Feb 26, 2011 at 9:03 am #1269748
A friend pointed me to this video on what it's like to be a non-white hiker in places where few people of other ethnicities ever do things outdoors. Pretty funny!Feb 26, 2011 at 9:34 am #1701834
Yes! This is hilarious Miguel!
The first time I saw that sketch I emailed it to my father for a laugh- he's a 50 yr. 'young' black man working for the Bureau of Land Management, who coaches and trains two roller derby teams, prefers Pendelton shirts and on occasion wears Wranglers and boots, certified brush fire control fireman, plays percussion/vocals in a blues/soul/rock/folk band, and competes in 24 hour solo single speed mountain bike races year round…. let's just say he turns heads and breaks down preconceived notions in our ethnically and culturally homogeneous community, he is very much an anomaly and is treated as such.Feb 26, 2011 at 9:50 am #1701845
Eugene, you're too modest. You must be the same sort of inspiration to people, too!
My father is also black. And I was born, of all places, in Germany just 15 years after WW2. My white grandfather used to take my brother and me for long walks in the hills near Hannover and boy you should have seen the looks we got. But my grandfather is the one who instilled the love of the outdoors in me. Skin color and cultural differences had nothing to do with it. More than anything I'd like to see more non-white people out there learning about themselves, about the wonders of the natural world, and of learning to care for and think of others and their safety and well-being.Feb 26, 2011 at 11:41 am #1701884
Good video, Miguel.
Yeah, it's human nature to give the unusual "a second look" — luckily, it's mostly good natured. We hope. :)Feb 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm #1702017
Ben, most people are good natured, I think, and they don't mean any insult or harm. They just don't think sometimes.
Now imagine Japan, where the entire country does double takes when they see non-Japanese, everywhere you go. The mountains particularly so. I once had a man grill me about all the items in my pack, telling me, "Japanese mountains are different from all other mountains in the world. I just want to be sure you are safe." His intentions were perfectly honorable, but boy was it annoying, especially after I repeatedly tried to tell him that I was experienced and knew the mountains here very well. Just to get back at him a little, I asked him to tell me about the contents of his pack, which he happily obliged. It ended up being an interesting exchange about hiking styles and gear. We both learned something. :^)Feb 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm #1702020
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
I was hiking up Mount Fuji, and I think the local people assigned a trail name for me.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I knew what it meant, anything from Foreigner to Outsider to White Stranger.
–B.G.–Feb 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm #1702023
Oh, they call EVERYONE that, even when they are traveling abroad and they are referring to the locals. I was traveling with a young Japanese guy I met in Spain once and I had to remind him that he was the foreigner and to stop being disrespectful.Feb 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm #1702043
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
Hopefully, it becomes commonplace to see every race/color/sex/age/religion out there enjoying nature.
Father of three mixed race children (and one Asian wife)Feb 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm #1702064
Oprah did a special about this subject last Fall. OPRAH
I also had a German grandfather and, yep, took me on my first walks when I was three. I'm white but my wife has Native American (Cherokee) from her great grandparents on both her parents trees.
It is interesting to me that all of us are pretty much the same 99.9% I think. Without that .1% difference, our world would be a pretty boring planet.Feb 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm #1702078
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Now there is the understatement of the year.
Freakin' hi-larious. Thanks Miguel.Feb 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm #1702081
You're very fortunate to have had a family member share with you the edifying beauty of the outdoors early on in your life.
I'm 1/2 black, 1/4 Swedish, and 1/4 Samoan… it's pretty difficult to stick any labels on me! My 2 beautiful kids are 1/4 black, 1/8 Swedish, 1/8 Samoan, and my wife spiced things up with her Hispanic and German ancestry… we're quite a melting pot family. I'm a chameleon of sorts, in my community the abuelitas are always disappointed to find out that I'm incompetent at speaking Spanish and that I'm not even Mexican… apparently I appear one of their own.
