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Phillip Wade Wilson

Race and the Great Outdoors: Narrative

Within the first few paragraphs, Going it Alone by Rahawa Haile made me tear up and want to scream at the world. It’s no secret that the United States still has a long way to go by way of equality and equitability across many facets, but one of the most striking is the racial barriers people of color face that white people do not. While the ending of her essay does seem to add hope and instill a drive in continuing through hardship to achieve one’s goals and desires, the entire time I read this piece I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between her experiences and my boyfriend’s. 

I am in an interracial gay relationship and my significant other faces drastically more discrimination, even for his sexuality, than I do when we venture outdoors. Like many relationships, we enjoy going on long walks, and hiking trails, and hanging out by the river. However, on these outdoor excursions to escape the everyday drag of our academic and paper-writing lives we get looks and clear judgment of disdain from all types of people. Young, old, white, black, foreign, American, male, female… no matter what someone’s intersectionality could be we have probably experienced some form of negative ~vibes~ from them. Even trips outside to the grocery store, if we hold hands we get stared at by many people (we do it anyway and stare right back) and at least four or five extremely shocked people to see two males, one white and one black, holding hands. Although, noticeably the only people who do stop us to tell us we are a cute couple or they like one of our hairstyles or outfits are younger people of color. 

On our hikes around some of the river islands and isles of Richmond, VA (the former confederate capital) noticeably absent from these treks are other people of color and other same-sex or queer couples. My boyfriend, the extrovert, loves to pull me, the introvert, along to talk to random people we see and meet on these hikes yet he not only has to worry about the racism he may come across but the homophobia we both could experience simply because we are who we are. As Haile pointed out people have a sense that black people do not belong in certain areas and this is true, on more than one occasion have we been ignored by someone or looked down upon simply because we are an interracial gay couple. Though, we both experience this in two different ways we connect with Haile’s from-from and black-black experience similarly.

Because we, like she, deviate from the social norms of our respective classifications we too are discounted from everyone else. Dealing with this among the hardships of life in general make it especially hard to find places to take trips and travel. Recently, yes even during the pandemic, we have been planning our next trip (fingers crossed for skiing to be viable in the winter) but there are a few drawbacks whenever we want to travel somewhere. First, we have to look to see if places are gay-friendly because the last thing either of us want to do is have to pretend to be just friends on our retreat. Second, (while my counterpart does not mind) I do not like the idea of traveling to places where racism is worse than the United States because I do not want his experiences on our travels to be different from mine. After these two steps are taken into account, this leaves much fewer options than one would imagine for traveling. It’s crazy to think that in 2020 there are still numerous places where people are disallowed to be people, yet it is what it is and the most we can do is protest and beg for change from stubborn people. 

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