Diversifying the Outdoors: Resources for White Allies

My city was on fire and that wasn’t even why I was angry. It had been building for a long time. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. And now George Floyd had been murdered by the police in the street of the city I love. On that same day in New York City’s Central Park, Black birder Christian Cooper was falsely accused of assault for asking a white woman to leash her dog. They were just the most recent names added to a long list of Black Americans killed or harmed for doing everyday things I take for granted.

As I sat with my anger, obsessively reading the news and racists comments online as the uprising unfolded around the world, I felt an urge to venture out into nature to find peace and clarity. That, my friends, is white privilege in action.

What a privilege it is to find safety and comfort in nature, not to mention in my daily life. And what a privilege to have the option of retreating to take care of myself amidst anti-racism protests and incredible grief in our Black communities.

All voices, bodies, races and identities deserve to feel safe and welcome in nature and the outdoors community. Right now, that’s not the case.

This Big Wild World exists because I believe that life is better with adventure. But, that means for everyone. And, we white adventurers are taking up way too much space in the outdoors. 

We’ve got work to do. 

I don’t mean like angry tweet a few things, sign a couple petitions, skim some articles and we’re done. I mean work. I’m in this work for the long haul and I hope you’ll join me.

This is a weekly learning plan that will unfold gradually with resources for those of us seeking to be better white allies to outdoorsy people of color and advocate for diverse representation in the outdoors community.

What to expect:

  • Black, Indigenous, and other people of color’s (BIPOC) voices are centered in the selected resources. Any resources created by white people were selected because they specifically speak to white privilege or the historic role white people have played in systemic racism in the USA. 
  • Some resources are intended to be general learning while others are specific to the outdoors community. Both are necessary.
  • Each week, there will be a focused learning topic or type of resource as well as reflection questions and homework. Join on IG Stories on Thursdays for conversation and accountability.
  • I have a lot to learn and will make mistakes when it comes to conversations on race and racism. I am committed to humbly listening and learning to be better when this happens.

If you have a resource you would recommend adding to this list, let me know! If you have any concerns with the resources listed, please reach out to me. I will be updating the list regularly.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep This Big Wild World up and running!

Week 1: Short Reads [Est <30 minute each]

The first three articles below specifically address racism and allyship in the outdoors community. The final two are education resources focused on understanding white privilege and allyship in general.

This week, choose one or more articles below to read and reflect on.

The Melanin Base Camp Guide to Outdoor Allyship by Danielle Williams

Want to Speak Up Against Racism in the Outdoors? Here’s How by David Robles

Camping While Black: An Honest Conversation on Race in the Outdoors by Lauren Gay

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

How to Be a Good White Ally, According to Activists by Emily Stewart

Week 1: Reflection Questions

What most resonated with you from your reading?
Think about your last experience in the outdoors. In what ways did you benefit in that experience from your white privilege?
How have you responded in the past when someone has tried to talk to you about race? If others haven’t tried to talk to you about race, why do you think that is? 
In what ways can you signal boost or raise up the voices of outdoorsy BIPOC?
What are some ways in which you can be a better white ally?
What is one action you will take based on what you learned this week?

Week 2: Pre-Work

Choose one of the titles below to read (or listen to the audio version). The links provided are to the e-book version on Amazon, however I encourage you to purchase from a local BIPOC owned bookstore or borrow from your public library if possible.


Week 2: Longer Reads

This list is meant to offer many different angles to view and learn about race and racism in the USA. My intention is to offer a longer read for anyone, no matter where you are in your journey and what your interests are so that you can find something that speaks to you.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo | Perfect for: an introduction to race, racism, and intersectionality.

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney | Perfect for: an understanding of systemic and cultural barriers preventing diversity in the outdoors community.

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy | Perfect for: considering our nation’s history with race and how its stories are told.

NEW! White Rage by Carol Anderson | Perfect for: learning about the history of beliefs around race and the evolution of racism in the US in the words of a Black author.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander | Perfect for: understanding the systemic racism designed into our criminal justice system.

How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi | Perfect for: identifying all types of racism and the difference between not being racist and being antiracist.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald | Perfect for: anyone trying to identify and accept their own implicit biases and the impacts of their biases. Relies on many cases studies and the use of the Implicit Association Test to measure bias.

White fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo | Perfect for: White people who are uncomfortable talking about race including what “new racism” means, why being racist doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, and what white fragility looks like in action in the words of a White author.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein | Perfect for: understanding the role that federal, state and local government has played in creating and sustaining systems of racism in the USA in the words of a White author.

Week 2: Reflection Questions

What most resonated with you from your reading?
What did you discover about systemic racism in the US?
Based on what you know right now, what does being antiracist mean to you?
In what ways do you recognize white fragility in your own behavior? 
What did you learn about racism in the US that you weren’t taught in school but wish you were?
What is one action you will take based on what you learned this week?

Week 3: Pre-Work

Choose one or more of the audio resources below to listen to. These range in duration from 30 minutes to over an hour per episode. After listening, use the Week 3 reflection questions to capture what you learned and translate that into action.


