I'm sure many of you have seen the viral video of Amy Cooper calling the police on Christian Cooper, an African American bird-watcher who was enjoying the Bramble in New York earlier this week. She called the police because he asked her to put her dog on a leash (park rules). She says in the video, "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life." She tried to use this man's race as a weapon against him.
The outdoors is political, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
When I first googled top 25 hiking blogs of 2019, I was really surprised. The first several sites that listed blogs included very few women and I didn’t visually identify (or see in the descriptions) any minorities. Or people with disabilities. Or Pride Pack members. Or fat people. Everyone looked very, very white.
I taught Diversity in America for quite a few years at several local colleges. I don't know why I was surprised at the lack of diversity in the online presence for outdoor adventures in the U.S., since there's a definitive lack of representation on trails.
When my friend told some co-workers he was going backpacking for the weekend, his African-American buddy responded along the lines of, “Only in America would white people go in to the woods and pretend to be homeless.”
It bothered me on a level that was difficult for me to define, because I view the outdoors as such an important part of who I am. It's a privilege. And privilege and access is a big part of the problem - because it isn't that way for everyone.
The Outdoor Foundation, who conducted a survey in 2013, found that 73% of participants in outdoor activities were white, and 47% had an income above $75K (You can read the entire report on their website here.).
And when whites in the U.S., on average, are the ones making that higher income, it's indicative of a problem and not just in relation to getting folks in to the great outdoors.
Who's involved matters, too - from how outdoor events and activities are marketed to who runs the parks programs, you'll see primarily white people. The Green 2.0 Report demonstrates a clear lack of diversity in the government agencies, foundations, and NGOs that oversee outdoors recreation and upkeep:
The world is a changing place, and it’s time for more outdoor activities, and the folks that are already involved in those activities, to change with it.
Race and ethnic minorities made up 40% of the U.S. population in 2016, and those numbers continue to increase. Consider the words of Teresa Baker, a contributor for The Bold Italic, when she wrote “The climate is changing, and so are the demographics of our country. What will happen when, in two to three decades, our new, non-white majority in the US doesn’t care about the environment due to a lack of involvement now?”
While I fit the definition of a Misfit Hiker & Adventurer for a number of reasons, I am, in fact, white. So I come at this, clearly, from a very different perspective. I'd like to note that I am not here to define for anyone else what experiences they should have in the outdoor world or how they should feel about those experiences and/or interactions.
However, what I can do, is try to make those outdoor spaces more welcoming. I can conduct and relate research in to different issues. And I can showcase others opinions, viewpoints, and experiences.
Misfit Hikers is about inclusion and representation, and you're going to find a lot of emphasis on how people access (or don't access) the outside world of adventuring. And what actions can be taken to address identified issues.
As a former teacher, I'm a big fan of education and considering other viewpoints - it forges a connection and helps shape how we view the world (and others).
My very small first action is to start gathering resources on different topics regarding inclusion and representation in the outdoors. You can find the start of my efforts here.
If you know of an article, website, Instagram, etc. that you'd like to see included, please comment! Or feel free to email me.
What happened to Christian Cooper shouldn't ever happen. As stewards of the outdoors we need to - have to - do better.