Black People Don't Do That!

 The author bouldering at Carver in Oregon

The author bouldering at Carver in Oregon

Black people don't camp, hike, cliff jump, skydive, kayak, or climb.

Growing up one of the worst insults that you could hear as a young Black child was, “you're hella white.” Statements like this have motivated me to become an advocate for People of Color (POC) to try things that are not stereotypical. Children want nothing more than to fit in. Then one day we get older and become adults who want the same. What can we do to change the dialogue in the Black community from, “Black people don’t do that” to “what can’t Black people do?” (The answer is nothing. We can do anything).

In my younger years I just wanted to be like everyone else. In the 90s I wore baggy clothes and in the early 2000s I wore giant button up shirts... Who didn't want to be K-CI & Jo Jo? I played basketball and football in the middle of the street with all my cousins. I avoided all things anyone would consider White. I later found that I had been missing out on so many life altering opportunities. I was limiting myself based on the parameters I had accepted from my peers. One day I decided I was just going to be me. I didn't know who that was or what it meant, but I knew I wasn’t going to subscribe to those parameters any longer. I refused to fit any stereotype.

During this journey I found myself asking lots of questions about why Black people could not, or do not do certain things? What does it even mean to be Black? Why is it that we feel like we have to prove our blackness? I realize by asking questions such as these, I can not avoid sounding defensive, but they are valid questions. Maybe our blackness is not determined by the activities we participate in, but is determined by the people we are. When I think about what it means to be black, I think about my ancestors: what they went through and how they were able to survive through experiences I could not even possibly imagine. When I think about what it means to be Black, I think about what it is that I can do to make the community stronger as well as what I can do to pay homage to my ancestors. I want to live a life that would make my them proud.  

So how do we change the dialogue that is currently taking place within the Black community?  

Is this an issue of exposure? Are we not seeing enough/any role models or people we can relate to in these spaces? The reason I got into climbing was because I had friends that were active climbers. They were introduced to the sport through their friends as well. The idea of rock climbing was normalized because of the people they were around who looked like them and who also climbed. 

The best conversations are based on our experiences. To change the dialogue we have to increase our participation in these activities. Go out and try new things, and don’t be afraid to share these experiences with your friends. The outdoors can and often does provide some of the best life experiences. These experiences deserved to be shared with all people. To help further change this dialogue I have decided to hold myself accountable. I have set personal goals of trying to stop making statements like, “that's white” or describing an activity as something associated with the race of an individual. I would also like to get more people involved in questioning how can we make the outdoors more inclusive and welcoming of all people? I will be introducing as many of my friends who are Black to the outdoor activities I enjoy. It just takes enough people that we wouldn't typically imagine doing these things to change up our dialogue. 

So what does it look like to be Black? That is up for each Black individual to determine. What I do know is the changing faces of the outdoors excites me. I love being able to go to the climbing gym or to the mountain and not be the only Black person there. To change the dialogue we have to change our perspective. We have to be willing to try new things with new people. 

 Cross country skiing for the first time this past New Years Day

Cross country skiing for the first time this past New Years Day