Now it’s not the right time to go out, but before this, were you a lover of the great outdoors? When things finally clear up, do you plan on going for a trip to a National Park, for example? Why is there a preconception that only certain people love to camp and we don’t?
Many of us don’t feel the same level of safety when we are in the outdoors as others to which we add the intimidation anybody can feel when trying something new – even more so when your family or regular friends don’t feel like joining you so you’ll find yourself standing out even more in a new group of people that you don’t know.
As a result of this, there are many organizations that aim to help a safe space in which black people and nature can meet without the pressure felt from the aforementioned paragraph. They don’t exclude anyone, but they do focus on trying to create a black experience of the outdoors without making anyone feel marginalized.
Such activities can range from the simpler ones that involve going to a picnic somewhere nearby to hiking in spectacular areas. Most people that join these groups tend to return after they enjoyed the first experience. But you can also try it on your own or with some friends or the family.
You can even try even riskier things such as going out river rafting or why not go sail in a canoe? You can find a comparison made by fisherpants.com that will help you put things into perspective and decide which one of these activities makes you feel the most intrigued to try.
Why don’t we try the outdoors more?
In 2011 PBS sponsored a new documentary season named “Black Folk Don’t” in which they talk about stereotypes. Over the 23 episodes, they mention some of the common ones such as how we don’t like to travel, do yoga, listen to classical music, swim, or camp among the more serious ones as well (talking about suicide, doctor visits or politics).
In these episodes, they present these stereotypes and in the “Black Folk Don’t: Camp” episode they mostly rely on the examples of African Americans who don’t like the idea and only in the last part do they present some people who do like camping with the majority of them stating they only started doing it recently.
As somebody presented it, going camping is a sort of throwback to the older times, the more simple times which may work for white people, but it doesn’t sound too inviting to people of color. Put together history and present-day situations and we get a pretty clear idea of why we tend to stay away from the outdoors.
History is also the reason for many other stereotypes such as “we don’t like swimming” which is not a surprising one giving how before the Civil Rights Movement pools were segregated or forbidden for us. But this doesn’t mean we have to give up on so many activities when we can make them our own.
The more we go out, the more we see why others have been doing it for such a long period of time and why we can embrace it as well. Public space is public space for everybody so we don’t have to run from activities because we haven’t tried them before or because it’s “just something we don’t do”.
Are we doing it?
Looking at statistics it looks like African Americans have started to embrace the outdoors more and more as the number of people who go camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. grows from year to year. Sure, the numbers are still low, but they are encouraging to all of us who had to be the only POC in a new group, again.
While we can’t plan for our next trip now, we can think about it and after these months of social distancing, being in the outdoors will surely start sounding better. So, when the time comes, grab a tent, your backpack, and some cans, get your friends, and be ready for the great outdoors adventure that will make you want to come back for more.