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Ehren Joseph Layne

Black people are wild savages, yet we can’t venture into the wilderness? – Thesis/Argument

I am Black and have no idea how to start a fire. I don’t know how to hunt, have very little knowledge on how to traverse large landscapes, and I can’t, for the life of me, pitch a tent.  If you were to place me in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, I’d survive for 2 to 3 days max; 4 days if I don’t eat the blueberries that were obviously not blueberries. Even with all my non-knowledge of the great outdoors, I am – as Black people are commonly referred to as – a wild savage. To some, or many, white people, I am the epitome of savagery and should forever exist in the wild or as a slave; they believe that I should have no rights, that I have a brain the size of a pigeons’(pigeons are considered a delicacy in some regions of the world so thank you for the back-handed compliment white man) and that I am, above all other flaws, a good-for-nothing…, well, you know the rest of the phrase. As a black man with no survival skills, it is difficult for me to understand (the outdoors, obviously) why there continues to be this link between my blackness and the wilderness. I am very much aware of the history between black people and nature. Rahawa Haile in her personal essay “Going it Alone”(a powerful piece that I very much enjoyed) gives the example of Harriet Tubman who, among many things, was an expert hiker who understood how to traverse the hundreds of miles of woods and mountains that lay between the North and Southeast regions of the US. She is an example of a black person who was – even if not by nature – very knowledgeable of the outdoors, and with that knowledge, she was able to save hundreds of other enslaved black people. I must mention, however, that Harriet Tubman is no longer alive(may she rest in peace) and that black people(thank god) are no longer enslaved. In the US, the majority of black citizenry live in or near metropolitan cities. Many of us, myself included, rarely venture into the wilderness, and those of us who do(like Rahawa) have a mixed experience with it. Rahawa is a black woman who adores the outdoors and understands it extremely well. As she attempts to embrace the wilderness to which she feels extrinsically linked, she cannot avoid the racism that exists as a byproduct of her ancestor’s enslavement. In her essay, Rahawa recounts, time and time again, the racist interactions she’s had with hikers not like herself(meaning white), and those who live in towns parallel to common hiking trails. She talks about a time where another hiker didn’t believe she was “black” because real “black” people don’t hike. I can’t wrap my head around how black people can be savages when many of us know nothing of the wilderness, and even if we do, we aren’t “black” because knowledge of the outdoors is reserved for white people. I direct this question to any white man who may be reading this: are Black people savages for your convention, or because hip-hop is the closest thing to monkey culture that you know?

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