The more people of color get outdoors and be an example in communities where doing such things isn't the norm the better- really the more people as a whole get outdoors the better.Feb 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm #1702093
Gaijin – 外人 – literally means 'outside person' or outsider. That sounds pretty tame actually, compared to what we Chinese use (informally, not in polite company): 鬼老 . Pronounced 'gweilo' in Cantonese, it means demons (and thus not even human). But to be fair, that term is so overused it long ago lost its negative connotation amongst Chinese speakers.
I remember when my mother once asked an Asian American real estate broker about a particular neighborhood…
Mom: "What kind of people live in this neighborhood"?
Broker trying to talk up the neighborhood: "Gweilo , but mostly bak gwei (white demons).
Mom: "Oh, OK".Feb 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm #1702100
I always wondered where you got your name. These days "Eugene" isn't used so much anymore (my uncle's name is Eugene).
I'm Gullah (from South Carolina, around HIlton Head Island, a mix of escaped African slaves and Cree and Seminole) but mixed with Jewish (from the slave owner of my great great grandmother… yep, a Jewish slave owner), Filipino from my paternal grandfather (but half Chinese. The Chinese have been in the Philippines for hundreds of years. My grandfather looked like a dark-skinned, short statured Chinese), German (my maternal grandmother) and Danish (my maternal grandfather). I am married to a Japanese-Brazilian. I'm mistaken for all sorts of ethnic groups… Latino when I'm in the Americas, Portuguese in Portugal, Spanish in Spain, Turkish in German, among Indians and Pakistanis a Punjabi from the northern part of India (lighter skin than in the south) or Nepalese. Here in Japan I'm mistaken for Iranian or Iraqi (though I don't have the facial characteristics for that). The places I've felt most comfortable for the way I look are Hawai'i, Portugal, and Spain. Probably South America, too, but I've never been there.Feb 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm #1702102
Tom, what a beautiful family!
It's great to hear the term "mixed race" rather than "half", which was more common when I was young.
Getting everyone out there and having fun while doing it is the best way to invoke lifelong love of the outdoors, isn't it?Feb 26, 2011 at 9:25 pm #1702105
George, I wonder what it's like to go hiking when you're as famous as Oprah? Can't imagine getting away with stealth camping!
Not the lightest weight set up!Feb 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm #1702106
Tom, I was laughing pretty hard myself, mainly because I'd experienced similar things so often, though never quite THAT bad!Feb 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm #1702109
Ben, yeah, I've been called "gweilo" by Chinese, even by some of my friends! (o.O")
In general the Japanese don't use gaijin as a derogatory term (Japanese has very few curse words or words to denigrate someone face on). I guess the Japanese never developed the anger that the Chinese did because Japan was never overrun and subjected to a foreign power like China was.
However, the early term for Europeans was "bataa kusai", or "butter stinkers", apparently because they smelled like rancid butter. The Japanese didn't eat or drink dairy products in those days.
But the feeling of not wanting to mix with the outsiders is very similar between Japanese and Chinese and Koreans. The Japanese do it less than the Chinese, though. I don't know how many of my couple friends in which one person was Chinese ended up breaking up because the other one wasn't Chinese. I haven't seen that too much among the Japanese, though Japanese women tend to marry non-Japanese far more often than Japanese men do. And in America and the rest of the world the Japanese tend to live more dispersed than the Chinese, not forming the China Towns quite so often. The Koreans are pretty close knit, too.
As a Chinese American how are your experiences while hiking and being outdoors? Do you get curious looks?Feb 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm #1702116
It's interesting that we Chinese may have invented insularity; and yet, we are also just about the most pragmatic people on earth. For example, you won't find full-scale religious wars in our 5000+ year history.
Yes, we think we have the most sophisticated culture and the best tasting cuisine — but then when my cousin — fresh off the boat from Shanghai to Texas in the '90s married a Mexican American, nobody in our family (here or back in Shanghai) even batted an eye. It was also hilarious that in just a few short years, my cousin spoke far better Spanish than any of his Mexican American inlaws (their family had settled in Texas generations ago)!
