Barriers to BIPOC Participation in The Outdoors

Historical Barriers

Since the development of public lands in the United States, Black, Indigenous, and people of color have been excluded from the outdoors in various ways. Through colonization, Indigenous groups were forcefully removed from their lands. Later, National Parks were built informed by the sometimes romanticized views of the wilderness expressed by Henry David Thoreau and campaigned for by President Theodore Roosevelt (“Origin of the National Parks Idea”). These narratives of the outdoors as a place of solitude away from society developed into a privileged understanding of nature. Even though much of the early maintenance and mapping of National Parks would not have been possible without the help of the Buffalo Soldiers and other BIPOC figures, these groups were still excluded from using these public lands. Desegregation of the National Parks did not occur until 1945 and even then there was local pushback against it. KangJae Lee, a researcher on the racial gap in outdoor recreation and professor on race and outdoor leisure, claims that National and State Parks were created and managed strictly as white spaces (Scott and Lee 75). This historical segregation of nonwhites from receiving access to the outdoors fostered what is now known as “the adventure gap” (Asmelash).

Diversity in the Outdoors is a digital site created by Emma Schatz for CHICLA 520: Latinx Digital Publics, a course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 13 May 2022. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Works Cited List can be found here.

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