Bringing Color to the Public Lands Landscape

Wayne Hare

Well-familiar is the cry that our parks are in danger of losing mass appeal because visitation is flagging (this year seems to be bucking that trend, but that's fodder for another post). More serious, in my opinion, is that the diversity among park visitors seems to be lagging.

Park Service officials realize this, and are working on ways to boost the racial diversity in the visitorship.

But perhaps the best essay I've seen yet addressing this issue is one that surfaced today via the Writers on the Range syndicate. Written by Wayne Hare, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger in western Colorado, the essay raises some thought-provoking issues tying diversity to the future of our public lands.

The most recent U.S. Census indicates that sometime around the year 2050, people of color in this country will outnumber the current white majority. If the emerging future majority doesn't find intrinsic value in our birthright of publicly owned lands, how much tougher will it be to fund and protect these special areas?

You can read Mr. Hare's essay here.

Comments

the fact is that not only has this been going on for a long time, it is also that the outdoor industry and the public lands management agencies are freaking out about it. (as much as an unwieldy, entirely unimble government agency can freak out about anything a politician isn't pushing on them) all sorts of sports are declining, as evidenced in a relatively dated usfws study showing fishing hunting and the like having way less people participating. parks visitation is down as noted and discussed on this blog. additionally, the outdoor industry is focusing on diversity and children in some marketing as well as agencies like the forest service pushing their "get kids outside" initiative following the failed joint effort with blm of "get fit with us."

but while i don't disagree with mr. hare's premise, i do believe however that his essay should have focused on urban youth rather than just a lack of diversity, which i feel is just a symptom of a larger problem. i don't think it is an issue of race but rather of age... most kids these days aren't getting outside (read louv's "last child in the woods") at all, let alone onto our nation's parks and forests.

"The real question is what diversity can do for all of us."

No. This isn't a real question. It's not a real question because it doesn't have an answer, and Hare poses the question without even attempting an answer. It's meaningless drivel, mindless mumbo jumbo.

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. It's a mantra. If repeated enough, it doesn't need to be defined and assertions need no factual backing from scholarly research.

I was "diversified" out of a job at SEKI. My boss, a Hispanic woman, wanted to "diversify" the staff, so she hired a Hispanic woman for my position. On a return visit, I attended the new employee's hike; it was one of the worst interpretive programs I'd ever seen. Her first stop lasted 25 minutes, and she confused the words gravity and mass. I overheard some visitors complaining, and many--myself included--left after the first stop.

A male Hispanic volunteer the same supervisor hired had a record of sexual harassment, and his bad behavior continued. He had to be fired.

Diversity for the sake of diversity is a joke. Hiring people solely based on their race is unconstitutional and a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

More serious, in my opinion, is that the diversity among park visitors seems to be lagging.

You're not speaking of diversity being a variety (which is the definition of diversity) of visitors, because there is a huge variety of visitors in parks. Again, hang out in the Zion VC and you'll hear French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and other languages spoken. You'll hear Americans speaking regional dialects, you'll see old and young people, and People from all over the world visit and bring their unique experiences and cultures.

No. The diversity mantrics focus exclusively on race--skin color--and when percentages don't match up, they cry racism.

Such race consciousness, in my opinion, is a form of racism.

And both of these "problems" pale in comparison to true threats to national parks: climate change, invasive species, environmental degradation, and excessive development.

I think one needs to separate diversity in the workplace and diversity in park visitors. The Park Service, according to the agency's own numbers, is overwhelmingly Caucasian and decidedly male-oriented. So it shouldn't be surprising to see the agency try to alter those figures.

Does "white male disease" exist? To a degree, you bet, just as women in many fields are denied equal pay and advancement opportunities. With that said, I'll leave it to the managers, and the courts if need be, to decide whether the methods used to integrate the agency are justified and sound.

As for diversity in park visitors, I don't believe Mr. Hare was ignoring the foreigners who come to America's parks but rather focusing on Americans who come to the parks. When the international visitors head home, who will remain to become advocates for the parks if progress isn't made in making the park system a favorite retreat for blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and all other races that reside within the United States?

Kurt and Jim bring out some excellent points to ranger Hare's essay. It appears, we have a long way's to go, regarding ranger X's comment which borders on a bit of anger if not cynicism. Just knowing that some of us busted are butts off in college to get good grades with hopes to land in a respectable job, but to be squashed out by the goverments affirmative action clause. Believe me, there's alot of bitterness over this, especially considering medical school enterance applicants (remember the famous Bakke vs. University of California at Davis in the 1970's). Well, the bitterness still lingers. Personally, I believe in leveling the playing field for more opportunities for minorities in all aspects of the job market...and I'm white too.

In regards to the National Parks, I sense that the parks have now become an old vanguard for whites to secure jobs as rangers without many challenges from other minority groups...if so, it's few. Ranger Hare quotes, that "we don't do things like that" referring to blacks participating in the great outdoors. Why is that? is it because it's a cultural thing that blacks (or another minorties) have no great interests in the National Parks, is it because of fear, or the lack of education. I'm sure if there were lot more blacks and other minority groups visiting the parks today, the blacklash of words might be "there goes the neighborhood" mentality. Yes, I agree with Jim and Kurt, we have a long, long way's to go. As Rodney King (brutally beaten by the LA Police Dept.) once said, " can't we all get along", right after the famous race riots regarding his sever beating. My point is, the National Parks can be a great melting pot for all of us to get along...and learn...respect one and another. The door must be open wide for diversity and let's start with the National Parks.

None of you have addressed the fundamental issue: Diversity is a code word for skin color. There is no anger or cynicism behind that comment.

Yes, the NPS is overwhelmingly white and male, especially the middle and upper management, and that will continue as long as the NPS remains oligarchial. A possible answer lies in wresting power from managers' grubby hands and transferring power to the lower ranks. Leaving that aside, look at visitation and Hare's statement: "As a black park ranger, I'm often asked why more minorities don't visit national parks..."

First, this seems anecdotal. Does anyone know of a study that shows the percentages of park visitors based on race? Visitation numbers are highly suspect to begin, and I doubt such a study exists, and therefore we proceed without solid empirical evidence to support the claim that minorities don't visit national parks in representative numbers. We rely on unscientific observations based on personal experiences in national parks. Secondly, the question itself is flawed. "Why don’t more minorities visit national parks…" More than what? We have no baseline for comparison. How much more is enough?

Kurt asks, "who will remain to become advocates for the parks if progress isn't made in making the park system a favorite retreat for blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and all other races that reside within the United States?" As a park ranger, I've seen lots of Hispanics camping and using parks, especially in California. Some American Indians use the parks for spiritual purposes and generally aren't seen entering or leaving.

Consider too that African Americans make up about 12% of the population, and their numbers are concentrated in the southeast. In the west, their numbers are much lower. You would expect, then, to see fewer blacks in western parks. Also consider that American Indians make up about 2% of the population, with higher concentrations in the southwest. Therefore, you don't expect to see many Native Americans in parks, with perhaps the exception of those in the southwest.

Hare bases his argument not on reason or scientific analysis, but an unsupported presupposition that minorities don't visit parks in representative numbers.

And should someone point to a study that shows under representation, can we say it's caused by white racism or cultural determinism? Different cultures value different things. Hare states "You also don't see many … Hispanics working for environmental groups or public-land agencies". My best friend David, and my best man one month from now, is Mexican-American. He thinks my tendencies toward preservation and my love for the wild are eccentric. He worked for several car rental companies and is more interested in washing his new car and keeping up with the Joneses than conserving resources or going backpacking. His family and Mexican friends hold similar values.

We need to stop talking about color and start talking about culture. We need to stop making anecdotal observations and passing them off as empirical reality.

Again, there are more important issues that need our attention.

First, for those interested in digesting more on this subject, the audio journal WildeBeat produced an episode about this very subject back in January. Have a listen to 'Race in the Backcountry', and the follow up article as well. It's good food for thought, and covers some of the same issues that have been addressed in the comments today.

I think the issue is bigger than 'color'. Perhaps the larger question is, why isn't any particular group not traveling to the parks?

Some have asked, 'where are the kids'? There are now whole programs being developed to bring kids back to the parks, 'no child left inside' is an example. There are efforts to appeal to this group by creating podcasts and other electronic media to reach out to them. But, kids don't drive cars, kids aren't the ones who decide where to go on vacation. Kids aren't in the parks because their parents are taking them.

And what of places like Nicodemus National Historic Site? This is a town in Kansas that was settled by former slaves in the 1880s. I wonder what the percentage of white/black/hispanic/indian visitors they get as compared to a site like Rocky Mountain National Park, or Independence Historic Park, or Chaco Culture NHP? The story at each park is so different from the others, but each represents who we are as a country, and the message at each perhaps has more meaning to one culture versus another.

First of all, Hare is simply wrong in his assessment. Yosemite and Sequoia in very Hispanic California get lots of Hispanic visitors. I've seen many Asians in the national parks, foreign visitors and Americans. The Grand Canyon gets people from all over the country. The parks in the Northwest get mostly Caucasians, but then the Pacific Northwest is the whitest part of the country. As are the Rocky Mountain states which have some of the gems of the system. The parks already emphasize and point out the contributions of African Americans (i. e. the buffalo soldiers, the early rangers at Yosemite) and Native Americans (after all what is Mesa Verde all about, for one). And bears, eagles and deer know no race. Since wildlife and scenery are the primary point of most of the parks, aren't they race neutral?

Second of all, Hare is missing the point of the national park system. The National Parks are there to preserve the land, preserve the wildlife and preserve unique ecosystems. The historic parks are there to preserve history. Trying to raise the number of visitors in the parks is in many cases contrary to that mission. They are only secondarily places for people to recreate. People who want to come, who treasure the national parks will come and will take care that there visits don't destroy the parks. Those who choose to spend their weekends or vacations elsewhere will go to theme parks, water parks or cities.

And Ranger X if you were discriminated against in hiring for being a white male, you should have sued. The land doesn't know or care if you're Caucasion, Hispanic or black. The land and the wildlife only care that they are being protected. And the land and the wildlife are the reason for the National Park's existence.

