Almost every Black person in America has heard the phrase “Black people don’t”… “Black people don’t camp”, “Black people don’t hike”, “Black people don’t swim”, “Black people don’t like Yoga”, “Black people don’t travel”, and in my case, “Black people don’t snowboard”. After telling people we were headed to Denver, Colorado to enjoy the outdoors, and snowboard, I couldn’t count on two hands how many people turned up their nose and said: “for what, girl Black people don’t do that”. Who defines these colloquialisms? Who has the power to change them?
This expression is rooted in Black culture so deeply, that African Americans actually believe that some things just aren’t for them, or that they’re not supposed to venture out or have interest in certain activities. Sadly, most African Americans truly believe some environments, sports, and adventures belong to only white people, and that’s just far from the truth.
What’s Getting In Our Way
I blame this stereotypical outlook on lack of exposure and fear. Growing up my family did not camp, friends of the family did not hike, and neither my neighbors or friends were taking ski trips to the Alps; even if it was happening it’s just something you didn’t see, especially not before social media, and accounts like @BlackTravelGram, and @BlackTravelFeed who highlight Black travelers, and their experiences worldwide.
Lack of exposure leads to misconceptions. Sadly, no one wants to be looked at as the “weird Black kid” by their peers because they like books, comics, camping, and skateboarding. It’s sad that liking those things makes a person of color the “oddball”, but it’s the reality for a lot of people. I see the social disconnection with my 6-year-old now, as he tells other children about activities that he enjoys, that he loves eating fruit straight from the dirt at his grandmother’s, that his favorite songs are rap and country songs, and that he likes watching animal documentaries. The disconnect is subtle, he’s so young he doesn’t even see it happening, but it’s there.
There are heaps of statistics that insinuate that Black people don’t enjoy nature as much as any other racial group. However; there are mass amounts of Black people who love the outdoors, but there are reasons why some choose to stay away from certain environments. ‘Black faces in White spaces’ is an actual thing, and it’s something that a lot of people of color just don’t want to risk. Risking being humiliated, discriminated against, hurt, or turned away is something you don’t have to worry about if you just stay away from activities, and places that don’t have a lot of brown traffic. Sometimes this way of thinking has nothing to do with Black people having self-limiting thoughts, but for the simple reason that they want to keep themselves safe.
Racism in America influences certain beliefs. Like the movie “Get Out” directed by Jordan Peele, it portrays the ways in which people of color are baited, and trapped; It is a perception that “if a Black person goes into the woods, he won’t be coming back out”. Therefore; many white people view nature as freeing and safe, while Black people may view nature as dangerous and hostile.
Redefining the Black-Nature Experience
We took our kids to their first ski trip to Echo Mountain this past week. This trip was intentional and jammed packed with exposure to all things outdoors. We drove up, and up, and uppppp (Clutching the steering wheel TIGHT) a steep snow-covered mountain in Idaho Springs, Colorado which was an hour and sixteen minutes away from our hotel, to try something we never knew we loved.
We made it to the resort where we were greeted by welcoming employees. We bought our gear for the kids (I never knew they made skis & snowboards so small). As soon as everyone put their gear on, they couldn’t wait to hit the slopes. My oldest scared me as he immediately hopped on his board with zero experience, picked up speed and made it down the hill without falling once. Our 2 year old even made it halfway down the slopes by himself. I just couldn’t believe my eyes, my babies were in the actual mountains snowboarding, living their best lives. We stayed in the mountains all day, enjoying the cold, beautiful views, and chill environment. By the time we left, my boys were in complete awe of the whole snowboarding experience and left feeling so full of life.
I’m not going to lie, I had doubts about this trip. Even on the way up the mountain, I thought to myself, am I setting my kids up to experience some type of discrimination, will we be looked at as not belonging, what if we are treated badly, I can take it. but not my babies. However; our experience was the complete opposite. The staff was helpful, the patrons were talkative, and not once did we feel unwelcome. I am not saying those things don’t happen, but in our experience, they didn’t. Sometimes you just have to push past those negative, doubting thoughts to be able to experience life, expose yourself, and your kids to new things, and push the stereotypes to the side.
We never want someone to be able to tell our kids they can’t or don’t do something because they are Black. It has stopped so many people of color from pursuing adventures they desire to take, and Black people have the ability to change it. Black people DO
N’T enjoy nature, Black people DO N’T love camping, Black people DO ‘NT like hunting, Black people DO N’T love Yoga, Black people DO N’T love to snowboard. We believe exposure to information, activities, and environments is paramount to stopping this stereotypical mindset, so we set off for adventure to places that may not see a lot of brown faces intentionally. We should stop limiting people based on the color of their skin, stop denying opportunities to try something that may be uncommon in their culture, and start encouraging people to try everything. You never know you might just love it! Travel $mart, save money, strengthen your marriage, grow closer as a family, refocus on values, dismantle stereotypes, and create a happier home life.