Why don’t black people go camping?

Posted: September 29, 2011 in African American, culture, diversity, personal, Uncategorized

Just the other day I went whitewater rafting and came back with a little soreness in my ribs. Someone commented to me that I need to stop doing that kind of stuff because “you know we don’t do that kind of stuff” (implying black people). The comment struck me because I have always struggled with certain things being the sole property of another race. I think it is one thing to state that it is not the cultural norm but when it becomes racial and connected to genetics I think it devalues some things that are very clear in the word such as the image of God in all of humanity. It is the same as saying that African Americans cannot excel intellectually. It devalues our humanity and causes us to fall short of all that God has for us. So I will whitewater raft and camp to my heart’s content. I may even mountain climb one day but that’s another story.

An underlying question that the person’s comment brought up for me is “Why don’t black people go camping, hiking, or participate in any other outdoor sport?” In my latest adventures outdoors I have seen at least two black families but in my general interaction I usually get the impression that black folks do not like camping or any outdoor activity. We are very enthusiastic about sports such as football and basketball but not about the outdoors. I believe this is a severe limitation as not all of us are athletes in that sense (including myself) and we miss out on the beauty of nature and the sense of self reliance that outdoor activities bring. Missing out on the beauty of nature is detrimental because I believe that is a way of seeing God and his attributes (Psalm 19)

Why is that? What is the reason that black people as a whole don’t go outdoors? Why is there an aversion to camping and hiking in the general African American population? Is this even accurate?

  1. Matthias LBJ says:

    As a teacher, I have often heard of other teachers from the inner city of Los Angeles talking about the field trip they organized and how it was this or that students first time going to the beach. I had a similar experience with a student we took on a college tour, who had not been doing so well in classes. He made a similar comment that he had never thought to go to college, but maybe he could do it. Now that he had stepped foot onto college campuses. He got a film making scholarship I think.

    My only roll was being a chaperon. A tour guide I guess. I know that the outdoors are more accessible to those who live near them, have more exposure to them, and have knowledge about the things you can do in them.

    You mention rock climbing and my friend’s Ted and Jason got into that, even got a student club to go to an indoor rock climbing gym. They used tier knowledge to inform others of a new way to enjoy things.

    Tour guiding could be an interesting activity for a multicultural church fellowship. A person hosts an adventure into a hobby they have that interests them and acts as a tour guide to those that are unfamiliar with this hobby. A sports fan could bring everyone to a game. A surfer could teach friends to surf. A hippy could take everyone Frisbee golfing.

    To answer your question about black people and the stereotype that camping and hiking is not for them, may be related to the image of urban success and outdoors nature is roughing it isn’t being associated with success in the mass culture of America.

    Well Ramon, you have gotten my thoughts going here. Thank you.

    • mayotron says:

      I like your thoughts on this Matt. I think that camping isn’t what many envision as urban success in the mass culture of America

  2. JasonsBlogg says:

    I’m black and I dont do those things because I dont have time and money. I’ll have to take off work, using my vacation time, I’ll have to buy supplies, and so on.

    I have went camping two times in my life and they have been within the last 4 years. Never while I was younger… so I dont have a proclivity to camp, hike or any of that.

    However, we all need to be exposed to different adventures in life. Black people are not exempt, but there are things that other ethnicities have not experienced that black people are accustomed to.

    I think it comes down to the poverty stricken vesus the middle and upper class. My parents were worried about how NOT to get evicted from our apartment. I think camping was far from there plans…

    • mayotron says:


      I think you have some good points but the mass of black people are not worried about being evicted. We have just experienced the largest middle class increase in the last ten to twenty years. I have seen an aversion to camping even among those in the middle class. How do you explain that?

      • great reflections here Jason and mayotron. In a similar vein of conversation there was a report done a few years ago by the Outdoor Industry Foundation on outdoor rec participation in the Hispanic community. They found that income and economics was NOT a barrier or the reason why many Hispanics do not participate in outdoor activities. They concluded that it was more about preference or interest or knowledge about what to do in the outdoors or knowledge of where to participate.

  3. Let’s go rock-climbing in Pennsylvania!!

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