LA Times Article Examines ‘Complicated Past’ Of Camping For People Of Color

A recent story in The Los Angeles Times looked at outdoor camping through the lens of racism and historical oppression, alleging that people of color engage in the activity less than white people in part because camping gear is too expensive.

“Camping is often called America’s favorite outdoor activity,” the newspaper tweeted Monday. “But camping and national parks have a complicated past when it comes to racial equality and equal access for all. One modern barrier to entry: the cost of camping gear.”

“From 2010-2014, 94.6% of visitors to national forests identified as white,” the thread continued. “People who identified as Latino made up 5.7%, and those who identified as Black made up 1.2%.”

According the article itself, a woman named Mo Jackson experienced “the most clarifying moment” during a May camping trip with a friend in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “They woke at 5 to start a fire, make breakfast and — in the midst of a pandemic — experience the peace that comes with an early morning in a secluded spot.”

The article went on to explain how “the beauty of that morning moved Jackson to tears,” and compelled her to find a way to help more people of color go camping. “That day I was like, OK, what can I do to get more Black people outdoors? And I thought, well, I have enough savings to get three camping kits together.”

After offering details on how Jackson began a GoFundMe to purchase BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Color) camping kits, which has raised more than $70,000 as of publishing, the article went on to link the racial disparities of those who camp and visit national parks to historical injustices:

But camping and national parks have a complicated past when it comes to racial equality and equal access for all. National parks have a history of segregation that dates to the 1930s, something that didn’t change until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Almost all U.S. national parks were originally home to Indigenous populations long before they were set aside as parks. Many of those Native American tribes were pushed off their land, often violently, to create an illusion of untouched landscapes.

The article also mentioned how donations for the BIPOC camping kits took off in July, which Jackson attributed to white guilt. “I think there is a lot of white guilt right now,” she said. “We’re all learning and growing. Sometimes, guilt is part of it, too — not that we want guilt and shame, but we do want growth.”

Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, apologized last month for the “substantial role” the group played in perpetuating white supremacy, and also condemned its founder John Muir for friendships and views he had.

“[Muir] made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life,” Brune said. “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.”

Related: Sierra Club Apologizes For ‘Deeply Harmful Racist Stereotypes’ Of Founder John Muir

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