What I learned when I wrote “Where are all the Black RVers?”

102

By Nanci Dixon
I have had several weeks to think about and process the strong reactions many readers had to my article “Where are all the Black RVers?” A rather innocuous article, I thought. I felt I was basically saying that Black campers don’t feel safe or welcomed into what have been traditionally white spaces – that there is a history of exclusion within the National and State Parks.

I have reread the article, and then read it again and again, and still can’t figure out what was so offensive. It was just the facts of our lives and the history of exclusion in the park system, particularly in states where Jim Crow ruled. There was so much more that could have been said, from a personal and historical perspective. Perhaps that will come at a later time, when we are far away from elections, vote count, COVID, the economy, job losses, and overall world stress. Maybe then I will feel comfortable writing that article.

I was astounded by the amount of comments that followed! There were so many hateful responses that the RVtravel.com staff had to shut down the comment section. I read many of those comments before they shut it down and I was amazed (and not in a good way) and so very disheartened and sad at the amount of vicious, malicious remarks. It was not just some article – it was personal. It was about my family, my Black husband, my brown children, grandchildren and other Black RVers.

We are usually the only Black and mixed family in a campground and that has not stopped us from camping, nor will it. We have met wonderful people and have made some very good long-term friends. The lack of other families like ours, though, still begs the question: “Why aren’t there more Blacks camping?”

DID YOU KNOW? Shenandoah National Park and some other National Parks, campgrounds, picnic areas and other facilities were segregated until 1950.

After all the hubbub, I thought perhaps Chuck Woodbury would ask me, kindly, to refrain from further controversial articles at best or ask me, again kindly, to not write for RV Travel anymore. I was amazed (this time in a good way) by the support from Chuck, the RV Travel staff and the hundreds of readers that wrote their good wishes and support for the article. They supported me and my family, and they supported RV Travel for the decisions made to shut down the hateful commentary.

For that support, I will be forever grateful, especially to those who said they did not agree with everything in the article but respected my opinion and the integrity of RV Travel.

As difficult and jaw-dropping as the hateful comments have been, it gave me a deeper insight into how divided and troubled the soul of this nation still is. That being said, the positive comments and letters of kindness I received outshine the hate. And for that, I am truly grateful.

So as I sit here, watching yet another glorious Arizona sunrise, I know that there is goodness in people. There is healing. I woke up this morning, still alive in a global pandemic. I am sitting in my RV overlooking the mountains and desert, living my best life ever. I am filled with gratitude, because of the comments left by some of my fellow RVers and in spite of others. Thank you, RV Travel – and thank you, readers.

NOTE FROM EDITOR: If you comment, please do so with respect. Thank you.

##RVT973

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Wendy Bell
13 days ago

Never ever refrain from helping us all to move towards our better selves… and to enjoying our RVing lifestyle more fully and without fear. God bless you and your lovely family.

Curtis D Botner
16 days ago

Racism is alive and well in America in 2020, your article only confirmed that, along with the notion that people who hate do not want to be called on their hatred. I felt the article was one of substance, presented in a reasonable manner and one that I appreciated. I know there will be those who say let’s just drop it, let it go, and move on. But when we do that (not be exposed or discuss it), it doesn’t go away, just like the article clearly and objectively described.

Vincee
16 days ago

Hi Nanci,

In my opinion, your original question, based on your life experiences, was great. I can picture a campfire conversation about just such a topic, especially amongst a bunch of white campers. Heck, I probably have wondered why you don’t see more black folks camping myself over my past fourteen years of camping.

However I believe what gets some people so agitated to write mean and nasty responses to a great free RV information resource such as RV Travel is that the past is always being dragged up. Look at the photo attached to today’s comment from you, it is 70 years old. There is no need to dredge up mistakes made in past history to chart the way forward today. I am not saying to ignore those mistakes in the past, but maybe your article could have been more positive from today’s point of view as I am sure there must be a host of other reasons why you don’t see more blacks out enjoying the great outdoors.