So, empirical studies on these issues would be quite nice, but we have plenty to understand that there is a problem. We don't need to know for sure the general tendencies to see that the specific instances (those anecdotes you deride) are plenty of evidence to work from about the wretched ways racism still touches us and the parks.

Those who work without specifics, without facts, without scientific studies (you say there is plenty of empirical studies on the issue without citing any) are not social scientists. They are more akin to religious zealots who offer pontification and dogma rather than reason and evidence. Anecdote is NOT evidence. Evidence is independently verifiable; anecdote, due to its personal nature, is not.

Park by park, we can point to numerous ways that race matters.

But you've given no examples, no evidence. Saying something doesn't make it so. This is opinion, not fact.

Even if our studies somehow showed that there were as many or more people of color visiting parks on balance as should be expected, we don't therefore have diversity and have not therefore done much about racism in society.

What? Haven't done much about racism in our society? I'd posit that the USA has done more than most countries in combating prejudice. The long history of the civil rights movement and the legislation it spawned is shining proof that we have done a lot about racism in our society.

Even that the demographics are what they are is suggestive of something.

Again: What? I have no idea what you're trying to say here.

Race is a bogus, non-scientific 19th century term, which is why I urge us to jettison "race" in favor of "culture" as a talking point. People aren't automatically unified by their skin color, but certainly people have been treated unfairly in this country because of it. As bad as it's been in America, I urge you to consider that few other countries in the world have the varied ethnic makeup and cultural tolerance as the United States of America.

And when I say there are more important issues that need our attention, I mean we should stop insisting that African American's make up 12% of national parks visitation. We should stop insisting that American Indians make up 2% of NPS visitation. We SHOULD worry that in the near future there may be no national parks (or they may be so heavily impaired as to lose their significance) for anyone of any color to visit. Glaciers are melting, species are going extinct, old-growth redwood groves are being logged, wilderness is going under, global population growth is increasing exponentially, and people focus on whether or not people with a certain melanin content are visiting national parks in representatively proportionate numbers.

I appreciate Jeremy's efforts at looking beyond color, but also cringed when I read:

Perhaps the larger question is, why isn't any particular group not traveling to the parks?

I think we need to be careful about using artificial constructs such as groups. Who places members in these so-called groups? We lump aboriginal Americans into one category not recognizing that those who lived in present-day Florida have very little in common with the Inuit of Alaska. The same can be said for lumping all "whites" into one group or by using the term "European-American" especially when someone from Bulgaria has very little in common with someone from Scotland.

I think it's all pretty simple -- people with the means to get to the National Parks go visit the National Parks. Those who can't afford it generally don't and/or can't. Well surprise surprise -- the percentage of African Americans who fall into the group of "can't afford it" is higher than in the group of those that "can afford it." If something isn't accessible, you generally will look for other things to spend your money on for entertainment and relaxation. Where do the National Parks exist for the most part? -- about as far away from most African Americans as you can get -- not in the cities and suburbs. So the problem to solve, if anything, is getting more spending money in the hands of African Americans while at the same time fostering a culture of caring about the Parks in the first place. You can tell them they should care about the Parks, but if they can't get to them, why care at all? The question to ask is this -- do African Americans with the means to visit the parks actually do so?

Funny though, I don't hear anyone complaining that there aren't enough cowboys visiting New York City, Miami, or Detroit.

-- Jon Merryman

To say that this has been an interesting discussion to follow would be an understatement. It's also not a new discussion, but rather one that's been poked and prodded from various angles since at least 1963, as the following list of studies indicates:

Allison, M. T. (1993). “Access and boundary maintenance: Serving culturally diverse populations.” Culture, conflict, and communicationin the wildland-urban interface. A.W. Wert, D.J. Chavez, and A.W. Magill, ed., Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 99-107.

Bass, J. M., Ewert, A., and Chavez, D. J. (1993). “Influence of ethnicity on recreation and natural environment use patterns: Managing recreation sites for ethnic and racial diversity,” Environmental Management 17, 523-529.

Chavez, D. J. (1991). “Ethnic and racial group similarities and differences: A tool for resource managers.” Abstracts from the 1991 Symposium on Leisure Research. C. Sylvester and L. Caldwell, ed., National Recreation and Park Association, Alexandria, VA.

Chavez, D. J. (1993). “Visitor perceptions of crowding and discrimination at two national forests in Southern California,” Research Paper PSW-RP- 216, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, CA.

Chavez, D. J. , Baas, J., and Winter, P. L. (1993). “Mecca Hills visitor research case study,” Report BLM/CA/ST-93-005-9560, Bureau of Land Management, Sacramento, CA.

Dragon, C. (1986). “Native American under representation in national parks: Tests of marginality and ethnicity hypotheses,” Unpublished M.S. Thesis, University of Idaho Department of Wildland Management, Moscow, ID.

Dunn, R. A. (1998). “African-American recreation at two Corps of Engineers projects: A preliminary assessment,” Natural Resources Technical Note REC-10, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Dunn, R. A. (1999). “Asian-American recreation at two Corps lakes in California: A Hmong case study,” Natural Resources Technical Note REC-12, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. View on-line or download nrrec12.exe.

Dunn, R. A. (1999). “Hispanic American recreation at two Corps lakes in Texas and California,” Natural Resources Technical Note REC-11, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Dunn, R.A. (2002). "Managing for Ethnic Diversity: Recreation Facility and Service Modifications for Ethnic Minority Visitors," ERDC/EL TR-02-14. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS. View Chapters 1-2 or Chapters 3-6 and Appendix A-D.

Dunn, R. A., and Feather, T. D. (1998). “Native American recreation at Corps projects: Results of six focus groups,” Natural Resources Technical Note REC-09, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Dunn, R. A. and Quebedeaux, D. M. (1999). "Methodology for recreation data acquisition and evaluation for ethnic minority visitors to corps of engineers projects," Technical Report R-99-1, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS.

Dwyer, J. F. (1994). “Customer diversity and the future demand for outdoor recreation,” General Technical Report RM-22, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO.

Dwyer, J. F., and Hutchison, R. (1990). “Outdoor recreation participation and preferences by black and white Chicago households.” Social science and natural resource recreation management. J. Vining, ed., Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 49-67.

Floyd, M. F. (1991). “Ethnic patterns in outdoor recreation participation: Effects of cultural and structural assimilation.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Texas A&M University Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Science, College Station, TX.

Floyd, M. F. (1998). “Getting beyond marginality and ethnicity: The challenge for race and ethnic studies in leisure research,” Journal of Leisure Research 20(1), 3-22.

Floyd, M. F., and Gramann, J. H. (1993). “Effects of acculturation and structural assimilation in resource-based recreation: The case of Mexican Americans,” Journal of Leisure Research 25, 6-21.

Floyd,M.F., Shinew,K.J., McGuire, F.A.,and Noe, N.P.(1994).“Race, class, and leisure activity preferences: Marginality and ethnicity revisited,” Journal of Leisure Research 26, 158-173.

Frey, William H. (1998). “The diversity myth.” American Demographics 6/98, 39-43.

Glazer, N., and Moynihan, D. (1963). Beyond the melting pot. MIT and Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Gobster, P. H., and Delgado, A. (1992). “Ethnicity and recreation in Chicago’s Lincoln Park: In-park user survey findings.” Managing Urban Parks and High-Use Recreation Settings. P.H. Gobster, ed., General Technical Report NC-163, USDA Forest Service Northcentral Forest Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN, 75-81.

Gomez, E. (1999). "Reconceptualizing the relationship between ethnicity and public recreation: A proposed model." Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, Department of Park, Recreation and Tourism Resources and Urban Affairs Programs. Short version.

Gordon, M. (1964). Assimilation into American life: The role of race, religion, and national origins. Oxford University Press, New York.

Gramann, J. H. (1996). “Ethnicity, race, and outdoor recreation: A review of trends, policy, and research,” WES Miscellaneous Paper R-96-1, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Gramann, J. H., and Floyd, M. F. (1991). “Ethnic assimilation and recreation use of the Tonto National Forest,” Technical Report on file with the Wildland Recreation and Urban Culture Project, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, CA.

Gramann, J. H., and Floyd, M. F. (1991). “Ethnic assimilation and recreation use of the Tonto National Forest,” Technical Report on file with the Wildland Recreation and Urban Culture Project, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, CA.

Gramann, J. H., Floyd, M. F., and Ewert, A. (1992). “Interpretation and Hispanic American ethnicity.” On interpretation: Sociology for interpreters of natural and cultural history. G.E. Machlis and D.R. Field, ed., Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR, 161-177.

Gramann, J. H., Floyd, M. F., and Saenz, R. (1993). “Outdoor recreation and Mexican American ethnicity: A benefits perspective.”Culture, conflict, and communication in the wildland-urban interface. A.W. Ewert, D.J. Chavez, and A.W. Magill, ed., Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 69- 84.

Henderson, J. E. (1995). “Plan of study for the Ethnic Culture and Corps Recreation Use Work Unit,” Unpublished Manuscript Prepared for Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Laboratory, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Hutchison, R. (1988). “A critique of race, ethnicity, and social class in recent leisure-recreation research,” Journal of Leisure Research 20, 10-30.

Irwin, P. N., Gartner, W. G., and Phelps, C. C. (1990). “Mexican American/Anglo cultural differences as recreation style determinants,” Leisure Sciences 12, 335-348.

Knowlton, C. S. (1972). “Culture, conflict, and natural resources.” Social behavior, natural resources and the environment. W. Burch, Jr., N.H. Cheek, Jr., and L. Taylor, ed., Harper and Row, NewYork, 109-145.

Lee, R. G. (1972). “The social definition of outdoor recreational places.” Social behavior, natural resources, and the environment. W.R. Burch, Jr., N.H. Cheek, Jr., and L. Taylor, ed., Harper and Row, New York, 68-94.

Lynch, B. D. (1993). “The garden and the sea: U.S. Latino environmental discourse and mainstream Environmentalism,” Social Problems 40, 108-124.

