Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Apartheid in the Great Outdoors: American Advertising and the Reproduction of a Racialized Outdoor Leisure Identity

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Apartheid in the Great Outdoors: American Advertising and the Reproduction of a Racialized Outdoor Leisure Identity

Article excerpt

There is often a stark contrast in the leisure activities of White and Black Americans. An example of such leisure differences can be seen in their relative rates of participation in wildland recreation activities such as hiking and camping, and in differences in their rates of visitation to U.S. national parks. According to recent statistics, 34% of Whites hiked in the past year compared to just 11% of Blacks (Cordell, Betz, & Green, 2002), and 35% of Whites reported visiting a national park within the past two years compared with just 14% of Blacks (National Park Service, 2001). Past research has typically sought to explain leisure differences between Blacks and Whites either by pointing to a history of economic disparity, or by presuming subcultural differences in recreation tastes between the two groups (Floyd, 1998; Johnson, Bowker, English, & Worthan, 1998). More recent research into the development of racial differences in leisure behavior has examined the influence of such factors as differential socialization, ethnic/racial identities, and fear of discrimination (Bixler, Floyd, & Hammitt, 2002; Carr & Williams, 1993; Feagin, 1991; Taylor, 1993; Williams, 2002). Differences in leisure participation rates are undoubtedly a complex issue, and the explanations listed above have each provided greater understanding. In this article, however, I advocate for an additional explanation that I believe has been under-valued. I seek evidence for the position that there exists a stereotyped leisure identity that is associated with wildland leisure activities that results in fewer Black Americans participating in outdoor recreation.

Wildland recreation enthusiasts are generally viewed as young, rugged, and adventurous, and I contend that they are almost exclusively perceived as being White. This socially constructed conception of participants in wildland recreation is what I refer to as a racialized outdoor leisure identiiy. This outdoor leisure identity may be unappealing to some segments of the population, particularly those who value a more cosmopolitan or sophisticated identity, and it may be mutually exclusive from the self-image of many urban Blacks. Thus, the existence of a racialized outdoor leisure identity may deter socialization favoring participation in wildland recreation. This may help explain the low levels of participation in outdoor recreation by Black Americans and contribute to their low utilization of U.S. national parks. In this paper I review the literature on racial differences in leisure participation and the representation of Blacks in the media, and then I present the results of a content analysis of magazine advertisements in which a racialized outdoor leisure identity is shown to exist. The paper concludes with a discussion of how this may influence participation rates in wildland recreation.

Theoretical Background

When leisure researchers speak of outdoor recreation, they ordinarily use the term in a restrictive sense (Kelly, 1993). Outdoor recreation is not simply all leisure activities that take place out of doors (e.g., football, softball, or golf), but instead is synonymous with wildland or wilderness recreation (in this paper I use all three terms interchangeably). Wildland recreation refers to activities that usually take place in space socially constructed as the Great Outdoors (more on this below), such as hiking, camping, and white-water rafting. Research over the past 30 years shows that Blacks are less likely than Whites to participate in outdoor recreation activities, and they are less likely to visit national parks (Cheek, Field, & Burdge, 1976; Clifford, 1994; Dwyer & Hutchison, 1990; Mueller & Gurin, 1962; Washburne, 1978). In the early 1980s, a study reported that 58% of Whites had visited a national park, compared to 17% of Blacks (National Park Service, 1986). More recently, a 1991 study of attendance at Yosemite National Park found that over 80% of visitors were White, with Blacks accounting for less than 3% (Clifford, 1994), and a 1992 study of attendance at Grand Canyon National Park showed that Blacks accounted for merely 1. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.