As for Asians hiking… it's not unusual at all to see day hikers here in California. Actually, if you ever encounter large groups of Asian hikers — and there are many of them here — you can bet they are Korean church groups! Day hikers though they are, these Korean Americans "all" wear/carry top brands (Arcteryx, Mountain Hardwear, Osprey). Multi-day wilderness hikers are far fewer though. Do I get "the look"? Only occasionally — although I may have missed a few since I'm always busy checking out people's packs! :)Feb 26, 2011 at 10:22 pm #1702118
Ben, I keep forgetting how intermixed California is. Excuse my ignorance. Of course there are a lot of different ethnics groups hiking there. The same goes for the PNW, too. And the west coast of Canada. It's been 20 years since I lived in the States (though I've been back many times), and a lot has changed over that time.
Interesting about the lack of religious wars. I suspect it has a lot to do with the difference in how East Asians think about religion. There are no monotheistic gods and for the most part what gods there are are considered part of the general populace. You don't bow down to them as if they were kings or queens. As you said, the Chinese (and Japanese) tend to be very pragmatic. It isn't for nothing that the Chinese have the richest history of inventions and social systems of any culture on Earth. I think a lot of people would be shocked to learn just how much the Chinese have contributed to technological development throughout history.
How about blacks hiking? Has that increased much? It would genuinely make me happy to hear that the numbers are increasing.Feb 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm #1702123
A different perspective.
Of course this isn't necessarily true, this quote from the above post made me laugh:
"In theory camping should be a very inexpensive activity since you are literally sleeping on the ground. But as with everything in white culture, the more simple it appears the more expensive it actually is."
*FYI, this is an excerpt from a book called "White Shades of Pale" written by two young white males.Feb 27, 2011 at 4:27 am #1702147
Cute kids, nice that you're getting outdoors with them – mine are demanding family bike rides every Sunday, which is a good development: 6 year old did about 15ks on a cheap, heavy single-speed kids bike a month ago, and didn't whinge, which did impress me.
Father of three Japanese-Australian kids, who I suspect are roughly the same age as yours.Feb 27, 2011 at 4:31 am #1702148
"In general the Japanese don't use gaijin as a derogatory term (Japanese has very few curse words or words to denigrate someone face on)."
Hmmm … I always took "baka gaijin" to be less than friendly. The Japanese have terms for lots of races and a lot of them can be used abusively, despite any protestations to the contrary.Feb 28, 2011 at 12:06 am #1702548
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
food for thought…
Something that really bothers me is the "tribal mentality." That is, we (Americans at least), always want to label someone outside of our "tribe." And until we as a society get past our tribal affliations (race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), we will never rid ourselves of descrimination or become truly diverse.
Think about some of these examples:
"I was talking to this black guy at the hardware store…"
"This hispanic kid did…"
"The Asian lady at…"
"That white dude…"
"That gaay guy over there said…"
"That Muslim guy…"
To me the video is a sad, sad commentary of America.Feb 28, 2011 at 12:56 am #1702550
Good points, Nick. But it's most definitely not only America. If it were no one in the rest of the world would be fighting wars. It's the pigeonholing that really messes people up, on both sides of whatever fence. Some of the people in my family, especially those with African-American backgrounds, and nearly always those who are "mixed", got really, really messed up.it's very difficult to help them because how do you fight an idea in someone's head that pertains to their perception of who they are and their sense of self-worth? How do you reconcile two things inside you that seem to conflict?
One of the things about backpacking that I so love is that wild places are great levelers. Social stereotypes no longer work, and what each person needs is whittled down to the same basic requirements. Anything else is baggage.
But, Nick, there is still room for laughter. Not >at< people, but together. All this categorizing each other is pretty absurd, when you think about it.Feb 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm #1702690
Not saying there's any right or wrong answer here… but the above doesn't necessarily bother me. To me, It mostly depends on the speaker's intention (e.g. tone).
Say we are in a strictly one-race society — and you are talking about a particular person in the hardware store. Well, you have to pick something to draw our attention, right? Yeah, I met this 'tall thin' dude at the hardware store and….
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