Market Opinion Research. (1988). “Participation in outdoor recreation among American adults and the motivations which drive participation,” Report prepared for the President’s Commission on American Outdoors.

McDonald, D., and McAvoy, L. (1997). “Native Americans and leisure: State of the research and future directions.” Journal of Leisure Research, 29(2), 145-166.

McLemore, S. D. (1991). Racial and ethnic relations in America. Allyn and Bacon, Inc., Boston

Outley, C. W. (1995). “The influence of perceived discrimination in determining recreation behavior of African Americans in Southern Illinois,” Presentation at the 19th Annual Graduate Research Symposium of the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

Schreyer, R., and Knopf, R. C. (1984). “The dynamics of change in outdoor recreation environments—some equity issues,” Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 2, 9-19.

McGuire, F. A., O’Leary, J. T., Alexander, P. B., and Dottavio, F. D.(1987). “A comparison of outdoor recreation preference and constraints of black and white elderly,” Activities, Adaptations, and Aging 9, 95-104.

Scott, D. (1993). “Use and non-use of public parks in Northeast Ohio: Differences between African-Americans and whites.” Proceedings of the 1993 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. G.A. Vander Stoep, ed., General Technical Report NE-185, USDA Forest Service Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA, 224-227.

Shaull, S. L. (1993). “Family-related and nature-related recreation benefits among Anglo Americans and Hispanic Americans: A study of acculturation and primary structural assimilation,” Unpublished M.S. thesis, Texas A&M University Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, College Station, TX.

Simcox, D. E., and Pfister, R. E. (1990). “Hispanic values and behavior related to outdoor recreation and the environment,” USDA Forest Service Contract Report, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, CA.

Taylor, D. E. (1989). “Blacks and the environment: Toward an explanation of the concern and action gap between blacks and whites,” Environment and Behavior 21, 175-205.

Washburne, R. F. (1978). “Black under-participation in wildland recreation: Alternative explanations,” Leisure Sciences 1, 175-189.

Washburne, R., and Wall, P. (1980). “Black-white ethnic differences in outdoor recreation,” Research Paper INT-29, USDA Forest ServiceIntermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT.

West, P. C. (1993). “The tyranny of metaphor: Interracial relations, minority recreation, and the wildland-urban interface.” Culture, conflict, and communication in the wildland-urban interface. A.W. Ewert, D.J. Chavez, and A.W. Magill, ed., Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 109-115.

Williams, D. R., and Carr, D. S. (1993). “The sociocultural meanings of outdoor recreation places.” Culture, conflict, and communication in the wildland-urban interface. A.W. Ewert, D.J. Chavez, and A.W. Magill, ed., Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 209-219.

That this subject has held some fascination for the better part of the past half-century would seem to indicate that while there's a concern over recreation trends, no one has come up with a satisfactory cause and effect. Is it race, is it culture, is it the price of gas, is it the latest video game? Could it be as simple as the fact that kids and families can watch 40 hours of television a week and not see one commercial about the parks nor one program about the parks unless they have cable or satellite?

Why are foreign cultures (Germans, Japanese, French, etc) seemingly so enthralled with America's national parks, while our own melting pot indifferent to a certain degree? And are those overseas cultures actually so enthralled, or is it just a minority of them who have the desire and the financial wherewithal to go abroad? Is this discussion as over-stoked as are those over park visitation trends?

Perhaps the solution is best addressed from the inside out, by bringing more diversity to the National Park Service, and letting it trickle down. But that, I'm sure, is too simplistic as well.

What I absolutely do NOT want to see is the National Park Service advertising or marketing itself to attract visitors. The parks are what they are -- and it should be a timeless attraction, not whatever this- or that-generation thinks is hip or chic at the moment.

-- Jon

Kurt Repanshek asked me to read the comments and write a response. I don’t want to get involved in an on-going discussion. I’m not an expert on this. I’m just an outdoor guy who made some observations and commented on those observations. Regarding empirical data versus hard science: Many have had the same observations as I. On August 3rd, 2005, Fran Mainella, past Director of the National Park Service wrote a memo to all “Employees, Stakeholders, and Partners” recognizing the lack of both employee and visitor diversity within National Parks. Bob Stanton, NPS Director immediately prior to Ms. Mainella was vocal and committed to the Park Service reflecting the “Face of America.” In the spring of 2006 Director Mainella’s office released a study highlighting the poor performance of the Park Service in hiring and promoting ethnically diverse staff. The National Parks and Conservation Association, http://www.npca.org/, a non-profit Park Service partner and watchdog so greatly recognizes this lack of diversity among staff and visitors to National Parks that the organization has a director of diversification, Iantha Gantt-Wright. Frank and Audrey Peterman, after an extensive recreational tour of National Parks in all corners of the country were so struck by the lack of diversity started Earthwise Productions, http://www.earthwiseproductionsinc.com/index.html, a successful environmental education and travel company to introduce a more diverse audience to our National Parks. Earthwise has become an official partner with the Park Service. When I was kayaking the White Salmon River in south central Washington state about 18 years ago, an Asian boater approached me with a smile and a handshake, saying, “It’s great to see another boater of color out here.” So, many people and organizations seem to have been able to observe this situation without the benefit of studies. The need and ability to ignore what one sees and rely on studies always amazes me. When I was young and single, I observed, as all single young outdoorsmen have, that a lot more men participate in outdoor recreation than woman. None of us needed the validation of a study. However, for those who do need the validation of studies, I have sent a list of some 47 relevant studies to this web site in the hope that National Park Traveler will make it available to its readers. Doctor Nina Roberts, a professor at San Francisco State University, has partially made a career out of passionately studying the issue, and I’ll certainly ask Doctor Roberts to respond to this site with more scholarly information than I have. So if you really need a study to validate what is easy to see, there you go.

The studies themselves are diverse and include blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. The studies include not only the Park Service, but the BLM, the Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers as well and includes large national parks as well as small state parks in such places as southern Illinois and Northern Ohio.

I’ve talked to hundreds of individuals and maybe a dozen or so groups - both as a private citizen and as a representative of different organizations - about diversity in the outdoors, and I’ve noticed a couple of things. People have an extraordinarily difficult time talking about race, and almost always need to alter the focus and talk about kids, or socio-economic status, or something other than pure race. It’s just a bad subject with uncomfortable connotations. I’ve noticed that it is difficult for people to not feel somehow blamed – if they’re white. To not go to what they might have to give up if more diversity were to exist in the outdoors. I’ve noticed that people immediately assume the discussion is about some kind of entitlement program, such as affirmative action. I’ve observed that people want to know whose fault it is that more people of color aren’t out in the backcountry. People often need to bring in diversity other than ethnic – to include religion, or Europeans, or financial diversity – as though that’s what we’re talking about and to prove that diversity in the backcountry certainly exist. (hey, I saw a GERMAN out there!!) And I guess if that’s what you’re talking about, than yes, diversity in the backcountry exist. So…I want to be as clear as I can be: Yes, the discussion is about ethnic diversity…the kind that comes with dark skin color. No, it’s not a secret code word. Yes, more kids should get outdoors. But when I go into the backcountry, I am happy to see quite a few children and I am gratified that their parents are exposing them to something they can healthfully enjoy their entire lives. But those kids that I see are almost always white. Somebody else can focus a discussion on urban youth not being in the outdoors, because that’s an issue as well. Yes, National Park issues of climate change, invasive species, environmental degradation, and excessive development are more important than the issue of ethnic diversity – but within our lifetime, as that pendulum swings and the majority of people in this country are people of color who may not have a positive attachment to nor any involvement with the land, ethnic diversity/ethnic affinity for the backcountry will take on a whole new and important meaning.

I’m not blaming anybody. I don’t buy into “white male disease.” Lack of diversity in the outdoors is not the intentional fault of any living person. And if a discussion of anything to do with race is a difficult discussion to have – well – I asked the question, “What can diversity do for all of us?” And I did have a short answer having to do with the difficulty of garnering support for our wild places and public lands when the majority population is comprised of people of color.

But how about…the great outdoors serving as a classroom of people just getting along without race being a factor at all? What better classroom? After all, if it rains we get wet, and when the temperature dips we get cold. If we flip our kayak in a class 4 rapid, we swim like heck and think about drowning. Nature doesn’t care what race you are, and for the most part, the folks that I’ve met out there don’t care either.

Race - how about…if we used the great outdoors to just get over it? Is it always going to be an uncomfortable topic? People don’t always have to feel blamed, to figure out who’s at fault, to rebel against a perceived entitlement program, to pretend that they lost their job because of somebody else’s need to hire a diverse staff.

How about…if we used the naturally occurring egalitarian nature of nature to just get over it, and in so doing began to truly live up to the national potential that our forefathers envisioned by using and involving all of our citizens? Nobody looses. Nobody gives anything up. Nobody gets blamed. Well, a person might have to give up their excuse for loosing their job.

People like to invoke, “It’s culture, not color.” I hear that all the time. But we’ve been together over six hundred years! Do we really have different cultures? Or is that a myth? When famed cowboy singer/songwriter Michael Martin Murphey played a concert in Moab, Utah a few months ago he lamented that if he’d been holding that concert a hundred years ago, 25% of his audience would have been people of color. He knows. Grant-Kohrs National Historic Ranch in Montana, a National Park Service site, right on their web site at http://www.npca.org/nps.gov/grko, exposes the lie that in the days of the old west, all cowboys were white. Grant-Kohrs knows.

As far as financial: Ahhh, myths die just sooo hard. I don’t know what the overall financial status of black Americans is. I’ve been to quite a few wealthy black suburban neighborhoods. I ski patrolled in Aspen for 6 years. The largest ski club in the country is the Brotherhood of Skiers. Skiing ain't cheap. I patrolled at Aspen for 6 years. A day pass for one person cost $78 dollars (more now), skis, bindings, and boots, with my deep ski patrol discount, cost me maybe $1,400.00 a crack. Meals at Aspen - where the Brotherhood likes to convene every few years and where the club was founded, are easily $75.00 per person, and quickly and easily go up from there. Rooms can go for $1,000's a night, but several hundred per night is standard. Plane fare to get to Aspen? And when the Brotherhood is in town, they party hearty and dress to be noticed!

