Why Don’t Black People Like the Great Outdoors?
*Disclaimer* Please excuse the racist title. This post will contain what some view as stereotypes about black and white people. In no way am I attempting to be mean, disrespectful, offensive or blatantly ignorant. I know the activities I mention; black people do partake in…but most don’t!
My partner and I like to have fun outside the house just as much as we do in the house (when time and budgets permit). Going to movies, going to museums, recreational parks, amusement parks, car shows, hitting the gym together, having drinks at a friend’s house, etc.
We love to travel and we both have an adventurous side. Zip-Lining and swimming in the cenotes in Mexico was a blast. He desperately wants to go hang gliding again, but I haven’t built my nerve up for that yet.
Recently we have also been stepping our “outdoors-man” game up. We have become avid fisherman. Through the course of this year we went from catching no fish to catching buckets full. Yeah that’s me to the right, proudly displaying my catch. We are also looking to add camping to our repertoire in the future.
“Man it would be cool if we had another couple to enjoy this with”.
You all have seen this before.
The black folks pool party where none of the black people attending are actually in the pool. I can understand a black woman not wanting to get her hair wet but what about the black men?
I remember years ago watching an episode of Oprah, where she and Gale we doing their road trip. They stopped in Yosemite to go camping. The end result was both stating they would never do it again. While there, they were speaking with a black park ranger who mentioned that out of his years of employment there, he has only seen a handful of blacks or black families hiking or camping in the park.
Shelton Johnson, a black park ranger in Yosemite who grew up in inner-city Detroit, said African-Americans were among the park’s first rangers but constitute just 1% of Yosemite’s visitors each year. According to a survey conducted between 2008-2009 African Americans accounted for only 7% of visitors to our nation’s National Parks (read here).
I know plenty of black gays who are quick to go on a cruise, travel to a beach destination or to another large city. In no way am I saying blacks don’t travel. I am saying blacks seem to be adverse to any type of “roughing it” in the great outdoors.
Let me provide you some of the reasons or excuses I have heard throughout the years concerning couples who do not want to partake in certain traveling or outdoor activities…
–That is white people stuff (Not if black folk do it too).
–It’s too hot outside in the summer time (As opposed to being cold in the summer time).
–People get killed in that country (As if the U.S. is crime free).
–The sun will make me too dark (Yes he was serious).
–Too many bugs outside (I prefer my bugs outside instead of inside).
–The outdoors is too boring (No TV, No Internet, No Service).
–There are no men to look at where you guys are going (You are in a relationship. Look at and have sex with your man).
–They don’t have gay clubs where you are going (So what?).
–I don’t want to get dirty (Soap makes you clean).
–I can’t swim (We will not be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a raft).
–I don’t want to get attacked by a wild animal (Who the fuck does?).
And again, these were just a few I have heard.
Let me be clear. I am well aware that there are plenty of men, women, gay and straight people of all races and nationalities who do not like the great outdoors. By contrast I am well aware that there are plenty of men, women, gay and straight people of all races and nationalities who do like the great outdoors. However; it does seem that black people in the United States are disproportionately more adverse to all things outdoors like Superman is to Kryptonite.
Has it always been this way or is this a relatively new black attitude and outlook? Personally I feel this is relatively new. After slavery, blacks had begun a great migration to the north. This was not only to escape the harsh racism they were suffering in the deep south, but also for the promise of more opportunity in the north. Blacks were trading in hunting, fishing and living off the land for living in urban cityscapes and shopping at grocery stores. For the most part, food items were prepared and available and all you had to do was cook it to your liking.
Gone in less than two generations was the knowledge of how to slaughter, skin and clean animals. Gone was the knowledge of catching fish and knowing how to start a fire. Now you have hundreds of thousands of blacks who have never seen farm animals in real life because they have never been anywhere outside of their city.
Then there is the legacy problem or perception of blacks not knowing how to swim. I have to admit; if you dropped me in the middle of a lake or large body of water, there is a strong possibility I would drown. However this fear did not stop me from actually getting in a pool and swimming like a clumsy frog. This fear also did not stop me for putting on a life jacket and going snorkeling in the Bahamas. Many blacks who are born and raised around coastal areas of our country can swim. Also keep in mind for many years blacks did not have access to public pools or similar facilities that whites did, thus perhaps erasing swimming from many blacks radar. I am glad today there are more black children in swim classes than ever before.
I think not knowing how to swim, the fear of water or the perception that blacks can’t or don’t swim are some factors that keep many blacks from experiencing what nature has to offer.
Are blacks afraid of the forest and wilderness because we have seen so many pictures that captured the history of black men and women swinging from trees? If these last 100 years after reconstruction has taught us anything is that black people are survivors. We know how to survive in the streets. We know how to maneuver and survive in corporate America, but if there was some sort of apocalyptic catastrophe, a large number of us would not know how to survive off the land…Interesting. It still leads me to question why are we sometimes so fearful of trying anything outside of our comfort zones when it comes to nature?
During many of our excursions, my partner and I have noticed that not only are we the only blacks present but also the only black gay couple present. Recently while fishing and relaxing on the Skyway Fishing Bridge in Florida, my partner said something peculiar, “Maybe we need to find some white gay friends or a white gay couple to hang with?” Somewhat taken off guard, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”
I don’t have any intimate or personal interaction with whites outside of work. Why not? What is the fear? Being honest with myself I had to ask the question. Does this mean that I am not stepping out of my own comfort zones?
It is already daunting meeting and finding black gay dudes to be cool with, but now white ones? I must say I am open but not up to the task. Partly because the “want” is not a strong “need”. Like I said before, my partner and I have a great time together on our excursions. Yes I would welcome the end results, but do I want to go through the interviewing process. Think about it. We would be interviewing for a gay white couple who are masculine, adventurous, and specifically likes the great outdoors. We would be looking for a white couple to fill a brotherhood, comradery void that we feel is missing from our black counterparts.
First my partner or I would have to meet the potential white gay male couple, but where? The majority of parties, clubs, bars we may attend are all black. The internet is so sexually infused it would make it difficult to meet another couple who may not be swingers. Hell, even gay pride events for the most part are segregated between black gays and white gays.
So what to do? I’m open to ideas but I do know the first thing I will do is one of the same things I did before I started my relationship with my partner. I will try to make myself open and available for the possibilities. I guess I will have to visit a couple of white gay hang outs to get the cosmic ball rolling. In the mean time, I will still be open to my black brothers. Maybe they will eventually come around.
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