Curtis D Botner
16 days ago
Reply to  Vincee

Not trying to challenge you just wondering, how do you put a positive spin on racism? While the photos may be 70 years old, and this is what’s sad, the covertness of racism is still very much a part of our culture.

Abe Loughin
17 days ago

Nanci, I commented on your first article, hopefully it was construed in the friendly, supportive way it was meant. I applaud your courage to once again “pick up the pen” and share your thoughts. I have an observation to share. As a workcamper in a campground just a couple of hours away from New York city and New Jersey, we saw, and welcomed, an uptick of black, mixed and hispanic families. These folks couldn’t go to or do any of their normal vacation/ pastime activities. The majority of the people I talked to, and most were first time campers, said they enjoyed their experience and would most likely continue to camp.

Shannon OBrien
17 days ago

I too was greatly disheartened by the comments from your original article, so much so that I never finished reading the rest of the newsletter and thought about unsubscribing, thinking these are definitely not my people. I was happy to see from on the Liberal and Progressive RVer Facebook page that Chuck had dealt with the issue in a positive manner and after reading for myself what he did I decided to be a paid subscriber. Thank you for sharing your experiences, I too was in a long term interracial relationship in the 80s and 90s and know your experiences are real but I had hoped things had changed more. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and experiences whether they are related to your interracial family or not.

Fermor
17 days ago

Thank you, Nanci, for your frank and honest description of your experience. Thank you, Chuck, for publishing Nanci’s insightful article. I too have often wondered “where are the Black RVers?” You have both provided a valuable service by opening the subject of the current state of race relations in the RV community.
The positive responses that you have received are evidence that our nation is evolving. The negative responses are evidence of the difficulty some folks have listening to another’s point of view. I am optimistic that openly confronting occurrences of racism will eventually lead to accepting each other as individuals rather than as members of another “race”. We are all members of the same race, the human race.

Joe
18 days ago

Limited character space available, so in a nutshell, you came off sounding like you have a chip on your shoulder and have an agenda. In addition, some of your references to support your article were illogical. You tried justifying Blacks not feeling welcomed while camping in part with ridiculous references (both in your first article and again in this one) to the National Park system at one time not being inclusive to all. You’ve pushed that point many times. That era was 70 years ago or more. If this is your “proof”, then you must also feel the same about going into grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events and most forms of public commerce, as they too were also segregated at one time. Using that logic, do you write articles asking why there are not more Blacks at those facilities as well? A better answer to your article’s question is that Blacks are only 14% of the population, sadly often in lower economic levels and RVing is an expensive eccentricity.

Deborah Mason
15 days ago
Reply to  Joe

I find myself thinking back to the early 70s when it was realized that most college entrance exams were unknowingly biased toward white middle class students. I think the “exclusion” felt in the national & state parks comes from a lack of meaningful exposure to other races and cultures rather than intentional exclusion. It’s hard to be inclusive of folks you’ve never truly lived with and understood. I include myself, as I was once a park ranger, dealing with the public in many ways. You can’t leave your experience out of the mix, but need to seek greater understanding of other’s life experiences to be able to offer a more rounded experience to those you interact with.

Karla Gallagher
18 days ago

Thank you for your insightful article. I would like to meet you sometime. I grew up in the west and have never dealt with racism. When I meet someone I don’t see the color of their skin but rather if you are someone I would like to know. I do not understand people who base their friendships on the color of someone’s skin. We are all humans.

We all have to get over it. Leave the racism and prejudice in the past…where it belongs. We can’t undo the past. We must learn from it and go forward. It would be a pleasure to meet you on the RV trail.

Stephen Wiley
18 days ago

Personally, I couldn’t care less what color of skin others wear. Only behavior is judged an scrutinized. Sometimes, groups of ANY color can become boisterous and annoying.

Denise Gray
18 days ago

I am sorry for the horrible comments you received. As a white woman, I find it appalling that you would not feel safe in a campground/RV park. Fortunately, the election showed that there are more of us who support diversity, than who do not support diversity. I always wave at every camper/RV’er I see. I will try to make more of an effort to reach out to ALL my fellow RV’ers…thank you for your article. I also found nothing about the article to provoke the appalling comments.

