This land is everyone’s land.
Many of us seek nature for refuge, but what if instead when we arrived we were cast out? What if instead of solicitude and peace, we were welcomed with stares and ignored by people passing by? While researching last week’s article on fashion in the hiking world, I stumbled upon a heart-breaking discovery. Even though diversity and inclusion remain hot topics in our nation’s media, and changes have begun in businesses across the country, exclusion still haunts America’s outdoors.
The Silent Get Out
Some of us may ask, how are people excluded? According to opb.org one Oregon citizen explained, “Cooper said when she [visited Oregon’s outdoors] she felt unwelcomed, invisible and that she didn’t belong.” Could this be just over sensitivity? Maybe, maybe not? Cooper explained, “No one sa[id] anything, no one [was] being overtly negative or mean…but just the way they [would] stare at you let you know something [was] wrong…It’s not like they are looking at all strangers that way, they [were] looking at me.” I too know that feeling. While visiting New York City, I missed my stop on the subway and had to get off in Queens and double back. I was the only white person in the entire station. No one said anything derogatory, but I knew I didn’t belong by the expressions, glares, and cold shoulders—I was not welcome.
From the Redwood Forests, to the Gulf Stream waters, ethnic minorities and LGBTQ are underrepresented and sometimes excluded. Mario Rigby, an outdoor enthusiast, explorer, and speaker, hopes to change this. According to mariorigby.com, he plans to kayak across lake Ontario, but not only by himself. He is taking his entire community. He hopes to promote domestic and sustainable travel, encourage inclusion, and offer minority youth who don’t get the chance to explore the outdoors and opportunity to do so. Check his adventures and projects at: mariorigby.com, and become your local nature inclusive advocate.
“Nature is the purest portal to inner-peace.”Angie Weiland-Crosby
Avid runner, health enthusiast, founder of project love run, and mental health advocate, Filson Abdiaman said, “Although the trail community is extremely welcoming…I am always aware of being the only minority…. As a black woman, I’ve had my share of uncomfortable experiences out on a run. As a result, I’m always vigilant every time I lace up. But I still lace up—that I do because I strongly believe that I have every right to take up space too. I have every right to show my face and presence,” Filsan Abdiaman (greatlakes.guide). We all must do our part to enact change, from having courage, to inviting.
- Have courage—like Bethany Hamilton, the Soul Surfer, we must face the sharks that bite us and come back swimming.
- Invite others—nature, although it is arguably amazing alone, is always better with good company. Follow Mario’s example and invite friends, others who might not feel safe without company.
- Share equipment—lower barriers not standards—outdoor sporting recreation is expensive for everyone and deters people of all backgrounds from enjoying the outdoors.
- Boost confidence—in yourself and others— “In 2015 The first female soldiers graduated Ranger School, a notoriously difficult course that nearly 60% of soldiers fail to complete,” (sierraclub.org).
- Greet and Welcome—Be friendly or courteous–ALWAYS.
Beauty is Variety
“In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”Alice Walker.
It’s time we remember the same about people. Humans are far from perfect. In fact there is no such thing as perfect because that is too narrow a perspective. Variety is perfect! There will always be people who may seem on the outside out of our normal. They may look or sound different than what we are used to, but people in their variety are what make up the beauty of humanity.