UPDATE AT 9 AM (Pacific time) SATURDAY, Oct. 17, 2020. WE HAVE CLOSED COMMENTS and removed some of the most hateful. We’d rather just ask readers to be respectful with their comments than close them down, but that would not work. So comments closed (Sad)!
By Nanci Dixon
My husband and I are full-time RVers. We are also an interracial couple with Black kids and Black grandkids and have noticed that the other Black campers are few and far between. Where are they? Why aren’t more Black families camping? Where are all the Black RVers?
While thinking about this, speaking with my husband, and talking with other Black RVers, I’ve come up with a few reasons (and debunked a few myths) as to why we see so few Black families at the campground with us.
Danger in the woods
A dark reason can be found in the historically horrific things that happened to Black folks in the woods. My husband grew up in Mississippi when lynchings were rampant and going into the woods at night was strictly forbidden. “The boogie man will get you” was code for “The KKK will get you.”
For a lot of people, the outdoors are a refreshing, meditative place to recharge and relax. For many Black people, though, it can be a place to be on guard and watch out. In other words, do anything but relax. A Black couple who recently camped near us said that while they really enjoy camping, they just don’t walk around the campground at night.
“The industry has not been welcoming”
Outdoor adventures have been in what are traditionally considered white spaces. National Parks, State Parks, County Parks, particularly in the Southeast, have restricted access or been blatantly not welcoming to Blacks. Even our beloved father of the National Park system, John Muir, called Blacks “lazy sambos” and native people “dirty, suspicious and dangerous.” Within the Sierra Club, founded by Muir, was a call-out for white supremacy and eugenics by its first leaders.
Even without taking the dubious history of the National Parks into account, the programs and interpretive exhibits of today are generally slanted toward white history and bias. It is a subtle form of “This is about us and not about you.”
In her article “Why Black People Don’t Go Camping,” Nikki Brueggeman writes: “Black people do not have a natural aversion to camping or the great outdoors; we have a natural aversion to racism and abuse. We don’t go camping because we hate mosquitoes, need heated rooms, or hate campfires, we don’t go camping because the industry has not been welcoming.”
Earl B. Hunter Jr. founded a marketing and consulting company to address the business opportunity to help equip Blacks with camping equipment, provide information on how to camp and places to go. It’s called Black Folks Camp Too.
The National Parks in particular are taking a strong stand to be inclusive, examine its history, hire more Blacks in leadership roles, revamp educational programs and address the low percentage of use (7%) by African Americans. They are sponsoring things like “Black in National Parks Week,” Find Your Park and highlighting Soul Trak Outdoors, a nonprofit seeking to connect people of color to the outdoors, The Trail Posse, and the Facebook page African American Nature and Parks Experience.
Camping for 30 years with our family and now being full-time RVers, we have traveled all over the United States and seldom see other Black campers. We have encountered overt racism that was bad enough that we packed up and left a campground in the middle of the night. Another time an RVer called the campground office demanding that they get rid of the n@#*%*s in their campground. To the campground’s credit, they did not.
We are careful where we camp, particularly down South. One RVer I talked to said that as they were leaving the campground in their RV this year, a white man held up his finger to “shoot” her husband. This is not the first time I have heard that.
More often than not we encounter other campers that are friendly. Sometimes, however, there are hard stares, refusal to even respond “Hi” when spoken to and the underlying silent question of “Why are you here?” We are here because we are full-time RVers and we live all over this nation. We love this lifestyle and we hope to see more and more Black and brown people making s’mores around a campfire and enjoying camping too.
Read today’s newsletter (Oct. 17, 2020)
Related article: Black Lives Matter as RVers too
I belong to a vintage trailer group and we have one inter-racial family. As far as I am aware Rhonda has always been a part of the group with no one complaining. If there had been complaints our leader would have pointed it out as discrimination. I think sometimes that Black people interpret things through a lens that isn’t there for White people. Maybe the man pointing his finger was NOT using it like a gun but as a “hey, cool” symbol (which it often is where I come from). Interpretation is a tricky thing. I can’t think of one racist display I have ever seen at a National Park or elsewhere. Again, interpretation. Wanting a display to be aimed at race rather than at the science that is there just keeps race an issue. I don’t care what color you are – get out there and enjoy what the world has to offer. Don’t motive read the people around you. Get to know them for who they are and ignore the jerks among them. That’s what I do.
