Bigfoot isn’t very diverse. And when I say “diverse,” I mean racially. And no, I’m not writing about various ethnicities within the population of bigfoot.
I’ve heard it remarked on more than one occasion that, “black people never see bigfoot.” And, anecdotally, that seems pretty true. I can’t recall ever meeting an African American interested in bigfoot. Or, come to think of it, someone of Asian descent. I know a few Hispanics who are into it. (And, off course, now that I’ve written and published these words, I’ll remember some guy who is either black or Asian…or both.)
In a New Republic article I just found yesterday (though it was written last September), we have a probable explanation:
The Outdoor Industry Association—the top outdoor-recreation lobby in America (and based in Boulder, naturally)—insists that outdoor enthusiasts “are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels,” but research by their own nonprofit organization, The Outdoor Foundation, shows underwhelming diversity. Its 2013 outdoor participation report notes that last year, 70 percent of participants were white. “As minority groups make up a larger share of the population and are predicted to become the majority by 2040, engaging diverse populations in outdoor recreation has never been more critical,” the report reads. “Unfortunately, minorities still lag behind in outdoor participation.”
In a front-page story today, The New York Times details these very problems facing the National Park Service—only one in five visitors to NPS sites are nonwhite, according to a 2011 study cited in the article—and the “multipronged effort to turn the Park Service’s demographic battleship around.” Clumsy metaphors aside, the article does a respectable job at detailing the various efforts—namely outreach, all-expenses-paid trips, and creating more national monuments recognizing minority figures in U.S. history—to increase minority participation.
The article posits that minorities tend not to go into the woods to camp and hike for several reasons:
- They tend to live in more urban areas and don’t have easy access to forests, either as young people or adults
- The hobby can be expensive and they under-index in average income
- Culturally, sleeping on the ground in a tent could be viewed as “going backward” among those focused on upward mobility
This seems to me very similar to the hypothesis that the majority of bigfoot enthusiasts seem to be politically conservative because they over-index among those who live in rural environments and spend time in the woods either working or hunting. Minorities are likely underrepresented because they don’t generally get out into the forests and wild places of our country.
This seems logical. If you aren’t in the woods, for whatever reason, you’re unlikely to appreciate them, have experiences there, or even express much interest in things that happen in them. If you are and do and have, then the opposite result would be expected.
Is this a problem that needs to be addressed? I dunno. Seems above my pay grade. But if the National Park Service is successful in getting minorities into our forests over time, then I’d expect their representative percentage of bigfoot enthusiasts to increase accordingly. And all of us have reasons to make as many people as possible more appreciative of what’s left of our wilderness.