Student op-ed: Outdoor clubs are too white

In a recent op-ed for the school paper, a white Pitzer student frets that the colleges’ outdoor programs, though open to all students and well-funded, are “predominantly white spaces” that deny people of color “access to the outdoors.”

The op-ed, written by Malcolm McCann, a freshman at Pitzer College—one of the member institutions of the Claremont Colleges—calls out clubs like Pitzer Outdoor Adventure (POA) and On the Loose (OTL), among the most amply funded outdoor clubs at the Claremont Colleges, for being “predominately white spaces.”

“Both clubs claim to be accessible: while trips are open to any student wanting to go, not everyone feels the same ease in entering the outdoors,” McCann claims, saying, “This discomfort is unfortunately caused by existing racial boundaries.”

The article contends that white imperialism, as well as the fact that three prominent naturalist figures in U.S. history happen to be white, generate this pervasive racial exclusion.

“Historically, white people in imperialist conquests have appropriated land as their own,” McCann asserts. “North America rightfully belongs to indigenous communities, yet it has been taken away from them by force. Consequently, a false sense of ownership of nature permeates white America.”

“Similarly, the image of a modern outdoor enthusiasts is white, as is the historical image of a naturalist,” he continues. “The great icons of nature—John Muir, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau—are all white men. At present, most famous rock climbers are also disproportionately white.”

McCann also takes the term “outdoorsy” as another expression of “whiteness” that excludes people of color from outdoor activities.

“This whiteness manifests in the term ‘outdoorsy’—a descriptor for those who spend a significant time in the outdoors, who are equipped with the necessary gear, and who feel connected to nature,” he says. “The image of the ‘outdoorsy individual’ is an exclusive classification that gives white people the authority to venture into the outdoors freely, leaving people of color behind.”

McCann then points to financial barriers preventing students of color from spending time outdoors.

Read the rest at: Outdoors are too White

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