Where are all the black RVers? Why the outdoors isn’t as inclusive as you think

94

Read today’s newsletter (Oct. 17, 2020)

UPDATE AT 9 AM (Pacific time) SATURDAY. 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.”

Addressing inclusion

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.

Our story

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

##RVT970

94 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Cindy
11 days ago

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.

Traveler
11 days ago

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

Deb
11 days ago

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.

Thom Corwin
11 days ago

I hate that this is still going on in our country. I wish there were a magic pill to make it all go away.

Bob Copeland
11 days ago

In 20 some years of camping, mostly in the southeast, I have never seen anything that came close to racist. Maybe I’m lucky.

George
11 days ago

Here’s what Morgan Freeman has to say about racism…….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh8mUia75k8

D. Evartt
11 days ago

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 .

Oregon
11 days ago

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!  

Mary
11 days ago

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.

Ron T
11 days ago

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.

Cynthia
11 days ago

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!

Lisa Adcox
11 days ago

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.

Firefly
11 days ago

Nanci,

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.

Kristina Francis
11 days ago

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.

GeorgeB
11 days ago

Mrs. Dixon’s life experiences are given validity by saying she has a biracial family then goes on to tell us all her bad experiences. Well, I have the same blended biracial family and raised one black grandson. So that gives me equal validity, right? We have a class A motorhome and traveled the country with it. Also by car and airplane. Never, not once did we ever experience any racial bigotry. Just the opposite. Much of what Mrs. Dixon believes and passed on to her children, is systemic racism and she found what she was looking for. On the other hand, I taught my black family we are all Americans and live in a wonderful country. Hence, we found that to be true and they are happy and prosperous. We can live with 200 year old memories of hatred or not. Its your choice. We chose to be happy and free.

Benita
11 days ago
Reply to  GeorgeB

Agreed! We see ourselves as campers, not black campers. So our experience has been far different. We have never seen acts of discrimination towards us. Even when we parked next to the campers with the confederate flag, they were the ones who helped us back in our camping spot (not one of our strengths). We found out we had more in common than differences and they were great cooks.

Scott R. Ellis
11 days ago

All quite reasonable. Also, though, you have to consider economics: even the cheapest of camping (in a tent, at a free spot on public lands) requires that one have the time off (and on the same day as the people you want to camp with–many low-wage jobs are not M-F 9-5), and the means to get there. Of course, people of all races have low incomes, but at the same time, that has to partly explain a lower percentage of people of color in the campgrounds and RV parks.

EdS
11 days ago

Wow! Worst comment section I have seen on this site. The poking fingers and racist slantedreviews are outlandish. Clean it up people. It is not a political problem with one party over the other. It is from within each of us. Look in a mirror and see yourselves. If you are blaming others, it is probably you.

George
11 days ago

I worked in Oakland California as a white gas servicemen. I experienced less than nice black people, and I experienced wonderful black people. Racism runs in BOTH races no matter what you are led to believe. However, I did experience that the overwhelming number of black people treated me with respect, as I did them. I detest when some people protest all of America as the problem, when it’s the few that are racist.

Abe Loughin
11 days ago

I was an rv tech for over 14 , I was fortunate enough to get to travel to several rallies. We were campers before I joined the industry and through the years often wondered why more minorities didn’t camp/rv. We are now full time rvers and workcamp. This season, with the covid situation, I saw a lot more blacks, mixed couples and Hispanics come to the campground in Pa. we are working at, many of whom were first time campers. My hope is that we provided a good, positive experience for them to continue to camp, even when this virus has run it’s course.

Carol Erlingheuser
11 days ago

Great article. My husband and I too have wondered why we’ve seen so few Black campers. I never considered these viewpoints.As lifelong northerners who retired south, Ive seen that the racism can be more blatant because in some families/groups it’s accepted and taught. And over the years, we’ve noted all campers are less friendly and outgoing in general.
I see the intent of “Black” camping groups, but also believe it creates another division among campers.