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The Unbearable Whiteness of Hiking and How to Solve It

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Vestal, 2016 (Sierra Club)

It's fitting that America's most famous wilderness guide, Sacajawea of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, was a woman of color. But it's also tragic that throughout American history, ethnic minorities have so often been underrepresented or intentionally excluded from the outdoors. Today, research from industry groups like the Outdoor Foundation bears out the conclusion that minority groups simply don't go outside. Consider this data point: in any given year, less than half of African American adolescents age 13 to 17 will participate in even one outdoor recreation activity. The issue isn't that people of color in America don't care about nature or environmental issues. In fact, surveys of racial minorities consistently show they are more concerned than whites about climate change and more supportive of policies to fix it. So what is keeping people of color from participating in outdoor recreation and enjoying its benefits? As activist and author Glenn Nelson writes, "Because the outdoors remains a largely white domain, it is up to white America to invite communities of color in, to enlist us as allies." Here are a few proven strategies for outings leaders (and well-meaning white folks) who want to be part of the solution.

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