Ok, the author gave ideas of why People don’t Camp. Now what should be done?
Our Indigenous People are not well represented in campgrounds either. An entirely different rhetoric needs to go for them. xxxxx
Our son is white and our daughter-in-law is black. The one time they went camping, when they were college kids, they ended up leaving early because a bunch of guys were milling around and watching them. They felt threatened. They were tent-camping so didn’t have much defense. Not sure it had occurred to our son that there would be a problem because obviously he never was afraid camping with us when he was a kid. It makes me sick. I think they deal with a lot that I don’t hear about. I worry about their safety in general in this world. Thanks for writing about this, Nanci.
I hate that this is still going on in our country. I wish there were a magic pill to make it all go away.
In 20 some years of camping, mostly in the southeast, I have never seen anything that came close to racist. Maybe I’m lucky.
Here’s what Morgan Freeman has to say about racism…….
After reading this ,as a white person I feel ashamed that this is still happening in this world. I have worked with Black folk side by side all my life. Some of my best friends have been black. My granddaughter in of mixed race. Skin color should not matter to anyone.And its a shame that it still does.It would be such a better world if it didn’t .
We are not a unified society. We often DO notice whether someone is black, and pointing out under-representation based on percentage of population is not racist. You may personally not care, but that is irrelevant.
If you think the first black president or Oscar winner was not significant – at the very least to people of color – then I really don’t know what planet you live on.
As part of a tourism association in Oregon who is also making this an issue, we have a 3% population of Black citizens. 7% of campers are black, that means black camping is higher than average!
It’s “I couldn’t care less”
Cheryl has a lot to learn about society and race. Unfortunately the RVing world is full of older, white, middle-class, retired, self-entitled xenophobic “Cheryl’s” as witnessed by the sad shape our country is in today.
It is evident by some of the comments that your article is spot on. I would love to see more people of color feel comfortable in the great outdoors and enjoying themselves and I always make sure that I am welcoming when I do meet someone.
Nanci, while I’ve like your articles since you started contributing to this newsletter, it’s official now – you are my favorite writer for RVTravel.com! Sorry Chuck, but #2 ain’t bad either.
Crimes are committed at the same rate, Black people are more likely to be policed in their communities, arrested, and convicted. 16% means for every 10 people in the camp ground at least one should be a Black family. Not everyone likes camping but that’s the same for white people as well so the statistics should hold. It is unwelcoming to Black people because of the types of misconceptions you are writing here
Good Day to all! I’m a white woman born in the ‘50’s in Harlem, New York!
I say, do what you want to do, if that includes camping, then camp! Doesn’t matter what color, religion or culture you come from! So long as you are friendly, considerate and respectful, we’ll love you as our neighbor! We are full-timers, we love camping, and we are always respectful of our neighbors, we’ll never disrespect a fellow camper, if we run into our occasional moron neighbor, we just walk away.
GOD Bless all GOD’s people!
As a Democrat & Senate Majority leader, LBJ twice blocked the Civil Rights Act from a vote which essentially delayed its passing. All that’s occurred since the “Great Society” is a destruction of traditional family values with black fatherless homes going from about 25% to about 75%. It’s easy to be ignorant to these facts when “educated” in propaganda camps disguised as public schools; or, when a Google search algorithm filters out the inconvenient truths.
We have workamped and camped in different parts of Country. A lot in the south. We have noticed that we see far less blacks in south camping but when we were traveling out west we seen more but still not a lot. We have noticed more Hispanic people in TX. We see a lot of french canadians in Florida. One day we will hopefully just see people camping and having fun, not see color or think oh you must be from here or there.
I am one who talks to everyone. My husband says that is just me. If you see me out in an RV Park, come say hi. I love meeting new people and hearing where you are from.
Thank you for writing this important article. The comments are telling in terms of the problems you mention. It only takes one hateful person in a campground to ruin the experience and make someone cautious about returning to the outdoors.
I was just talking to my husband about this!! Everywhere we camp, we see mostly egotistical white males with their Trump flags and confederate flags really set the mood. I can imagine that wouldn’t feel too welcoming to minorities. The comments already here, prove my point exactly. My family will welcome you and help you feel safe, whomever you are.