Lately, groups working to bridge the gap between diverse groups from different socioeconomic standings and backgrounds to the outdoors, have come under attack by individuals. Often I stand to the side and brush these insults off, because I consider myself a grinder. I’ve never witnessed a positive outcome from engaging those haters, but a mentor reminded me of a simple truth, “Words hurt.” That simple statement stumped me and made me reflect upon myself. In my own way, this is me defining and defending my collective actions.
"Inherent privilege, as a straight Latino male, I have it. I recognize it, and try to acknowledge how it plays out in my interactions."
I’m not perfect but I try. I did not ask for it, but it is a fact. Recognition of this fact has shined a light on how I look and work with the world and society. Something that I’ve witnessed in how people interact with me versus my wife, a petite Latina woman. A woman and pioneer in her own right, we are treated different when we are at the same table.
America the great! And I mean it, we are great, but sorry to break the false dream, there is no perfect definition of being American. There is no right or wrong way to be American. Our differences, after all, are what make us American.
Acknowledging our inherent privilege is something we must all do. It will guide how we see and interact with each other and the world. So I am always stumped by these harsh attacks on groups working to bridge the gap between people of color and the outdoors. Yes, we are all American but calling for a group called, “Americans Outdoors,” is hiding from reality. The reality is that we, as Americans, have created a large disadvantage between the opportunity, knowledge, and culture of those that built the American Public Land and Conservation Legacy.
I’m not blaming anyone for this truth, but it is important to recognize that we all start from different places, and for some it takes more work to get out of a bad set of cards and aim for that American jackpot. For many it takes that extra opportunity to make it and to make up for years of dis-inherent privilege because the playing field of life is not even. Life is no pedicured grass, certainly not Kentucky bluegrass like that of Lambeau Field, regardless of color, background, or creed.
The number one job of any group looking to make a better tomorrow is to work enough so that group is no longer needed. Now wouldn’t that be nice? A day where we don’t have to work as hard to bridge that gap.
"On this, the 99th birthday of our National Park Service it is more important than ever to recognize the strength in our differences. There is an opportunity, a once in a 100 years kind of chance, to empower a generation to bridge the distance between America’s great outdoors, our differences, and America’s future generation of stewards."
A conservation and public land legacy that reflects the rich culture of America! I hope I get to see that day and if so, you will find me fishing for small mouth bass on a winding river, overlooking this great land of ours.