The incident three weeks ago where white woman Amy Cooper called the cops on Christian Cooper, a Black man birding in Central Park, shows us that it’s not actually safe for Black folks to enjoy nature.
This is heartbreaking and unjust.
Nature needs to be a place for ALL OF US to slow down and reconnect with ourselves, the earth, and a greater wisdom. It is a place of healing, and our disconnection from it is literally what creates the ills of our society.
When we “other” nature, we ultimately “other” everything and everyone else.
Empathy fades away and gives way to over-consumption and violence. We have no sense of our interconnection, and we treat the earth and other people as if they don’t matter.
But right now, connecting with nature, and the healing that can arise from it, is a privilege I have as a white person that is simply not as available to Black people.
I’ve been following and contributing to an organization for a while now called Outdoor Afro.
I am pasting their founder and CEO Rue Mapp’s words below, because she says it better than me:
The intentional violence and weapon of United States racism in the outdoors is so pervasive and strong, that even a bird watching enthusiast in an iconic urban park could not escape it.
This is why Outdoor Afro exists.
Birds are a beloved and beautiful symbol of freedom; borderless in both spirit and movement to roam for their sustainability. A stark contrast to the continued constraints Black people far too often feel and experience on the same earth we share with birds, wildlife, and other humans.
With as much progress as Outdoor Afro has led in the last decade, the continued open-season on Black bodies in the outdoors remains horrifying — and makes it understandable why so many of our folks won’t go to parks anywhere in this country, especially alone. America has a dark and very recent past where Black lives were terrorized, maimed, and taken in wilderness settings. Today our people still experience all kinds of passive and aggressive behavior in nature from fellow park users while simply trying to recreate. The difference here is that the incident in New York City’s Central Park was filmed, and that brother Black man is also a board member of an esteemed wildlife conservation organization.
But few Black people have these credentials along with a fleeting chance to capture on film the unexpected timing when racism strikes — this is why it is Outdoor Afro’s explicit and evergreen mission to make sure all Black people, regardless of their affiliations or outdoor skills, can be treated with respect in nature at all times, anywhere and, at minimum, absolutely without the threat of violence.
Outdoor Afro will continue to support our communities, online and in real life, through empowered connections with nature, where Black people can be our full selves: beautiful, strong, and free. Our national volunteer network of trained leaders will continue with even greater resolve to share words of inspiration and hope, while planning healing outdoor events, including birdwatching, in public lands that belong to everyone. Your support continues to help us do this life affirming and critical work.
Peace and Nature,
I’d love for you to consider making a contribution to Outdoor Afro to support them in making nature a SAFE place for Black people.