What can diversity do for all of us of? It’s a real question. And it has real answers. Backed up by real studies. We can stop squandering so much time, energy, goodwill, and money on the myth of race.

I’m glad folks are in this discussion. Thanks.

Ranger Hare, your comments are well taken...good input! Your comments have become a beacon light towards the issue on diversity in the National Parks.

Wayne,

Thanks very much for adding to the discussion on the website! I've been thinking about this topic all day. Your questions are good and worth exploring, specifically, what can racial diversity in the outdoors do for all of us?

But the question -- why aren't there more dark-skinned folks in the backcountry -- leads to a discussion of race that, in my opinion, misses something. As you address in your response, black folk cannot be pigeoned holed into any single stereotype (nor should they). Just like the rest of Americans, black folks are rich, poor, young, old, men, women, craftsman, outdoorsman, lawyers, bankers, ... you get where I'm going. And so, the question needs refinement, how about, why aren't there more dark-skinned families of means, like the Brotherhood of Skiers, present in the backcountry?

I know lots of white folks of means who would rather avoid the outdoors too. Like Ranger X, I've got friends who just don't get why anyone would spend a night in a tent. I have wondered today, why is it that outdoor lovers of all colors love the outdoors? In my case, I was introduced to the wonders of the outdoors by my parents, and on vacations as a kid. And so, because I know no different, perhaps to get a more ethnically diverse crowd in the backcountry, we must concentrate on the kids! Yes, the conversation does come back to kids and the outdoors. I'm not trying to avoid the issue of race (indeed, a delicate subject), it just seems to me race is far to broad a metric to ask specific questions and hope get meaningful answers in return.

This is per capita income for Boston in 2005. Just a single example but fairly consistent with most samplings from most metro areas I've seen. I'd wager that here in Baltimore or DC it's the same if not worse.

White $41,194
Asian American $20,350
Hispanic or Latino $14,104
Black or African American $16,553

Not a pigeonhole, nor a stereotype. Just plain unvarnished statistics. Call it what you want. It's a factor. And this is the problem that needs addressing first if there's any attempt to address the secondary issue of why "people of color" generally don't travel great distances to visit national parks or play golf or go on African safaris or anything else that requires a serious outlay of cash. I'm glad some people are getting out to ski. It's too expensive for my tastes. So is golf, for that matter!

People with lesser-paying jobs are more likely to NOT have health insurance, probably don't have paid vacation time, probably need to work MORE hours to keep the bills paid, and don't have many options when a family crisis comes up. How can you relax at all when the bills keep coming, you have little or no savings, and little nor no job security?

Check out these stats from Annapolis where the US Naval Academy is located here in Maryland. For black families, just under 50% are single parent families. Of those, 85% are female-led single parent families, and of those, about 40% are living in poverty. Would you agree that single parents are less likely to take the kids camping or go to Mount Rushmore? That females are statistically less likely to have an interest in the outdoors and as a result less likely to take the kids to a National Park? And those in poverty are lucky if they get to walk by the park on their way to the bus stop?
I'm not judging people that wound up on this crappy rung of society, but there they are and we're worried about whether they enjoy the parks? Let's get them to learn English and finish high school and stay together as a two-parent family, and I truly believe the rest will follow. Google on "Maslow's hierarchy of needs"...

-- Jon

First of all, it's a very interesting discussion, and I sense we are all taking it to heart. I appreciate Kurt's bibliography, though I'll insist that it wasn't necessary for us to have a serious discussion about this - it certainly adds to the richness of the discussion. I'm thankful to RangerX for being sincere and honest and putting himself out there on this issue, even if I vehemently disagree with him. And, I'm thankful that Wayne Hare has come in to add to his thoughts on the issue and see a lot to think about there.

Secondly, specifically to Jon, be careful how you use statistics. Per capita statistics are general averages and don't speak to specific populations. While economic class is an important consideration in determining park visitation (and I least of all would ask us not to consider it), it's not the only thing that explains the statistics around visitation, according to the study by Dr. Roberts that Jeremy posted. Furthermore, the strong correlation between economic class and race at the general level is itself a source of concern for us. To the extent that race has been used as a cause for economic inequity, it is worth exploring whether the reasons for that are similar or different from those that cause various kinds of inequity in the parks.

Thirdly, I think it's strange that we are talking about this problem in the parks as something that we think we need to do something about, as though diversity is spread in just the manner that Bush talks about spreading freedom to Iraq. It's not something we create; we don't just add a few numbers here, subtract a few numbers there, and voila have diversity. In fact, the language is still hierarchical, as though "we" make this happen. Here is where I can agree with RangerX to the extent that the answer isn't to set an artificial target of a certain type of person and make it our life's work to go out and get them; however, it's not because I think the target isn't so worthwhile, it's because I don't think the process is right. It still is paternalistic. The problem is much more deep rooted built on centuries of abuse and mistrust, perception, misperception, and deeply ingrained prejudices and stereotypes.

Let me try to explain what I'm getting at from an example in my experience and also to let you know that I certainly don't have answers or a magic plan to end racial mistrust, just a sense that we need to challenge ourselves to examine the ways that racism infects us in even the most subtle, unintentional ways. For several years, I was involved with an anti-war group in Washington, DC, called the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN). DAWN is an open, non-hierarchical (meaning no leaders) group of people who met on Tuesday nights and planned actions together against U.S. militarism and against social injustice. It was for the most part a great and strange mix of people - socialists, liberals, libertarians, anarchists, gay, straight, atheist, Quaker, Jew, Muslim. In two ways, it seemed to fall short in diversity. There were often far more men than women; there were usually far more whites than people of color. On the second issue, that's troubling in a city that's 2 to 1 black to white. DAWN was an open group, allowed everyone to come in, met in a racially diverse neighborhood that was accessible to anyone in the city and most in the equally racially diverse suburbs, but the group was still with only a handful of exceptions, a group of whites. The question often came up on how to get more racial diversity in DAWN since it was embarrassing for the group not to have that racial diversity. One answer seemed to be that there was a group somewhat like DAWN called "Black Voices for Peace" that was founded and run by the late Damu Smith. I visited Black Voices for Peace on a few occasions and found a group that was almost the mirror of DAWN, overwhelmingly black, with a scattered white person. Instead of being non-hierarchical in the process, Black Voices for Peace was mostly run by Damu, though he had a board of three prominent people in the African American anti-war community who made the decisions. It was not a group that many people in DAWN would have felt comfortable, with prayers, without a voice in decision-making, much less so about race. Damu was a complicated man (he died a year ago of liver cancer) who had his own radio show, worked on race and environmental justice issues (though environmental justice is such a small issue in DC), and was often fond of speaking out against white people, even as he was quick to embrace and hug me. Anyhow, when confronted by the white/black divide in the anti-war movement, Damu said the problem was that white groups come to black groups out of their sense of guilt and look to bring them along. He wondered why after so many hundreds of years that whites didn't take the lead from blacks, from those who have been oppressed for so long. Of course, that would never fly to people in DAWN, not because they were adverse to the problems of racial oppression but because of the hierarchical way in which things had been framed. So, the reality has lingered on. In 2001, at Bush's first inauguration, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson spoke to a mostly African American audience by the Capitol. At Dupont Circle, a mostly white audience rallied. Even if both groups had mostly voted against Bush, were both upset that democracy had been dealt another blow, they did it separately (and perhaps unequally as well). I can list example after example of this and the charges of tokenization and so forth. For instance, when a white group wants racial diversity (as almost all say they want), they tend to trot out the same people of color time and time again.

I've thought long and hard about the failures of DAWN on the issue of racial diversity. If the answer wasn't going out and simply recruiting people of color to join the group, and if the answer wasn't simply giving up one's beliefs and letting someone else control a group just to attain diversity, then what is the answer? I know that if I had any inkling of that answer, I'd be following through on it. It's not fun to live on these streets and be yelled at with racially derogatory remarks, at least a couple times a month. It's certainly not fun seeing how the gentrification of the city have plenty of racial elements as well, with the white population growing and the African American population declining. I live in an apartment building that happens to be about 90% Latino (mostly from El Salvador) - most of the rest are African Americans. English is the second language here, and there have been incidents of accusations against us because we are white. It's hurtful because I hate racism so much, but I have some sense that there are solid reasons where the pain being thrown back at me comes from. There are a million privileges I have had for being white, though I haven't asked for any of them. Nevertheless, I have some responsibility to do something about it. I strongly believe the first step is just this sort of dialogue where we talk about race, how it affects us, and listen to people. We're going to find all kinds of complex differences and experiences that explains why we don't just all get along, and we're going to have numerous setbacks. Yet, we have to keep talking about it. We have to learn from it. I had no idea when I moved to DC that perhaps my moving here was part of a process that could be tied to race. I thought I was just working on a Ph.D. But, that was naive of me. People are getting displaced constantly due to a lot of forces we are unwittingly a part of. We need to educate ourselves about them. My Salvadoran neighbors were in many cases displaced by political and economic upheaval in El Salvador's rural areas brought about by actions of the United States government. I didn't ever call for this upheaval; I've fought against it. Yet, whatever economic advantage I have, whatever social advantage, have led us to be the neighbors we are.

We have to keep talking; that's how we'll build a rich diversity full of rich experiences. When I talked with Damu, I'll admit there were some ways I liked him less, but it was no longer about race but about ideas. I didn't embrace him as just a man whose color led me to embrace him but because he was a man struggling for the same things I was, albeit in different ways. It was the problem of race that separated us, made us suspicious in ways we can't always imagine (another reason to talk), but it was something else that kept us separated. That sounds bad, but that's progress.

