Black Lives Matter. Black Futures Matter. We mourn for the lives and futures of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless additional Black lives that have been taken from our community.
We at Youth Outside have been devastated and infuriated by the multiple, widely broadcast acts of anti-Black violence that have captured the country’s attention over the past weeks. From the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, to the incident in New York City’s Central Park--where Amy Cooper, a white woman, weaponized her whiteness by calling the cops on Christian Cooper, a Black man who simply requested she put her dog on a leash in accordance with park regulations--these events once again expose how profoundly anti-Black racism pervades daily life in this country. They’ve simultaneously made clear the threat Black people face just by going outside.
When we discuss the historic and systemic barriers communities of color encounter in accessing the outdoors, we’re not simply pointing to the ways structural racism guaranteed that parks and green spaces were designed primarily in and for white communities. We’re also shining a light on how racist attitudes harbored and acted upon by white individuals can lead to fear, trauma, and indeed the tragic outcomes people of color face when they decide to bird watch, go for a jog, or simply visit the grocery store. There is an undeniable through-line from Amy Cooper’s readiness to call the police and fabricate a story about “being threatened by an African-American man” to the deliberate and deadly violence enacted against Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. The former leads to the latter. We unequivocally condemn each of these horrific acts and stand in solidarity with Black communities throughout the country, and all people demanding justice in these cases. We likewise call on our community to join us in the critical work of creating a racially equitable outdoor movement, and ensuring that outdoor spaces are accessible, safe, and welcoming to all people who’ve historically been prevented from enjoying them and the health benefits they afford.
We encourage you to read this brief statement about the Central Park incident from the National Audubon Society, on whose New York City chapter board Christian Cooper sits, as well as this article by Brentin Mock at City Lab, entitled “The Toxic Intersection of Racism and Public Space.” We also invite you to engage with the below image, shared this week by The Conscious Kid, a non-profit organization focused on parenting and education through an anti-racist lens. It’s an important and timely reminder that if we’re truly committed to ending the sorts of overt racist violence currently at the forefront of our minds and national discourse, we’ll need to uproot all of the covert and often socially acceptable ways racist behavior manifests in ourselves and in our society.