On Privilege, My Privilege, and the Outdoors

It's been quiet around here lately. Life changes, priorities change, and pandemics happen, as it turns out. All of those things affect the time and energy we have to devote to our passion projects. Regardless of what I have or haven't documented here, I've had the privilege of being able to hike these past few months, as a I have the privilege of doing to some degree, pandemic aside, whenever I'd like. I have the ability to try to just about any outdoor sport. I've had access to or owned a car for my entire life, and have been able to accumulate all the gear and apparel I need for my activities. 

I won't experience racism on my hikes, or ever. I understand the color of my skin affords me privilege. I understand being able to have the outdoor experiences I have is a privilege. I understand that choosing to be silent or choosing to speak up about racial injustice is a privilege. But as a white woman, my voice in this isn't the voice that matters. So many other voices have known what I'm learning about for a long time.

I use the woods, the mountains, nature, as an escape, among many other things. But it's naive, and false, to believe that we are all equal outdoors, and that everyone has the same access and ability to escape the way I do. Public lands exist, but that doesn't mean they're accessible to everyone. Recent data from the National Park Service shows that despite the fact that 76.5% of the United States identifies as white, between 90 and 98% of visitors to National Monuments, National Seashores, National Wild and Scenic Rivers and Riverways are white. Barriers include everything from affordability to historic discrimination and fear for safety. 

Over the past few weeks, I've worried about saying and doing the wrong things. But being silent, even with good intentions, is a privilege, and in this case, it is not an option. I stand against racism and injustice, and believe everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability should be welcome, feel welcome, outdoors. I recognize that isn't, and hasn't been, the case.

It feels beyond wrong that it's taken recent events like the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Breonna Taylor, the racial profiling and threatening of Christian Cooper, to truly make me think about how many things I take for granted. As I learn more about my privilege, I'd like to use this place on this platform to share a few things. Doing the work to learn, confront my own biases and assumptions, and have hard conversations can be, and will be uncomfortable. And this work is a lifelong commitment. But the information is out there, we just have to be willing to step outside our comfort zones. And how lucky am I that I have the privilege of choosing to do so?

Voices to Amplify

I'm working to diversify the outdoor voices I hear online and outside. I took a hard look at the people and companies I follow on social media, and realized I needed a wider representation of black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) in my virtual outdoor world. Representation matters, and I can help amplify those voices in my own circles. I've been more active on Instagram these days, so some of these links are to (fantastic) Instagram accounts.

Annette Diggs
Brooklyn Bell
Brown Girl Outdoor World
Chelsea Murphy
Diana Richnow
Haile Thomas
James Edward Mills 
Juju Milay
Kai Lightner
Lanisha Renee Blount
Latasha Dunston
Latoya Shauntay Snell
Lauren, OutdoorsyDiva.com
Leah Thomas
Nadia Mercado
Mario Rigby
Mikaela Grace Loach 
Rachel Jitabebe 
Rebecca Ross
Rue Mapp
Shanika Nicole 
Teresa Baker

Books and Articles to Read

Initially, I wanted to consume everything I saw recommended to white people around confronting privilege and understanding my country's history with respect to racism. But being anti-racist is a long term, lifelong, commitment, and I have a lot to learn that can't be learned all at once. This is a list of things I've read, or plan to read, and not all are outdoor related.

Nicole Cardoza's Anti-Racism Daily Newsletter
White Fragility
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors
Between the World and Me
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
How to be an Antiracist
The Melanin Base Camp Guide to Outdoor Allyship 

Organizations to Support in Favor of Inclusion

As someone who has the ability to donate money to organizations, that was the first action I thought to take. There are so, so, so many organizations fighting for equitable access to the outdoors, some of which I only learned about recently. Consider learning about them and supporting them.
Unlikely Hikers
WilderLife Coach, LLC

This list isn't exhaustive by any means, and as I continue to do my own work, to learn, to listen, to consider how I can share more diverse voices in my own circles, I'll add everything I find here. It's incumbent upon those of us with privilege to help make the outdoor community welcome and safe for all.

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