So, in the parks, I don't think you just go out and recruit people of color and "do something" about the problem of diversity. But, we cannot run away from the problem, we cannot be in denial that it doesn't exist, we cannot deny that we all as members of this society are part of its race problems. We need to talk and to listen. That's the only step that makes any sense to me. The research that Dr. Roberts shared, the experiences that Wayne Hare shared, that we are sharing now is extremely important. It undercuts the bogus logic of domination that has been part of race relations and environmental protection. It is the first step in a journey whose end we cannot map out, a hike into the wilderness, of a very important topic to us all, if we are truly to heal all the hundreds of years of abuse and mistrust. Let's hope that as we move to talk about other important issues, that we integrate this into our conversation, not just because we should out of some sense of guilt, but because we must if we are going to get a handle on the causes of everything else that's going on.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I don't pretend to be a statistician, so no worry there about how I apply them. I live in a part of the world where white people live in the big homes and black people generally don't. The dumpy part of town is 70% black and the nice areas are 90% white. I don't need any numbers to tell me that's former injustices still having a negative effect on people's lives. I've lived in California too, and yes things are a bit different there in SOME places and your neighborhood certainly varies from the next and from mine. I'm not saying there are bigger problems with the parks that need addressing first, but there are definitely bigger social issues that I see as more important to us as a country. Visit any school redistricting hearing in my area and you'll KNOW what I'm talking about.

-- Jon Merryman

When did it become the job of the NPS to attract a balanced cross section of ethnicity's to Our parks?

Anonymous is absolutely right. He said in one sentence what it took me a paragraph to say. Wayne sounds more like the marketing manager of a major corporation worried about his product's market share in the minority community than a ranger. The National Parks are not and should not be run like Disneyland worried about appealing to this or that demographic. The mission of the National Parks is to protect unique ecosystems, land forms and wildlife. Only secondarily to accommodate visitors. Attracting more visitors of any color is almost contrary to the mission of protecting the land. Yosemite's plan is already looking at ways to limit visitation to Yosemite Valley. What is Wayne suggesting, anyway? Advertising directed at minority communities?

Why are outdoor activities predominately white? Someone made the comment about fatherless households, something I hadn't though to before. If men are the primary instigators of outdoor activities then it makes sense that when 70% of black children are born out of wedlock and raised in a household with no father, there is no one to take them to parks.

It is also interesting to think about the demographics of usage of parks in areas with a high percentage of minorities. The U. S. Virgin Islands is something like 90% black, including the island of St. John, which is home to the U. S. Virgin Islands National Park. But who do you find snorkeling and hiking to the old sugar mill ruins? Not the locals, but Caucasian visitors. Same for the Natchez Trace Parkway in largely black Mississippi.

Similarly, there's the large Navajo lands just south of Mesa Verde National Park, a park devoted to early Native American culture. But who are the visitors? Not Native Americans. Glacier National Park is bordered on the east by the Blackfoot Reservation. Do they visit the park next door?

It may be culture, education, whatever. But bottom line: The National Parks should not be run like tourist attractions worrying about market share. They should be run to protect the land first and foremost.

Wayne is worried that the changing demographics of the country will mean that the parks will be less valued. The United States is also getting older with senior citizens becoming a larger and larger percentage of the population. Does Wayne propose that we make the parks more attractive to seniors so that they will continue to support the parks? Maybe put in funicular railroads to the tops of mountains seniors can no longer hike to? Following his reasoning on demographic trends that would be what the NPS should do.

I agree with Ranger X's inital observation that this is "meaningless drivel, mindless mumbo jumbo." The focus lavished on this issue is another example of a politically driven agenda awkwardly intruding upon what the natural mechanisms of the market place have brought about through free choice.

Many of my Hispanic and black friends don't understand why I go tramping around in the woods and swamps here in Florida. It seems weird to them. Maybe they should be asking me why more white folks don't have family barbecues and get togethers at muncipal parks and public beaches? Or why are most of the people fishing off the highway bridges and mucipal piers of the Sunshine State minorities? Shouldn't there be some program to get more white people introduced to joys of the fishing pole? Where does it end?

If the issue is economic disadvantage, which many have raised, then the skyrocketing cost of entrance fees is not going to encourage these groups with a price advantage over other forms of recreation.

I say let's preserve and protect the parks for whomever decides to come through the gates and let the market place decide who that will be, not some lame government intiative to "enhance" diversity. This subject is a red herring from the most important threat facing the parks today: government managment.

Actually, The Park Service, for whom I rangered in the backcountry for 7 years, often refers to the lands it protects as museums for the enjoyment and education of its visitors. Setting aside public lands was never meant to be for the exclusive benefit of the land, but for the "enjoyment of future generations." Specifically, the initiating legislation states the mission of the National Park Service to be " (the) purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." That would be future generations of PEOPLE.

How long does "preserve and protect" last? 100 years? Forever? One generation? As long as the Ameican people support that notion? Does anyone think there is not pressure to sell off public lands, including National Parks, to the private sector? Does anyone believe that there is not an extraordinary amount of pressure to drill, log, and mine National Parks? Does anyone know how close Paul Hoffman, Undersecretay of the Interior came to rewriting the NPS management plan and allowing all manner of motorized recreation in all areas of parks. It's a good read in Vanity Fair - of all places - at http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/06/nationalparks200606?currentPage=1.

Does anyone believe that legislation last forever? The only thing that actually protects our special places, be they parks, wilderness areas, National Conservation Areas, or whatever, is the current support of the American people. Nothing else. It doesn't just happen by magic. Do we really not need the support and involvement of the future majority?

One poll I read a few years ago said that of ALL government services, people liked the National Parks more than anything. The only thing that could doom the National Parks is if huge population pressures make the parks and their surrounding lands housing developments, shopping centers, electrical corridors or highways. Which is why I will never understand why the environmental movement isn't against increased immigration which is the only reason the U. S. population is expanding so rapidly. Hopefully that kind of population pressure will never happen. But look at countries with a high density of population and you see no open space, no wildlife. I would hate to live to see the U. S. become like that. Meanwhile, preservationists need to work to keep the National Parks from being trampled under too much love.

Wayne: You still haven't said specifically what you think the NPS should do.

This is an exquisite, unnerving and important conversation. I'm glad there's a forum for it.

Here's one important thing for us to (continue) to do. We must include ALL Americans in the story of the parks. Past prejudices and blindnesses on the parts of historians, administrators and park interpreters have erased people of various colors, ethnicities and cultures from the stories of our parks. And if you think that problem's been solved, you're not paying attention. This may be something Service insiders may have been dealing with for a while, but it's not visible to the average visitor.

Kath brought up the buffalo soldiers in Yosemite. Ironically, this proves the point. It was an African-American ranger who researched and wrote about this historical fact... almost one hundred years after the event (and not that long ago).

Go into visitors centers around the national parks and count the black and brown faces on the walls. Look for their stories. It's not that their stories don't exist; it's that we keep their stories from view. Does this sound like a marketing issue? It isn't. It's an issue of whose story we're respecting.

I've watched the Park Service struggle for decades with interpretation at Whitman Mission NHS. Only in the last five or six years has there begun to be more accuracy in describing the mixture of race, culture, gender and religion that found its crossroads there. The details of this story still have not been told accurately (though I'm working on it). By the way, from an interpretive perspective, you would think that two white New England missionaries built the first buildings at Waiilatpu. It was actually two white New England missionary, one free African-American and one Hawaiian Islander (who probably had a wife, but history has left this entirely out of the record).

Until very recently, the story of native cultures in Yellowstone was reduced to a few racially charged sentences here and there on "Sheepeaters" who "feared the park's thermal features." Yellowstone, in fact, was a major cultural crossroads whose influence (pre-Contact) affected people all over the Northern Hemisphere. Only in the last few years have we begun listening to native people's own stories about Western park areas and included them in the stories that visitors see and experience. There's a sad story of this (though it's not specifically NPS-sourced) in Rebecca Solnit's Savage Dreams, where she describes a group of modern Yosemite Indians visiting the Smithsonian Institution only to see an exhibit describing Yosemite Indians as extinct.

The parks belong to all the people, even those who never visit. They are for our children's children. Mr. Hare is absolutely correct when he states that legislation doesn't last by magic. Look at Hetch Hetchy. We will lose the National Parks unless we can help people value them whether they visit or not. I think we raise people's value of the parks by helping them understand how people in the past who were "just like me" found value in the parks and fought to protect them.

Blaming the younger generation for their tvs and blackberries is a bit like saying, "In my days..." It's rather missing the point. How can they care when they don't see themselves in it?

Tastes and fashions change. I started reading newspapers when I was 8 years old. Today kids could care less about the traditional newspaper. One by one these dinosaurs are dying out, the web having changed the way we get information forever. It will never go back to the days of newsprint no matter what the publishers try to do to change it. National parks used to be a much more popular destination for many people in the American middle-class. That is changing as well. Today you see many more foreign visitors and specialized tour groups visiting the parks with less and less visits from the traditional nuclear families of the past. Why? Well for one thing there are many more options from which to choose from in the area of leisure activities and the "traditional" nuclear family has undergone changes as well. The days of Ward and June taking Wally and the Beaver to Yellowstone are waning fast. You can hardly find a rubber tomahawk anymore in West Yellowstone, Cooke City or even Gatlinburg for that matter.

The traditional sports leagues are finding that younger people like the new "X" sports like skateboarding, snowboarding and trick bike riding over baseball and football. There's not much that they can do about it either, so they instead are trying to focus on keeping the fans they already have and hope that they pass on their interest to their progeny. Tastes change, new things come into fashion. I personally don't think that so called "people of color" are all that interested in going to national parks. There are other activities and recreations that they find more to their liking. This is how the free market works. Different strokes for different folks. Trying to convert these folks to enjoy white middle-class outdoor recreation smacks of a smarmy form of paternalism. The appreciation of nature and history are cultural traits that are acquired after a certain level of financial and social comfort has been reached. National parks were created only after the raw wilderness had been conquered and tamed and in the same way the enjoyment of the great outdoors is something most people enjoy from the comfort of a middle-class perspective.

