After living in Denver for several years occasionally I would get asked a question that just makes me start laughing hysterically until I look at the person’s face in realize that they are serious.
“why don’t Black people go camping?”
Even now that I can’t fathom how white people don’t know this about Black Americans, and how they never noticed it probably until asking me. So to every outdoorsy person who’s ever had this question this one’s for you.
Why don’t Black people giving such a loaded question but I think it comes down to a couple different reasons, which will explore throughout this article. For starters camping is expensive. Now, I’m sure some are you are right about the typing a comment section about how it’s not always that expensive, but let’s be real, shit expensive. As a more adventurous Black person in Colorado I’ve considered on multiple occasions, and even once went, camping. Let me tell you I cannot afford that shit.
You can’t just go in your car and go camping. You have to prepare for that. First you have to get a route together. If you haven’t tried to get a group of Black people together to go to one place at one time on the weekend you don’t know the struggle. The Struggle! It’s next to impossible. You’ll start out with a group but come the weekend of you’ll be down to just you and your partner and they are just going with you to support.
Separately all of you need tents, sleeping bags, stuff to start a fire with, your food for the weekend, a card to get into the camping spot with, possibly a subscription to wherever the hell you’re camping, seasonal gear and clothes you’re actually willing to ruin. Ain’t nobody got that. And honestly it’s expensive to get it. Many Black families have two parents that work. Meaning you would also need to take out time to go out into the wilderness for fun. That’s not to say that no Black families have it like that, but many of us don’t.
The next problem is who goes camping: white people. Even after living in Denver for a while I still felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of going camping with white people. To us, white people make no damn sense. It’s that unpredictability mixed with instilled fear ( rightfully so.) that makes us so uncomfortable with going into the dark, secluded, wilderness with them.
Many white Americans take risks the Black Americans just don’t understand and that makes it hard to do what feels like to us is a risky activity. I’m not sure that many of us simply don’t have the desire to become adrenaline junkies, but many things that white Americans feel are fine just feel like stupid risks to us. The other concern is simply we don’t trust white people that we don’t know. It’s a visceral thing that’s been passed down through the ages. Historically lots have happened to Black people in the woods, but it’s been good. So why risk it?
Honestly though, the main reason is even more basic than both of those. Why? Why? Why would we choose to willingly leave the comfort of our home, pack up and take our family a long ways away to spend the night in the dirt????? Why though?! Our ancestors did not fight for hundreds of years for our right to have safe and comfortable housing for us to give it all up to go play in the woods.
As a culture after the great migration we become comfortable being in urban centers. With that we’ve lost all desire to leave that comfort. Now I’ve gone some version of camping. I slept in my sleeping bag on the ground in a tent. I saw the stars, and I almost broke my femur. It’s not the worst, but I still kind of don’t get the appeal.
It’s dark, it’s dirty, it’s cold, and out here in Colorado at altitude you can’t breathe, so most the time I’d rather just stay home. And I’m in adventurous Black person. I want to try some of that crazy white shit. But would I ever tried to convince a Black friend to try something like camping. Nope.
*Note: yes there are lots of Black people who DO go camping. My aunt is one of them, but these are some reasons why it’s less common