Jeff Craig
18 days ago

We stay in many WA State Parks in our 35′ Georgetown Class A, and I, too, have noticed that RVers to to be rather monochromatic. Here in the Puget Sound (we mainly stay around Skagit and Island Counties) there is a lot (40-50% some weekends) of Hispanic, Asian and South Asian (Indian/Pakistani) families in tents and a few pop-up campers. But there aren’t many African American families.

Sure, the PacNorWest doesn’t have a large AA population, but it makes sense that the history of segregation (and the bigoted reaction to Civil Rights in the 60’s) had the same effect on camping, as it did on public swimming pools and water fountains. That said, campgrounds are open for everyone, and are welcoming (but please observe quiet hours!!).

(After 20 years in the Navy, I honestly can not understand racists attitudes… so damn stupid….).

Thank you for your article, and keep sharing your perspective on the world!

Leslie
18 days ago

I’m one of the very lucky people to know and love Nanci and her husband. My husband and I were so shocked at the vitriol that came out with her informed and well-intentioned article. Thanks again for writing an excellent eye-opening article, Nanci. You are both two-in-a-million.

Ellen L
18 days ago

Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. We can’t “walk a mile in your shoes” but we can give you cyber hugs along the way.

Niebeling Robb
18 days ago

We live in Georgia and stayed at 23 State parks here. Before reading these articles we had always commented on how we are pleased to see a diverse population in our campgrounds. It warmed my heart every time we watched ALL the kids playing together. I’ve heard from others that was not always the case for them, but we never experienced any negativity. We’re building in a RV resort in North Alabama that is definitely welcoming to all. Thanks for sharing your story.

Margaret Dinkel
18 days ago

Thank you!! Safe travels for both your “physical” journey and your writing journey. Keep up the great work.

Tim
18 days ago

Thanks for another great article. I was also happy with RV Travel’s response and became a paying contributor because of that response.

Maggie S.
18 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Me too! Nanci’s article was the first in RVTravel that I had commented on. I left a favorable comment, thanked RVTravel for publishing it, and became a paid contributor. Safe travels everyone!

dawn ellen miller
18 days ago

I live in a bedroom community town of a large city. There are very nice neighborhoods where I do not look like most of the homeowners. So when we travel it almost feels strange that we are in an “all white” area. We’ve noticed that most RVers look like us. Thanks for asking the question. I look forward to a day when the color of our skin is no more of a matter than eye or hair color.

Landa Mohr
18 days ago

I was so sad to hear you had hateful comments about Black RVers. At first I thought can’t be RVers, but then I remembered people who destroy property where they are (ie Joshua Trees) who don’t clean up after their dog or trash in their campsite, drive too fast thru the campground, leave a mess in the bathroom or laundry room. The list goes on! These horrible people feel entitled and those rules don’t apply to them! It doesn’t matter what color or race you are as long as you are respectful of the people and area around you. I love meeting people who are different. I feel I grow each time I learn new things about the people I’m meeting!

DENNIS J CHARPENTIER
18 days ago

Nanci, I did not comment on your first article but I did feel at the time that it was a bit one sided. But the more I thought about it, what other side could you speak to? It is your and your family’s experience you related.
I have traveled in the south and been on the other side of which you related. Not that there were more black campers but we did use public transportation rather than towing a car in those days. We have been the minority on the city bus (or during my early morning walks for a newspaper) and indeed have felt out of place and I would bet our fellow riders were suspicious of us.
One thing we did learn is that there are good people everywhere and they were ready and willing to help out a couple of out of place and occasionally lost out-of-towners.
So, welcome to the RV world. Don’t forget to stop and say hi if you find yourself next door.

Mike Schwab
18 days ago

It is not just the campgrounds. In 2017, I traveled for 3 months from Illinois to Alaska and back for the eclipse, then 2 months down to New Orleans then to Cape Kennedy and back. Very limited black staff in the restaurants and other businesses. Especially in the south. Maybe 3 times is all I saw someone. Going by the population statistics, I should have seen at least 20% blacks.