There are far more pressing issues facing the parks than what color the faces of the visitors are. I'd say give that a rest and focus on how these places are being run and by whom. Is the Executive Branch of the U.S. government the best container for our "crown jewels"? Is the reckless and unaccountable outfit that is currently spending $12 billion a month to wage war on the Muslim world the right group to be overseeing these special places? To me that is much more worthy discussion. The visitors will come, there's no need to sort them by color.

beamis: while i usually appreciate your perspective, i don't think trying to share the values of the experience of a national park smacks of paternalism. people love nature, period. i've lead "colored" urban youth (many that didn't speak english and weren't born in this country), "lily white" gray hairs and international visitors on various tours in various outside locations year round. in my experience, if you do it right and let them figure it out, they all get stoked, without exception. you can see it in their eyes, their faces...

But no one has yet said what the National Parks should do? Put in more exhibits about other cultures and races? Fine. Historical accuracy is always best. But does anyone have any evidence that this would increase minority park visitation? As I said, even when an entire park like Mesa Verde is entirely devoted to Native American history, the number of Native visitors is low. There is an exhibit on the buffalo soldiers at Ft. Davis National Historic Site in Ft. Davis, Texas, but I don't think they get many black park visitors. I think it's more than a little stereotypical to say that races are only interested in exhibits about their own ethnicity. In fact, in some instances, historical accuracy has been abandoned so as not to offend blacks. The fact of slavery seems to be played down at Jamestown National Historic Site. Colonial Williamsburg took out the slave market sites so as not to offend.

The fallacy that increasing minority exhibits in the parks would increase minority attendance is shown by the numbers of Asians who visit the parks. I can't think of a single major park that has any exhibits on Asian contributions. None in Yosemite. None in Sequoia. Yet, the study shows that Asians visit the parks in high numbers.

So I ask again, to those who think this is a great problem, what exactly should the NPS be doing?

Anon---I agree with you about sharing the parks with a wide variety of people. That is the nature and essence of my business. It's fine for each of us to share what we are passionate about to those who may be new to the experience. That is not the thread I am picking up from the previous commentary. I'm getting the impression that there is some concrete program or intiative that should spring up to address this problem.

I agree with kath: what is it that should be done? I say nothing. What say those who find this to be a pressing issue?

By the way, good thread Kurt. I hope this is what you and Jeremy were looking to accomplish with your new website. A job well done!

Here's some more grist for the mill:

I teach an Undergraduate course on parks and publics lands at a major university close to a large urban area. I have an array of faces that seems to represent the distribution of "race" in the general population. One thing I have found teaching this class is that many of the African-American and Latino students have trouble seeing themselves represented in National Parks. Parks are outside of thier cultural millieu. Furthermore, these students usually point many of the injustices inherent in the creation of the Park system long before I talk about them. For these students, National Parks do not necessarily represent their American experience.

Discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, sex, education, etc is a problem that has long plagued these United States of America. It is a discussion that should be at every table where folks congregate.
Great thread!

I spent some time working for the USFS is California (Region 5), which, for many years in the 90s and early 00s was operating under the court-ordered Hispanic Settlement Agreement (HSA) to try to increase hispanic representation in the R5 employees. I didn't really care about it, it never got in my way, but at one point my supervisor (Asian with 30 years in the USFS) applied for a promotion that he was very qualified for but the job was closed and re-advertised because there wasn't enough minority representation.

So its not just about being a minority - its about being the right minority!

I am disappointed that several people commenting here talk about this issue in terms of what the federal government response should be to the issue of racial diversity, as though that's the only relevant consideration. Don't we matter in this discussion? Isn't it more helpful to talk about what our role is in this reality both in terms of what it is and what should be done?

Racism had a part in creating the national parks; they have a part in the reality today. This isn't simply about adding more of a certain kind of visitor or having more of a certain kind of employee; it's understanding how the realities of today are connected with the realities of yesterday. It's understanding where each of us fit into that story and seeing whether we can be part of changing the dynamic. That calls far less for a federal response than it does for honest conversation and for recognizing ways racism is still evident. As I mentioned much earlier, you can look at just this site's VC and see that we miss out on diversity. That's hardly a judgment on the quality of the site; it's part of a reality, though, that we cannot deny that we play a role in. The parks, too, are part of that reality, and I think we are foolish to ignore it or scapegoat either so called "free markets" or governments. It's that and much more and is ultimately quite personal in nature. I am really thankful for all of you who have shared your own personal accounts on these things. Now, where does this go from here?

And, class, and other injustices...what is it all saying, and do we have the courage to accept the consequences of a lot of unsettling conclusions? I guess we'll see.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Again I don't think so-called "racism" has anything to do with a discussion of market preferences, in this case the desire by certain groups to visit national parks.

Has anyone been to a blues festival lately? Has anyone voiced concern about the fact that the majority of musicians onstage are black and the majority of people in the audience are white? Is Buddy Guy worried about the lack of African-Americans buying tickets to his shows? The answer is NO. He's been asked and he could care less. Shouldn't the people who produce blues music be alarmed that there are not very many black faces at their shows? Not hardly. They have many satisfied customers whose ranks are growing, regardless of what color those customers may happen to be.

The same is true of the current rap and hip-hop stars who are draped in platinum and gold because they are selling millions of records to white-middle class suburban kids who now emulate the gangster/prison styles of low-rise pants and high-rise underwear. Should we be asking why? Isn't this a form of cultural imperialism on the part of rappers? It never fails to amuse me to see spoiled rich white kids in high-end parts of town walking around acting like inner-city hoodlums.

"This isn't simply about adding more of a certain kind of visitor or having more of a certain kind of employee; it's understanding how the realities of today are connected with the realities of yesterday." Well put Mr. Macdonald.

When all is said and done it's far more important for the NPS to be stewards of the lands that they have been assigned to administer and to not fret about what color or percentage of its visitors is of a certain racial or ethnic type. Their job is to please their customers (whoever they may be) and protect the site. Nothing more----nothing less.

The reason I asked the author of the article to specify what the NPS should be doing is that he raised that very question. (A question he never answered.) He says in paragaph 2, that the NPS is looking into ways to boost 'diversity' among park visitors.

Perhaps the NPS could host private parties inviting the 'right' demographic. (She says sarcastically).

Kath and others who think I am recommending that the Park Service or some government agency do something to address diversity: I’m not suggesting any NPS or government program. Nothing I wrote had anything to do with any government program. I would like to see people of all colors, including the color white, not buying into myths and stereotypes perpetrated by Marlboro, Hollywood, and etc. I would like to see us all get wet, get cold, and get along. That seems like it would be of no disadvantage to anybody and just maybe an advantage to all.

I would like people of the color white, when they look out onto a sea of white faces – be it a day hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail, or a Blue Grass concert in Telluride – to recognize that what they’re seeing isn’t ‘market determination’, and to simply be curious.

I would like to see people of color get outdoors and take advantage of a unique advantage of being an American by enjoying the many wild and scenic public lands that are their birthright as well. I would like them to not say to me, “We don’t do that.” Because we do. For example, buried next to Admiral Peary in Arlington National Cemetery is Mathew Henson, the black man who actually led Peary to the North Pole.

Contrary to what is sometimes put out there, there are no quotas. They’re illegal. There are no official double standards of abilities, except that often for a person of color to make the same achievements as a white person, he or she has to rise even further above the crowd. Contrary to what is sometimes put out there, white people are seldom actually ‘diversified out of a job’ by a person of lesser abilities. But it’s a great excuse. And if skin color occasionally does give a person an advantage, um…you get the point. An NPS associate regional director for the Intermountain region recently wrote, in response to negative feedback and complaints on the supposed lowering of standards to hire more diversity:

I cannot find a single directive, regulation,
order, or practice that has mandated a reduction in qualifications in
order to obtain a more diverse workforce. This is an example of
individual racism turned into institutional racism.

When I say I don’t want to see the NPS do something through a program, I’m perhaps not being entirely honest. I was with the Park Service long enough to hear a great deal of officialdom about diversity, and long enough to see it come to nothing. If an agency is going to make so much noise, perhaps it should actually walk the walk. The Park Service has ranger training academies set up at about 10 mostly white community colleges. What if just ONE were set up at a mostly black or native school? And guess what? Several years ago this was suggested. The schools are overseen by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia – where all permanent rangers receive their training alongside the FBI, Secret Service, and ATF. FLETC objected. Ten academies in mostly white schools, but one at a mostly black or native school was ‘problematic’. So I don’t know what the NPS answer is. I’d like to see hiring managers held accountable for walking the Park Service’s talk. I know from direct experience, that if they can sincerely regurgitate the Park Service message of support of diversity, that they really don’t need to actually DO anything. No accountability what-so-ever. However, I was just making an observation and asking a question. Einstein said it was more important to ask the questions than to have the answers, and the Buddhist faith emphasizes curiosity. I’m not Einstein and I’m not Buddhist, but I’m only asking of you – not the government – to be curious, and ask questions. That’s it. I’m asking people of color to ignore the myths. That’s it.

But my essay wasn’t really about the Park Service, or even being outdoors. It was really about why we choose to limit our own selves by buying into revisionist history and stereotypes. And more importantly, why, after 600 years of being together, we choose to be so separate from each other while maintaining so much suspicion, animosity, and ignorance of the other. The outdoors, where we all get tired, wet, cold, and hungry – regardless of race - would be a great classroom and a great place for us all to ‘just get over it.’ We wouldn’t even need funiculars.

"And more importantly, why, after 600 years of being together, we choose to be so separate from each other while maintaining so much suspicion, animosity, and ignorance of the other."

I think the whole issue of "diversity" is about focusing on differences rather than bringing people together in the first place. The reason the NPS pays lip service to this trendy and meaningless notion is that it knows where it's bread is buttered and has to bow to all of the politically correct mandates emanating from the mandarins in DC. I agree with your observation "that if they can sincerely regurgitate the Park Service message of support of diversity, that they really don’t need to actually DO anything. No accountability what-so-ever." They know deep down that it is a meaningless game but one that they must go through the motions for to advance a career.

If it had meaning and some clarity of purpose it would naturally emerge as a meaningful construct. As it is now diversity is a silly numbers game that only divides us further by driving a wedge through society based on the notion that we are better off with representative numbers in all things. If this ever truly comes to pass I guess it'll be the end of professional football, baseball and basketball in America because there are not enough white people to represent the race in proportion to their numbers. I wonder why no one ever brings up the lack of diversity in the NBA? Maybe because merit and skill trumps skin color when you want your team to be a success. Just a thought.

