The great outdoors isn’t always that “great” for people of color, whether that’s because of a lack of access, visibility, or acceptance. Many Black and brown outdoor enthusiasts report that their fellow hikers have reacted to their presence with incredulity and suspicion. Those interactions are fueled by stereotypes about who “belongs” in nature, drawing on other dangerous undercurrents of racial and environmental injustice.
Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper was thrust into the national spotlight after a white woman he encountered in New York’s Central Park called the police after he asked that she leash her dog in accordance with park rules. (Dogs can disturb sensitive ecosystems and have contributed to the extinction of at least eight bird species.) “An African American man is threatening my life,” she can be heard saying to a 911 operator in a now-viral video.
The police did not arrest Cooper. Instead, his accuser ended up widely condemned on social media for her behavior. “She went racial,” Cooper said in a recent interview with the New York Times. “There are certain dark societal impulses that she, as a white wom... Read more