked up with the Gremlins kids out of Lake Tahoe, California. It’s a whole new vibe and I’m so stoked to be linked up with them and get into the streets. Then I’m trying to figure out a way to get up to Alaska for six weeks next year and basically make the big-mountain skiing segment I’ve always wanted to. This year I definitely stepped into bigger, better mountains than I ever have. My confidence level stepped up to a point that I’ve never seen it reach before and I want to keep that momentum going. I feel real’ positive. My body’s feeling better than ever, my mind’s clear, I just want to keep this good way of thinking and feeling going and hope it can be sustained for the next 10 years.

Also Watch: Enjoy 15 seconds of Tanner Hall going f’ing massive

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