Mr. Hare has taken several thinly-veiled slams at me. The first instance referenced people who "pretend that they lost their job because of somebody else's need to hire a diverse staff." This was clearly in reference to my previous statement, "I was 'diversified' out of a job at SEKI. My boss, a Hispanic woman, wanted to 'diversify' the staff, so she hired a Hispanic woman for my position." The second occurred in his last comment: "Contrary to what is sometimes put out there, white people are seldom actually 'diversified out of a job' by a person of lesser abilities."

In the first instance, Hare implies that I'm "pretending" that the reason I wasn't rehired was due to my boss' desire to see more Hispanics on the staff. I'm not pretending and have plenty of anecdotes to support my claim.

As for Hare's second assertion, that "white people are seldom actually ‘diversified out of a job’ by a person of lesser abilities", that is clearly another slam, but Here left a loophole by using the word "seldom". By using this word, Hare admits that it sometimes happens. Sometimes is too much, especially in light of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits using race as a hiring factor.

Hare also previously stated (and reiterated): "People like to invoke, 'It's culture, not color.' I hear that all the time. But we've been together over six hundred years! Do we really have different cultures?"

First, "we've all been together over 600 years"? The first Africans arrived in what is now the United States of America around 1620, less than 400 years ago (Columbus arrived in the hemisphere 515 years ago, still not more than 600, and certainly we weren't all "living together"). I get it, though. Use a bigger number and it'll back up your point.

As for do we have different cultures, the answer I'd tell you, that most multiculturalists and anthropologists would tell you, is a resounding OF COURSE! While there some can say we have a prevailing culture in this country, there are many separate cultures. We have a gay culture, hundreds of different aboriginal cultures, Asian cultures (look at the China Towns across the country and tell me they don't represent distinct cultures in America), rural cultures, urban cultures. There are millions of first-generation and illegal Mexican immigrants, whose culture is very unlike ours (different language, food, religion, etc.).

Speaking of this last culture, I was at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (operated by the USFS) on Sunday. I saw Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, the whole rainbow of color. One Mexican male made rude sexual comments (in Spanish - he assumed I didn't know Spanish) about my future wife (there's a personal anecdote for you, something I don't need a study to prove because I can see it). Clearly, that behavior is not tolerated in our mainstream culture as it is in Latin America (I remember having to watch videos during Peace Corps orientation about Latin American cultures and the difficulty female volunteers face there) or in African-American urban culture (seen a rap video lately?). I'm sorry, but I don't really want to run into that type of BS sexist patriarchal machismo anywhere, let alone the backcountry where I'm miles and hours from social safety. But hey, what can diversity do for you?

Why was there so much "diversity" at Multnomah Falls, Oregon's number one tourist destination? Because it's easy to get to, and people across all of all colors are lazy. And fat. They don't want to hike. You can see the Falls from the freeway, the parking lot, or behind the gift shop. In addition to being too lazy to walk, people don't want to have to plan ahead or carry food and water great distances while they walk, so the Falls also works because it has a restaurant, lounge, gift shop, and ice cream stand. If there is one predominant US culture, it's the culture of Lazy.

Ranger X you're priceless!

I have no idea what Mr. Hare has to say about this, but I have plenty of my own thoughts on these remarks.

Mr. Hare has taken several thinly-veiled slams at me. The first instance referenced people who "pretend that they lost their job because of somebody else's need to hire a diverse staff." This was clearly in reference to my previous statement, "I was 'diversified' out of a job at SEKI. My boss, a Hispanic woman, wanted to 'diversify' the staff, so she hired a Hispanic woman for my position." The second occurred in his last comment: "Contrary to what is sometimes put out there, white people are seldom actually 'diversified out of a job' by a person of lesser abilities."

I think this is unfair. He took slams against ideas represented in your posts; those aren't necessarily slams against you. If he were taking slams against you, they would be ad hominems; however, he was careful to leave you personally out of it. That's not a "thin veil"; that's a way to talk about ideas, positions, and stances without making this about you per se, but about the position.

In the first instance, Hare implies that I'm "pretending" that the reason I wasn't rehired was due to my boss' desire to see more Hispanics on the staff. I'm not pretending and have plenty of anecdotes to support my claim.

Actually, he doesn't have anything to say about you. Obviously, you feel that you lost your job because of your boss's desire to see more Latinos on the staff, and Mr. Hare doesn't think that happens very often. However, no one is asking you to defend yourself. I haven't heard that from anyone or from any quarters. Seldom or not so seldom, these are experiences worth sharing and considering. In your case, without judgment about the particulars but just considering what you are sharing at face value, there's a wealth of things to talk about. What you point to is a process that is rather patriarchal used to correct a wrong that came out of a patriarchal society. I think that's a strong point to consider. It speaks to the depth of the pain of the situation and how racism has had a bad effect on everyone, including those who have belonged to groups that have been in general privileged. It speaks to the need for us to break down generalizations and be open.

On the other hand, your sarcasm about anecdotes, I don't feel, is very helpful or relevant. You never heard me say that an anecdote was what you caricature it to be in your response. However, I'm still around and willing to have the epistemological discussion when you want to have it.

As for Hare's second assertion, that "white people are seldom actually ‘diversified out of a job’ by a person of lesser abilities", that is clearly another slam, but Here left a loophole by using the word "seldom". By using this word, Hare admits that it sometimes happens. Sometimes is too much, especially in light of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits using race as a hiring factor.

And, where did you see Hare justify racial discrimination in hiring? It seems he went at pains to show you that there is no policy to do this. I think he was pointing to a fact of practice, not something that the government does on principle. Again, I'm not sure why you are making the argument more personal than it is? It's good form in argument not to call someone out because the individual is irrelevant to the general point. There are plenty of personal things to share, and we are dealing with people attached to these arguments, but his point is worth considering regardless of your defensive posture against what he's saying. I'm really curious why you feel the need to be defensive. I wonder if that's a relevant talking point to consider here. You have had some very negative experiences when it comes to race and your experience with the National Park Service. I don't know how that speaks to the larger points about diversity, about coming to grips with the history of racism in the current picture, in our place in it, and what we might do about it. Your story is part of that puzzle; I wonder why you see it as antithetical to what Mr. Hare suggested in his original piece or continues to suggest.

All that said, we are not an equal opportunity society in any number of ways. We all know this; I know that you know it to based on other things I've read by you on different issues. Things that we can do to make each other of the processes that keep us from opportunities is worthwhile, including an analysis of the opportunities themselves. For instance, I'm against war. I have a lot of trouble getting enthusiastic about the issue of gays in the military or women in combat because I fervently believe that there shouldn't be a military at all. Maybe, there shouldn't be a Park Service at all or a national parks system. All of that will change the way we view the remedies of diversity, but if we are going to acknowledge the current reality and accept that, then we had better be willing to work on opportunities within that reality. If that still leads to injustices, then when are we going to fess up to those and do something about them? I don't think we can on the one hand say that race doesn't and shouldn't matter and then prop up the social mechanisms and systems that make it reality. If we are going to do the latter, then we have to acknowledge the former. I am for fighting systems of oppression because one's race does not matter, but the history of racism is a reality and a present. And, fighting the systems that make racism the reality it is has to start with considering the larger puzzle and with people sharing their experiences openly. Being defensive prejudices what I think should be an open discussion, and so I think that's also worth considering. I often find myself defensive about things; there's often a lot of justification for being defensive, but there's often something else behind it as well that's pertinent at another level.

Hare also previously stated (and reiterated): "People like to invoke, 'It's culture, not color.' I hear that all the time. But we've been together over six hundred years! Do we really have different cultures?"

First, "we've all been together over 600 years"? The first Africans arrived in what is now the United States of America around 1620, less than 400 years ago (Columbus arrived in the hemisphere 515 years ago, still not more than 600, and certainly we weren't all "living together"). I get it, though. Use a bigger number and it'll back up your point.

Are you seriously going to quibble over 85 years? I mean, we can get ridiculous and say, "Well, maybe the Americas weren't what was assumed?" "Maybe, the Vikings should be counted." I mean, geez. Do you think the point was to make up some ungodly big number. Would over 500 years be less of a point than over 600 years? Does cherry picking a literal error over a figurative estimate make your point or your criticism hold more water? It's hard to understand how what you've said here is relevant to Mr. Hare's points about race and culture. It's worse than a strawman since at least a strawman is relevant. It's like saying someone doesn't know what they're talking about because there's a typo or a grammatical error in their statement. You sound like people I've argued with who insist that anyone who calls a "bison" a "buffalo" is incorrect because "buffalo" are those animals over yonder. However, you not only can figure out that "600 years" means "long enough," and any more precise way of saying things is not more helpful to advancing the discussion.

As for do we have different cultures, the answer I'd tell you, that most multiculturalists and anthropologists would tell you, is a resounding OF COURSE! While there some can say we have a prevailing culture in this country, there are many separate cultures. We have a gay culture, hundreds of different aboriginal cultures, Asian cultures (look at the China Towns across the country and tell me they don't represent distinct cultures in America), rural cultures, urban cultures. There are millions of first-generation and illegal Mexican immigrants, whose culture is very unlike ours (different language, food, religion, etc.).

I'm not sure that the two of you aren't having more than a semantical argument. I think the overriding concern is that the use of "culture" not be used to cloud the reality of racism in this country or the fact that people have had, for totally bogus reasons, a history thrust upon us on the basis of race. Whatever cultural hierarchies exist are relevant also in a discussion of racism, but one cannot deny the one by asserting the other.

Speaking of this last culture, I was at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (operated by the USFS) on Sunday. I saw Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, the whole rainbow of color. One Mexican male made rude sexual comments (in Spanish - he assumed I didn't know Spanish) about my future wife (there's a personal anecdote for you, something I don't need a study to prove because I can see it). Clearly, that behavior is not tolerated in our mainstream culture as it is in Latin America (I remember having to watch videos during Peace Corps orientation about Latin American cultures and the difficulty female volunteers face there) or in African-American urban culture (seen a rap video lately?). I'm sorry, but I don't really want to run into that type of BS sexist patriarchal machismo anywhere, let alone the backcountry where I'm miles and hours from social safety. But hey, what can diversity do for you?

