Ever See a Black Hiker Before?

Why not talk about the elephant in the room? This has to be the MOST funny video I have seen about African Americans and their experience while hiking in wild places. I wish it was totally fictional, but there is more truth here than you might imagine!

Thanks for sharing Marica Woods! — and great job Blair Underwood!

We have work to do!

Blair Underwood, Pacific Cinerama Dome

Blair Underwood, Pacific Cinerama Dome

23 Thoughts on “Ever See a Black Hiker Before?”

  • I have experienced nearly every scene in the clip, as a male, black hiker. When on a local hike I often ask, where are the brotha’s? The dark secret is that since I’ve seen so few brotha’s and sista’s on the trails that I probably would be frightened when seeing them on the trail. That makes me sad. This video clip summarizes so much.

  • I can so relate to this video! I’ve been hiking (and leading hikes for kids) in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for the past 15 years and the reactions by folk in the video are typical of what I’ve often encountered. A favorite prank we do when encountering bikes coming towards us on the trail is to say loud enough for the first passing biker to hear, “Let this one go by but get ready to grab the next one…”. Mean, but so much fun!

  • Reyel — thanks for your comments — on point, but I doubt you would be frightened — but maybe intrigued to learn more?

  • Hey Bill — how are you? Your comment is HI-larious. But on a serious note, I am looking forward to the day when seeing black people camping, hiking, and biking in wild places is no big deal — it’s my life’s mission.


    Take Care!

    • Me too. I’d like to see more black farmers too. I saw exactly one black farmer up here in Northern ny, a dairy farmer.

  • OMG! this is SO funny and true. I get the “you know that” when I refer to the plants and animals, too.
    We’ve got to start a National Outdoor Recreation Day – hiking biking, fishing, bird-watching, somethings, where we all campaign and go out en masse.

  • I agree with you DNLee — and I would LOVE to help coordinate such an effort — and I know you MUST experience some of these issues as a scientist. Thanks for posting, as always!

  • I can “sooooooo” relate to this…lol!!! I’m not a “hiker” per se…but I am a very avid birdwatcher…so can indeed relate. I really get the “looks” when I’m the one who shows up as the bird hike leader…LOL. (But it tends to put folks at ease when they find out just how much I know about birds.)

  • hahahaaaaa, definitely made me laugh as ridiculous as it is. Well hey, Black hikers are rare. That’s just a reality. When the reality changes and ppl get used to seeing black hikers, then it will be a norm and reactions will change to the rare instances when Blacks are seen in this context. It’s just like seeing some white business man walk through the projects. Ppl are gonna stare anytime someone’s out of the context they’re used to being seen in. Just how life is. My half-white-half african friend visited the dad’s fam back in Ghana. Obviously she’s light-skinned. Ppl calling her white over there and the kids were scared of her. Granted this was a little village. But still. It’s just human nature to respond in shock or intrigue to seeing something you’re not used to seeing in a given context. We can certainly make fun of this reality, but there’s nothing odd about this reality.

    • Thanks for posting WordUp!

      The spectacle of the black hiker experience in the video is more real than fiction. Just ask any person of color about how they become a curiosity in natural spaces when all they want to do is just be out and enjoy the surroundings.

      I hope that this video can help people become more conscious of their behavior. Just because reactions are “explainable” doesn’t make them less intrusive, or rude and can actually deter some people of color from getting out more.

  • I don’t think using stereotypes, especially for the purpose of making fun of people, is helpful for getting people to think critically and challenge harmful, hurtful, or annoying stereotypes. It’s alienating and shame-inducing.

    • Really KatB? — please elaborate why you think this is true. I think satire is an excellent way to help shed light on uncomfortable topics, yet allow us to laugh at ourselves.

      I wish the skit was a stereotype, but it is actually a culmination of real experiences. Every “Black Hiker” I know, including myself, has experienced some, if not all of these moments, just maybe not all in the same hike.

      Yes, it IS shameful, but I challenge people to move past shame to understanding and acceptance.

  • I have received mixed reactions on my hikes so far. Sometimes my friends and I have gotten those “what are THEY doing here?” stares, while at others people would pass us without second thought.

  • When I saw this video for the first time, I actually laughed out loud and I was the only person in the room! Blair was the perfect actor to do this because he’s so damn cute – so why did that white woman run away then? (fool!) – actually, don’t answer that, we know why she ran! And, we know why all those white folk did what they did – stare, glare, ask for him to sign the guest book, want to take pictures with him, etc. – I’m only surprised the ranger didn’t ask him for his I.D. (ha! although that wouldn’t have been too far off either). Anyway, interesting comments posted. To me, this video is not “harmful, hurtful, or alienating” (as noted above); the satire is right on. Times are changing – pretty soon we’ll see all us black and brown people staring at whites wondering what they’re doing out there!

    • Spot on Dr. Nina: “Times are changing – pretty soon we’ll see all us black and brown people staring at whites wondering what they’re doing out there!”

  • I’ve always had a general theory that the dearth of blacks on trails is because they see it as a throwback to more primitive times, e.g. the African plains or jungle living conditions.

    Nature could be considered the anti bling-bling and the opposite of what they strive for to “make it” in America.

    Thus, they might avoid associating with nature because it reminds them psychologically of poverty, by the modern definition. I am not a big fan of modern life, so don’t take that wrong.

    Just a theory.

  • Interesting analysis Jack…now sure I would take it to the jungle exactly, but your suggestion that the wilderness is may not be considered by some a place to recreate has been substantiated. I have also heard some say that camping is “playing homeless”, so the references to a lack of progress in wilderness activities is certainly a factor within that comment.

    Thanks for joining the discussion Jack.

  • it happens all the time on city streets too but those are places already filled with so much stress and drama it’s somewhat easier to ignore. when i’m seeking solitude, relaxation and peace it just really sucks to have that interrupted by other people’s ignorance. as a lover of camping, hiking, backpacking and exploring in general i have had some incredibly awkward encounters with white people in the natural world. sometimes it’s a totally genuine human encounter, a smile, hello or enjoy your hike as we continue on our way, but far too often the time i seek communion with nature is spattered with those encounters laced with fear, exoticism, distrust and/or plain discomfort. this clip is hilarious precisely because it’s painful if you’re familiar with the experience, and when something is so absurd (such as a white person catching site of me and running away; the shocked, confused, mystified and uncomfortable facial expressions and body language; people wanting to be my best friend on the trail so they can be part of the historic moment; the surprise that, although rarely featured as national geographic guides, brown people know and care about the natural world-who do those guides go to get their information anyway? oh that’s right the indigenous brown people of that area)you can’t help but laugh, and it’s not at blair underwood.

    • Yes, Jihan – – it’s good it was framed as a parody, else it would be painful to watch. The remedy for this, from my perspective is for more people of color to “claim” the outdoors by regular and visible engagement.

      By being present and exercising our collective “ownership” we can erode the prevailing sense in some areas that the outdoors is only for a select few.

      Here is an image you may appreciate:

  • Some people can’t help themselves to being ignorant. I tend to agree with the comment about being the norm and changing perception over time. It would seem very out of place to see a white business man in a low rent district of a city, but, I shudder to think what would actually happen in that scenario. I would also like to know what the reaction would be if a white actor made a video of himself like Blair did, but walking through the “hood”. Would anyone be upset with that? I would like to see everyone stop looking for “trouble”, and just be themselves and let everyone else be themselves. My hope (and belief) is that eventually, the world will boil down to one color/race. We could call them earthlings.

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