Racial complexities of outdoor spaces: an analysis of African American's lived experiences in outdoor recreation
Abstract: This thesis examines the racial power imbalances that exists within the outdoor recreation industry. Despite participation rates being quantified, limited research explores the lived experiences and perspective of people of color. In this study, I explore the socio- historical development of outdoor recreational spaces, existing environmental habitus and African Americans lived experiences in outdoor recreation. To emphasize the voice of the participants, twelve African American millennials were interviewed. Questions in the interviews revolved around their perception of outdoor recreation and personal experiences while participating in outdoor recreation. Three overarching themes emerged from their stories, i) the typology of outdoor recreation, ii) outdoor recreation as a White activity and, iii) the role of environmental trauma. Upon exploring these themes, the conclusion was made that the participants did connect the socio-historical development of outdoor recreational spaces, existing environmental habitus and their lived experiences in outdoor recreation. Their connection led me to the conclusion that the low participation rates of African Americans in outdoor recreation is a complicated social phenomena that is connected to multiple facets of oppression. I then broke these facets of oppression into three tiers, i), the construction and maintenance of outdoor recreation as a White activity, and the Whiteness that is embedded deeply within the outdoor recreation configuration, ii), the history of financial and economic marginalization that communities of color have endured in the United States and iii), the environmental trauma that African Americans have experienced in outdoor settings throughout American history. These three tiers together make the participation in outdoor recreation a different and complicated experience for African Americans.