Campus Reform | OPINION: 'Woke' prof who blames racism for low Black participation in outdoor rec can take a hike

OPINION: 'Woke' prof who blames racism for low Black participation in outdoor rec can take a hike

Krymkowski’s book represents the latest example of the woke obsessing over whether Black and Whites enjoy the same outdoor activities.

A University of Vermont professor made his contribution to the canon of the "woke" recently. In his new book, The Color of Culture, Professor of Sociology Dan Krymkowski said systemic racism prevents Black people from exploring the outdoors.

“Whites can be cultural omnivores in ways African Americans can’t,” Krymkowski said, as Campus Reform reported. Krymkowski was commenting on data from the National Forest Service and National Endowment for the Arts showing that Black people participate in activities like hiking, golf, cold-water recreation, and hunting and fishing far less than Whites. He says the “only factor that explains the...discrepancy is racial bias.”

Krymkowski’s book also cited data reporting Blacks people's participation in ballet, theatre, and classical music. From the University of Vermont’s website:

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“Socioeconomic factors like low income, geographical barriers such as living far from natural areas,” partly explain the statistics, Krymkowski said, but he’s convinced that “cultural inequality” is to blame.

Krymkowski’s book represents the latest example of the woke obsessing over whether Black people and White people enjoy the same outdoor activities. 

In the spring of 2017, officials at Yale University committed to making one of its pre-orientation programs, Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trips (FOOT), more "diverse." Founded in 1984 by alumni Jamie Williams and Greg Felt, FOOT sends students to hike the sloping and wooded ranges of either the Appalachian Trail, Catskills, or White Mountains. In summer 2020, it was hosted virtually because of the coronavirus. 

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FOOT Director Priscilla Kellert outlined the problem: FOOT was “well-represented in Asian, Hispanic, and, obviously, white groups" but “one group that we would love to have more of is African-American.”

Kellert attempted to scale this mountain before. The previous year, she advertised vacant positions for FOOT Trip Leaders at African American cultural centers. Assuming that FOOT’s $430 sticker price turned off Black students, Kellert asked alumni and current students to donate money for increasing the amount of financial assistance made available.

She also, the Yale Daily News reported in April 2017, required first-year leaders and counselors to sit through a seminar in which participants discussed microaggressions and privilege. 

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"Woke" FOOT formed a key part of Kellert’s strategy to poach Black students from Cultural Connections, the pre-orientation program Yale created in 1999 to introduce them to college in a separate but equal setting. (Cultural Connections replaced Yale’s previous program for orienting incoming minority students, the Pre-registration Orientation Program [otherwise known as PROP], which began offering remedial education in the summer of 1972.)

The effort was assisted by students like Marisa London, a 2018 alumna, who hosted group sessions to discuss race, class, gender, and sexuality with Black students who responded to their call.

But the promotional blitz didn’t work, Marisa London told the Yale Daily News. When she scanned the faces of her fellow students at FOOT activities in August 2016, she saw no Black faces.  

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Mallet Njonkem ’18, who is Black, said she didn’t see a problem with the racial makeup of FOOT.

“I had never done anything like FOOT before…I didn’t want to pay to have a bad experience.” Another student, Chelsey Clark ’17, said minority students at Yale were just “interested in learning and talking about diversity” at Cultural Connections, which Yale priced at $200.

In 2018, the campaign to promote outdoor activity in the Black community traveled to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) when Ron Griswell founded HBCUs Outside, an organization founded to promote Black students' “relationship with the natural world” at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

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Griswell told the Backpacker in 2020 that his appreciation for the outdoors began in his youth during a family road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 mile stretch of road leading travelers through the southern and central Appalachian Mountains. It is home to endangered species like the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel.

After stopping at an overlook, Griswell gazed upon the mountains, resolving forever to take to the trail, and to provide others with that same chance. But Griswell’s Black friends didn’t understand his interest in the outdoors. They told him it was “White people stuff.”

“Even though I knew the outdoors brought me joy,” he said, “being interested in these things is calling into question my Blackness.”

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It’s not clear how this apparently self-imposed stereotype originated in the Black community, but it has become a popular meme in American culture.

In 2016, All Def Comedy produced Black People Go Hiking ‘For the First Time' a short film portraying Blacks as clumsy and displaced in the outdoors. All Def Comedy similarly caricatured Blacks in another video, Black People Go Camping ‘For the First Time. Each has been viewed more than 1 million times.

In 2012, the Black standup comedian, Trixx, picked up the theme at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, during his skit, Black People Don’t Camp, saying “White people really need to stop asking Black people to go camping. We don’t want to go…I know comedians talk about this all the time.” In 2018, Oprah Winfrey’s website said the word outdoorsy “conjures up an image of a 20-something white guy in a kayak.”

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Even White progressives aren’t above talking about this. In 2013, Ryan Kearney of The New Republic said in his essay "White People Love Hiking, Minorities Don’t: Here’s Why" that “White people simply love to spend their free time walking up and down mountains and sleeping in the forest,” but “certainly how most Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities view hiking and camping” is as a "'nightmare’ or a worse-case scenario like after [a] plane crash or something.’”

That American taxpayers pay Professor Krymkowski tens of thousands of dollars a year to study this non-issue at a time when college tuition has never been more expensive again demonstrates how silly and irrelevant higher education has become. Krymkowski never discusses why 83% of Whites don’t play golf; 93% reported never going downhill skiing; or that 89% have other hobbies besides attending classical music concerts because deep down he knows the research he is advertising as scholarship and a meaningful contribution to his field is not evidence of widespread injustice. 

Any pseudo-intellectualizing about who hikes more than whom is just another symptom of the woke’s obsession with race, causing, in the case, one of their "academics" to misperceive the most trivial of disparities as violating "fundamental human rights."

As the story of Ron Griswell shows, anyone can enjoy nature, which does not recognize race or any other identity category engineered in the Ivory Tower. Professor Krymkowski should close the books, leave the library, and see that for himself.

The rest of the woke can "take a hike."

Follow the author of this article: Dion J. Pierre