A student at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, argues “people of color have been denied access to the outdoors” in a recent op-ed for an independent student newspaper.
The student, Malcolm McCann, penned a column this month entitled, “Insiders and Outsiders in the Outdoors,” which argues that only white Americans have access to the outdoors.
The column directs its criticisms at two nature student groups at Pitzer College. “Both clubs claim to be accessible,” he argues. “While trips are open to any student wanting to go, not everyone feels the same ease in entering the outdoors. This discomfort is unfortunately caused by existing racial boundaries.”
McCann, who is white, suggests that the term “outdoorsy” conjures up mental images of white men.
This whiteness manifests in the term “outdoorsy” – a descriptor for those who spend a significant time in the outdoors, who are equipped with the necessary gear, and who feel connected to nature. The image of the “outdoorsy individual” is an exclusive classification that gives white people the authority to venture into the outdoors freely, leaving people of color behind.
He goes on to argue that Americans who believe they own land are delusional because North America truly belongs to Native Americans. “Historically, white people in imperialist conquests have appropriated land as their own,” he argues. “North America rightfully belongs to indigenous communities, yet it has been taken away from them by force. Consequently, a false sense of ownership of nature permeates white America.”
McCann argues that the cost of visiting national parks makes it unrealistic for non-white Americans. “Many National Parks are hundreds of miles from large cities,” he wrote. “Consequently, only those with access to a vehicle and money for gas will be able to enjoy them. Similarly, only students with economic privilege have the resources to attend summer programs that teach wilderness skills.”
McCann claims only white Americans truly have access to the outdoors. “Due to the predominance of whiteness in the outdoors, people of color have been denied access to the outdoors,” he argues.