Week 3: Podcasts & Audio Resources

This list of audio resources includes podcast, meditations, and thought-provoking discussions related to race and racism. Some are links to entire series or podcasts and others highlight specific episodes that I have found particularly valuable. 

Camping While Black from Outdoorsy Diva Podcast | Perfect for: Learning from personal experiences about camping while Black.

21-Day Walking Meditation Black History Bootcamp from Girl Trek | Perfect for: Learning about the incredible women in Black history in the US. Sign up for their daily email which includes a recording of a 30-minute walking meditation, a Spotify playlist and other resources all inspired by the woman featured that day. This has become a highlight of my daily walks!

Black Lives Matter Meditation from Dr. Candice Nicole | Perfect for: A loving-kindness meditation to support centering your emotions as you work to be a better ally (click the link and scroll down for an ally meditation).

1619 Podcast from New York Times | Perfect for: Reflecting on and learning about the history of slavery in the US, which began 400 years ago in 1619.

Seeing White Podcast from Scene On Radio | Perfect for: Allies wanting to explore whiteness and “white” as a race.

Code Switch Podcast from NPR | Perfect for: Conversations about race and how it impacts every aspect of our lives and society.

Pod Save the People Podcast from Crooked Media | Perfect for: Exploring topics related to activism, social justice, culture and politics with a specific emphasis on untold stories of people of color.

Freddie Gray Miniseries of the Undisclosed Podcast | Perfect for: Going deep into a case study about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and policing. Freddie Gray was killed by the police in Baltimore in 2015.

Week 3: Reflection Questions

What most resonated with you from your reading?
Think about a time when you’ve interacted with a Black, Indigenous or other person of color in the outdoors. How did you treat them? In what ways was it similar and different to how you interact with white people outdoors?
What does it mean to you to name white as a race?
What is one action you will take based on what you learned this week?


Week 4: Videos & Movies

This list of videos and movies represent a combination of fiction and non-fiction. This list could easily be pages long. It is no way exhaustive. I’ve included those I’ve found most impactful for my growth and those most often recommended by those within the BIPOC community. 

Choose at least one to watch and reflect on this week. 

13th on Netflix | Perfect for: A deep-dive into how the 13th amendment to the US Constitution has been used to systematically disadvantage Black people throughout the country’s history, particularly through the criminal justice system.

TIME: The Kalief Brouder Story on Netflix | Perfect for: Learning about the US criminal justice system through a specific young man’s story where he was held in prison for 3 years, 2 of those being in solitary confinement, without ever being convicted of a crime.

Malcolm X (1992) on Netflix, Amazon Prime | Perfect for: Understanding the life, evolution of and influence of the legendary Black Nationalist leader. 

LA 92 on Netflix, Youtube | Perfect for: Examining the aftermath of the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles by the LAPD, the subsequent protests, and the ultimate acquittal of the officers involved. 

The Hate You Give on Amazon Prime, Cinemax, Hulu | Perfect for: Thought-provoking discussion on racism and policing in the US. 

Just Mercy on several streaming services | Perfect for: Gaining an appreciation for how racism exists and perpetuates in small town America through the true story of a Black civil rights attorney who fought for those on Death Row who were wrongfully convicted by an unjust system.

Coming to Terms with Racism’s Inertia: Ancestral Accountability by Rachel Cargle (on TedX) | Perfect for: Thinking about modern ways in which racism is present in the US in a short [13 min] video.

Week 4: Reflection Questions

What most impacted you from the video you watch?
In what ways does racism show up in your daily life? 
Considering the video you watched, what barriers do you see that prevent BIPOC from feeling safe in and enjoying the outdoors?
What is one action you will take based on what you learned this week?


Week 5: Historical Events (coming soon!)

Details to be posted in Week 4!

Stay Tuned

Each week, this page will grow with content to support our shared learning, exploring different topics and formats. Join the conversation each Thursday on Instagram Stories.

Woman hiker sitting on a rock overlooking a green valley with the sun setting behind her.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Susan!

    I am going to have to keep popping back as I would like to read through all these links properly. Should I let you know if I find others that you might be interested in? I feel like we follow a lot of the same people, so I always assume you have seen the things I find!

    You know, since #Blackbirdersweek, I have seen sooo much more diversity outside in the mountains here in Canada. I think we still have a lot to do in terms of representation in adventure advertising, but I honestly think (at least in Vancouver) people of all colours/ages/races are enjoying the outdoors. Now I just want to know how i can make people feel welcome in those spaces. I mean, I don’t want to call attention to it, as that might make people feel less welcome…

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks for joining, Josy!

      Yes! Please send any links you think I should add to me via email or social media. I’ll be updating this regularly and will mark new items so they’re easy to identify.

      That’s great to hear you’re seeing diverse groups of people on the trails near you, and I agree there’s much work to be done to make it a welcoming space and to see that translate into advertising and online content. A few of the “short reads” in Week 1 had ideas on what allies can do to make the outdoors more welcoming if you haven’t had a chance to check those out yet!

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