Why do outdoor recreational activities in the U.S. seem to be a middle-class white phenomenon?

I am sure some people are going to be all over me for even suggesting this but it is true. Minorities generally don’t go camping, engage in canoe trips, go backpacking or engage much in the wilderness at all. Even some white people find the concept bizarre.

My officemate is technically white that looks vaguely Middle-Eastern and 2nd generation Portuguese but he looked at me like I had two heads when I asked him if he went hiking or fishing on a recent trip to California because the idea would never occur to him or his family. I am pretty sure Portuguese people know how to fish just fine but doing it recreationally just isn’t something some of them ever do. Many of my black friends back home in Louisiana couldn’t swim to save their lives (literally) even though they grew up surrounded by water.

I never understood the mentality. I grew up in the woods and stayed out for days without any supervision even as a child. It wasn’t like there were Klans hiding out there. I realize that is a cultural difference and I am sure many city raised Europeans would be equally adverse to spending time deep in the woods but I can’t quite understand why participation in such activities isn’t popular at all with any type of American minority.

Of course you could reverse the question as well. Why do middle-class white people like to sleep on the ground so much when there are perfectly good beds within walking distance?

I used to go to a regional caving “get together”

Between the TOTAL lack of black people, the giant bonfire, and all the confederate flags it often felt more like a KKK rally.

You grew up in the woods. Hunting/fishing/camping take money and time. If you’re a typical city-dweller you’re probably nowhere near a suitable location, and your parents aren’t likely to shell out a lot of money to buy equipment that takes up space and will only be used maybe once a year.

For the record, my Japanese-American father-in-law loved fishing, even managing to teach my wife some appreciation for it. And in St. Louis, some of the city lakes are stocked with fish, and city-dwellers of all types (although mostly older ones) actually catch and eat them.

Interesting question. About 10 years ago sites like AmRen and Steve Sailer were asking themselves the same thing.

I’ll probably catch shit for this butt here we go. I’ve had a few major hobbies in my life. And I don’t mean did a few times. I mean like did it every other weekend for years on end did it.

Astronomy/telescope making. Canoeing/kayaking. Caving. Scuba diving. And a shitload of camping/hiking related to those hobbies.

Based on my experiences doing those I’d almost assume minorities did not exist.

I live in the woods (30years) and I assure you it is not at all a recreational pursuit. We love it, though. I really don’t have neighbors, but the closest people to me are african/American and the men in the family hunt and fish with Mr. Wrecker quite often. But I do agree hiking and canoeing wouldn’t occur to them as a fun activity, but it doesn’t turn the Mr. on either.

Another “class” of people I found notably absent in my hobby life…doctors…

I’m going to guess that many of you do not visit National Parks often, or State Parks for that matter; very diverse populations of visitors.

Perhaps what you experience depends on where you go.

Sometimes things seem to be what they, really are. I’ve been bird-watching for 40 years, and spent probably hundreds of days walking the birding trails of nearly every well-known birding site. I don’t think I have ever encountered a single African American with a similar pursuit. I’ve met a couple, but never wearing binoculars, and those would just be local people out for a family day in nature.

If I were black, I don’t think I would be inclined to do much wandering around in rural America with no better excuse than “bird-watching, Sir” to explain my presence to a deputy. In the American south, even being a white stranger strolling on a rural country road has gotten the police called to check me out, and my explanations always seemed dangerously liberal.

By the sway, billfish, I’ve met plenty of birding doctors.


Did you just change something really odd like fird whicing to bird watching ?

Yes. I nearly always edit within the window, because it is easier to proofread in the post font, than in the text entry field. Funny that you’d notice.

I swear I am gonna ask my friend, who happens to be black, about this tomarrow. I guarantee she will have a clear answer on this. I will let you know her response.

Latinos are just as outdoorsy as whites.

We haunt the national and state parks constantly*. The attractions themselves may be diverse, but I assure you the campgrounds and marinas look like we’re in 1965. In 40 years of RV-ing I’ve seen black campers once, and women campers (without men) twice. I’ve spent about the same amount of time boating and I’ve only seen one woman launch a boat by herself and only a handful of black people. There is an Asian guy at work who has a boat and an RV, but he’s the only one I’ve met who does.

This isn’t why I love these pastimes but if my goal was to isolate myself among only whites, RV-ing and boating would be the way to do it.

*We average 30+ nights per year in the RV, and are on the lake 30-40 weekends per year.

I’m not sure why they are white (although anecdotal evidence suggests it is mostly white people who do those things) but they are middle class activities because they require disposable income and free time, neither of which poor people have in abundance usually.

Not especially diverse, according to the National Park Service’s Office of Relevancy, Diversity and Inclusion (apparently that’s a real thing).

Code Switch podcast transcript for the episode “Being ‘Outdoorsy’ When You’re Black Or Brown”

You’re not the only person to notice this. I found a couple of articles.

The main answer seems to be ‘momentum.’

[del]Duh![/del] Exactly. I kind of thought this would be obvious.

And since most middle- and upper-class nonwhite people are generally just a generation or two away from poverty, they often don’t have have a family tradition of taking part in outdoor activities.

I also suspect that the breakdown of white outdoorsy people by their ancestors’ country of origin may not be the same as that of the general white population.

Every rural black family I know included multiple people who loved fishing. You sort of need to grow up being outdoorsy or be interested enough to find a group to show you the ropes. Would you want to be the person to integrate this group?

You’d likely survive the experience, but you probably wouldn’t feel welcome. You’d be treated like an oddity at best.