I love Multnomah Falls.

Anyhow, your anecdotal sarcasm on anecdotes is delightful; you're right, we don't need a study to talk about what you experienced. We'd need a study to know what is tolerated by mainstream culture or by "culture" in Latin America. However, I think it's an interesting thing to talk about sexist patriarchal attitudes and racism. I'm sure it would be worthwhile to study why patriarchy is a part of different culture. I mean, look for instance at Plains Indians tribes during the 19th century. Plains nomadic societies became far more hierarchical and patriarchal as trade for buffalo increased and as labor became more and more specialized in tribal society. This is not an excuse for sexism; the slavery that women suffered was brutal. It is to say that you cannot tie a patriarchal tendency simply to a definition of a culture (or a race or a sex or a class). Many tribes were judged, however, on their essence, on their worthiness as beings, based on certain behaviors that were not independent from the dominant society. Sometimes, criticisms of the acts seen in different people slip into becoming racist or bigoted because they are generalized that way. For instance, does your use of the word "machismo" tie in any way to the culture you were criticizing? Would you use that word to describe non-Latinos? Perhaps, you would. I can't say.

Diversity can be a beautiful thing; I worry about the way you cynically conflate diversity with what you judged to be an incident of sexism that's tied to a particular culture. I don't know how to say it concisely, but you seem to conflate the sexism that exists in a culture with the essence of the culture itself. That's often what's at root in bigotry, that kind of generalization. I hope you meant something else and were being a little too sarcastic for my slow wit.

Why was there so much "diversity" at Multnomah Falls, Oregon's number one tourist destination? Because it's easy to get to, and people across all of all colors are lazy. And fat. They don't want to hike. You can see the Falls from the freeway, the parking lot, or behind the gift shop. In addition to being too lazy to walk, people don't want to have to plan ahead or carry food and water great distances while they walk, so the Falls also works because it has a restaurant, lounge, gift shop, and ice cream stand. If there is one predominant US culture, it's the culture of Lazy.

Well, that's something we can agree on; there are too many lazy people. I hope we are not lazy in pursuing discussions like this with the seriousness and passion they deserve and then taking difficult actions. Hiking up the falls isn't that hard; dealing with a human history of abuse toward each other and the earth is a much harder hike. I see no reason why it has to be as lonely as it sometimes is.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim,

When someone else uses the exact same words and the exact same phrasing I used and then uses the word "pretend", well, that's quite hard not to take personally.

"Let me know that you really want to go down this path because it's a very serious sort of question, and I don't think you'll like at all where it leads."
"However, I'm still around and willing to have the epistemological discussion when you want to have it."

Stop patronizing me. If you want to have a discussion about the liberal scientific method and what constitutes knowledge, that would be great. I still hold by my assertion that anecdote is NOT knowledge and that knowledge is derived empirically and is independently verifiable, which anecdote is not.

I'm sorry if you took what I was saying as patronizing; I apologize.

Are we really talking about knowledge when we are talking about anything empirical? I don't think so. It's all subject to induction, which is always at most probable.

My point about anecdotes as "evidence" was not to suggest that they were knowledge but to say that anecdotes can be evidence of something, perhaps not sufficient evidence, but evidence nevertheless. When someone has an experience of racism, their report of it is evidence. Whether that evidence adds up to anything is for further exploration.

However, in no case is the result of the testing knowledge. It's strong or weak, probable or improbable.

That's what I'll throw out there to start this discussion. I don't think there's a stark line between the anecdote and the repeatable experiment, and the meaningfulness of either depend upon a context. If I'm talking about the number of elk in Yellowstone, and I go out and say, "Wow, I just didn't see many this year." That's worthless to answering the question. However, if someone isn't hired for a job because of reasons of race, their telling of that story is directly relevant to that. As instances of racism are sufficient for there to be a problem of racism, we don't need to know whether racism is a general pattern to know that it's a problem. The specific instances are enough. There, the anecdote is relevant. In neither case is the end result concrete knowledge. There's always a chance of being wrong, a chance of falsification, and knowledge is certain if it's anything at all. The end result of evidence isn't knowledge but probability. Evidence is meaningful when relevant. That's how it's used in a court of law, and the threshold of its importance isn't knowledge but probability. Quantifiable and repeatable things are more reliably probable, and that's why science can be quite useful to us. However, that's not the end all and be all of evidence; the end isn't knowledge (though we use the word "know" loosely; I certainly have even within this discussion).

I've laid some of my epistemological cards on the table. I think you have a high burden to show why anecodtes aren't evidence and why the scientific method is necessary to have a conversation of racism in the parks. What might it produce that makes all other discussion moot until it happens? I think science has a far more important role - to provide us with a diversity of colorful metaphors to flavor our discussion.

As for taking things personally, I think you've missed my point. He certainly was talking directly about things you have said; it's not the same thing as to attack you personally. There's a world of difference. Are we identical with the statements we make? He was picking on what you said, which presumably speaks to an idea that you or others may hold. You happened to say it, but that's not a personal attack. It's an attack on the ideas you've shared, which you have no ownership over. That's another reason that anecdotes are potentially useful to us for discussion. Like anything that's communicated, they are able to be taken by someone else and considered in a different light. The aim isn't to repeat so much as to analyze, synthesize, and therefore understand. That is, what does a proposition speak to, and what doesn't it speak to?

But, we should slow this down, perhaps. What do you take knowledge to be? Why? And, how do you know? I have one hunch. I have a hunch that your answer won't be something we could empirically verify.

For those who don't want this to drift far from the subject, think of this claim. Our problems in the parks aren't problems of science so much as they are problems coming to grips with the values we presume to know. Just as racists once presumed to know their superiority; we presume a lot of values that science doesn't shed any new light on. Those are questions of knowledge; they are not questions of empiricism. The questions are fueled by our experience and are not prejudiced simply toward the measurable variety. That's all I'm saying.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim,
Thank you and I'm sorry for my sarcasm.

I'm weary of the discussion and will just agree to disagree. Let me first add a bit of clarification or whatever.

I lean toward libertarian and free market, not only in economics but in science.

John Locke wrote "The strength of our persuasions is no evidence at all of their own rectitude." In other words, never mind how you feel or what you think might be; you have to be checked.

Liberal science says you must run your belief (in this case, that minorities are underrepresented in natural areas) through the science game for checking. So, Hare came up with a list of studies that have been checked in the "marketplace of ideas" to back his opinion. But one person's experience is not knowledge; it's personal experience. For it to be come knowledge, it needs to be checked. That's all I was sayin'. I'm sure Kurt and Jeremy and everyone else is tired of this, especially of my sarcasm and ranting.

So adios!

Okay, we can pick this up another time. One of my favorite philosophers is G.W. Leibniz, a contemporary of Locke, and he disagreed with Locke on so many things. He actually wrote a dialogue called New Essays on Human Understanding that reads more like a blow by blow response to Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. I come from the rationalist tradition, though I'm not that fond of Descartes or Spinoza. Anyhow, we aren't really that far removed from that climate, though Locke's worldview has been far more influential on practice, especially in the American experience. Perhaps, that's why I think the critics of Locke are all that much more relevant, whether they be rationalists like Leibniz or fellow empiricists like Berkeley. I'm especially fond of the critiques offered by the Scottish common sense realists, especially Thomas Reid. Of course, this isn't just academic to me. How we talk about what we think we know and why we know it goes deep into our discussions about things that are seemingly more accessible, like the issue of race in the national parks. Often, our dividing lines, or the reasons we stay divided, come to basic questions about existence and knowledge. A lot of us haven't thought much about those problems, but we still carry on the thinking of these dead men almost unwittingly. It's doubly interesting when one thinks of the role European men like Leibniz and Locke played in the racism of our own times both consciously and as part of the colonial process.

I don't think one needs to study Locke and Leibniz to talk about race in the parks. I think all one has to do is talk and be willing to consider the force of the discussion on each of our lives. I hope that people will continue to do that. the other stuff we've been talking about is there for those who are interested--in the history, in the history of the ideology, etc. But, it's clear from even just this discussion that racism poisons us, keeps us separated and disempowered. Discussions that explore that experience are worthwhile. And, it might as well be in the parks context; there are a million fitting reasons why.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Why don't you two just get a room and get it over with???

The same arguments about race diversity on park staffs have been made about gender. And it is nearly always framed as an issue of unqualified women getting jobs that should have gone to qualified men. Sometimes there was even a suspicion that unqualified women were selected over qualified ones so as to prove the point that women could not do the job. There may be unqualified people of all races and both sexes, and they should not be selected for jobs. But there is still a very strong odor of male superiority and misogyny everywhere and this is a factor in hiring and promotion decisions and reactions.

I once wanted to hire seasonally a young black woman who would have been very good at visitor contact, and in a southern state. But the money for the position went to some ranger function instead. This was the kind of person that should have been encouraged to think about a career. On the other hand, one of the least qualified seasonals I had to hire was a white male veteran with preference points that put him at the top of the hire list. During the summer he even had a run-in with the local police for some infraction.

The Forest Service had to be sued to allow qualified women to be hired and promoted in professional positions. These were women who had the skills, the education, the degrees. So, ultimately the court forced the USFS to a quota system that resulted in more diversity at the time than the Park Service, which had relied on the more successful tokenism strategy. Success was keeping the numbers of women low and ensuring they would stay at the bottom of the ladder.

My own opinion is that the mission of these agencies has been so compromised by outside forces, including global warming, and politics, that the quality of performance has been adversely affected, regardless of diversity issues. It has come to be seen as an impossible job, and one that is not valued by our political bosses who are eager to hand over the land to extraction and motorized use, and privatize the money making parts. Who can have pride in such a situation, or feel their work is valued, or feel that the lands can be successfully protected? They can't even be sure they will have careers at this point. So what kind of people will that scenario attract?