(HWB) Hiking While Black: The Trail Traveled in Threes
If the title didn't deter you, the content will. Understand that this blog is supposed to celebrate black outdoors people. However, I wanted to talk about the complicated history and why it's important.
The last time you took a hike, Did you see many people of color? Think hard. Did you see any rangers who are minorities? Lastly, if you did see someone hiking and they were of color did you see them by themselves?
In a study published by the National Park Service, African Americans make up about 7 percent of the overall population who visit national parks. The most astounding statistic is that 78 percent of those who attended are white. THIS DOESN'T SURPRISE ME! If you want a surprise, look up the statistics for Yosemite, 1 percent of the visitors are African American, and 11 percent are Latino. The percentage of people of color attending national parks has been the same since the 1960's.
Till this day, 85 percent of the 25,000 employees of the national park service are white. Traditionally, the story of the national parks has been separate from the story of African American until the national park service started incorporating stories of the buffalo soldiers into recreation guides and recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. But, is this enough? That was a question for you, not me. I think its a great start to the journey of diversity, however, there has been a stigma associated with going into "wilderness."
Where are the people of color?
Historically, black people didn't camp or hike because they needed to be home by sundown. Until the 1960's, African Americans were subject to some of the most strict curfews which increased the prison population, increase fear among the minority population and created a legacy that lasts until today. This fear was something my Latino father and Black mother brought up often. They would tell me that if I was going camping to let someone know where I'm going to be, make sure I don't travel alone, and to ensure that I keep my phone on me. Changing the stigma of black fear of being outdoors after dark has to be addressed.
I bring this all up because diversity matters. It is essential to consider the outdoors has historically not been a part of the black American experience. Bloggers like myself are working to ensure that representation within the outdoor community pushes more people of color to enjoy what generations before us didn't have the pleasure of taking part in. My solutions are easy, encourage more African American men and women to go outside, promote youth with a fascination for the earth and outdoors to explore, and continue hiking while black.