In an opinion editorial for the Student Life, the administration-funded student newspaper at the Claremont Colleges, a white Pitzer student frets that the colleges’ outdoor programs, though open to all students and well-funded, are “predominantly white spaces” that deny people of color “access to the outdoors.”

The article, written by Malcolm McCann, a freshman at Pitzer College—one of the member institutions of the Claremont Colleges—calls out clubs like Pitzer Outdoor Adventure (POA) and On the Loose (OTL), among the most amply funded outdoor clubs at the Claremont Colleges, for being “predominately white spaces.”

“Both clubs claim to be accessible: while trips are open to any student wanting to go, not everyone feels the same ease in entering the outdoors. This discomfort is unfortunately caused by existing racial boundaries,” McCann proposed.

The article helpfully explains that white imperialism, as well as the fact that three prominent naturalist figures in U.S. history happen to be white, generate this pervasive racial exclusion:

“Historically, white people in imperialist conquests have appropriated land as their own. North America rightfully belongs to indigenous communities, yet it has been taken away from them by force. Consequently, a false sense of ownership of nature permeates white America.”

“Similarly, the image of a modern outdoor enthusiasts is white, as is the historical image of a naturalist. The great icons of nature – John Muir, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau – are all white men. At present, most famous rock climbers are also disproportionately white,” McCann wrote.

The author takes the term “outdoorsy” as another expression of “whiteness” that excludes people of color from outdoor activities.

“This whiteness manifests in the term “outdoorsy” – a descriptor for those who spend a significant time in the outdoors, who are equipped with the necessary gear, and who feel connected to nature,” he says. “The image of the “outdoorsy individual” is an exclusive classification that gives white people the authority to venture into the outdoors freely, leaving people of color behind.”

McCann also points to financial barriers preventing students of color from spending time outdoors. “Many National Parks are hundreds of miles from large cities. Consequently, only those with access to a vehicle and money for gas will be able to enjoy them” he explains. “Similarly, only students with economic privilege have the resources to attend summer programs that teach wilderness skills.”

He adds that the “emphasis on acquiring requisite skills … excludes low-income individuals.”

The Claremont Colleges’ outdoor clubs, however, are extremely well-funded, as McCann concedes, and students’ financial barriers usually are surmounted with the assistance of college funding. In addition to heavily subsidized transportation options for students making their own trips to the outdoors, Pomona College’s outdoor club sponsors several free or nearly-free trips a year, as well as loaning gear to any 5C student at no charge.

At Claremont McKenna College, the Outdoor Initiative organizes and funds several outdoor camping trips during holidays like Thanksgiving and Fall Break. At Pitzer College, the “Pitzer Outdoor Adventure” club of which McCann is a member began this school year with over $7,500 of funding.

McCann suggests several solutions to the inclusivity crisis he claims to identify in his article. Among these are affirming that “nature exists as a collective space owned by all by virtue of being human, not by virtue of being white,” having “more accessible, entry-level workshops and trips that do not require advanced technical skills,” and encouraging white people not to exert domination of the word “outdoorsy.”

McCann’s outcry against outdoor clubs and activities is not the first to come out of the Claremont Colleges—last year a speedo hike organized by the On the Loose outdoors club of the Claremont Colleges was cancelled over concerns of “body image” and “bro-iness.”

Interestingly, McCann is a white student, sporting hiking gear in his Facebook profile photo. When asked for further information, McCann asked to remain off the record, and did not address whether he is part of the problem he identifies.


Photo: Flickr / Adam Bautz

Categories: Campus News
  • Greg B

    I’ll share this here since TSL appears to have deleted the comment: Substitute “basketball court” for “outdoors” and “black” for “white” and you’ll have an excellent parody piece. One of the more poorly argued articles to come out TSL, and this is saying a lot.

    • Shane Swiller

      You beat me to it.

    • xeor54

      “Similarly, the image of a modern basketball player is black, as is the historical image of a basketball player. The great icons of basketball – Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal – are all black men. At present, most famous football players are also disproportionately black.”

      EDIT: Also, my comment on the original article, which was merely a quote of the last paragraph of this article, was deleted. They’re not allowing comments, lol.

  • Marshall Ray

    The very first sentence of the actual article is “Comfort in a space is a privilege.”
    What kind of well-reasoned argument could possibly follow that meaningless word salad of a premise?

  • Jim Hatfield

    Being amazed I don’t know what to say
    here. I spent an entire week this summer hunting hogs in Mississippi
    with a friend of 30 years and members of his extended family I gotten
    to know over the years. They BBQ (that would be smoke not grill) some
    of the best hog I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We slept, told
    story’s, laughed our collective butts off, and prepared and ate our
    food over an open camp fire each day. Oh an because it seems to be of
    great interest to little Malcolm McCann mine was the only white face
    on the hunt. My Father worked , that’s all he did, so I found the Boy
    Scouts, who’ve never turned down a soul that fit their Young
    Christian Mans profile, that taught me a lot of the outdoor skills I
    still retain. I’ve hiked over a 1000 miles so far this year and ran
    into all types and skin tones of people a long the trail.

  • Renee Nalbandian Redding

    This is ridiculous stuff you can’t make it up

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  • Some Guy

    Why is everyone forced to have the same interests? Why is it wrong for white European-decent people to enjoy the outdoors more than African Americans? It doesn’t make them bad people (either of them) and there are always outliers.

    • You’re obviously not sympathetic to the concerns of marginalized groups. 😉

  • Rich

    Is this real? I mean seriously, this has to be a joke. If it isn’t someone needs to seriously help this person out. So… because naturalists were white that means people of color can’t participate? I’m getting old, none of this makes the slightest sense it seems like an elaborate joke. So is the game to see who can make up the dumbest argument without tipping their hand that it is sarcasm? I mean the line “nature exists as a collective space owned by all by virtue of being human, not by virtue of being white,” this really is sarcasim right?

  • George Turner

    Whites can’t deny anyone access to the outdoors because the outdoors are, by definition, outdoors. That’s why the outdoors is filled with deer, squirrels, raccoons, possums, snakes, turtles, and all sorts of other wildlife that do not ask our permission to be outside.

    Older Southern blacks still go hunting and fishing, but such numbers are much diminished in other regions, especially the North and West. Blacks who retaining rural and outdoor traditions elsewhere were regarded as poor Southerners who lacked the sophistication and knowledge of those who’d gone North earlier. Similarly, many Mexican and Central American immigrants likewise don’t focus on the outdoors. To them, not having access to a vehicle, electricity, and running water is called poverty. Only whites call it camping.

  • andreabeth7

    Perhaps the Students of Color simply are not interested in joining in outdoor activities. Should they be required to attend Outdoor Adventure or On the Loose so the author can feel good about himself? Instead of kvetching, why not doesn’t he invite some of his POC friends to attend the next hike or camp out? I guess doing that would not get his name in the Student Newspaper.

  • matt10023

    To paraphrase the author, people of color don’t hike because white people do it more. This suggests diversity goal for colleges are hampered by self segregation. It begs the question – how does diversity actuallly benefit students?

    • Answer: it doesn’t. It’s a feel-good sham for the Left.

  • John Kerparik

    I would hope he gets eaten by a bear but I don’t want that poor hear to catch the disease of liberalism.

    • Bob

      He’s not a liberal, he’s a leftist.

  • Jakejr Ly

    I am tired of minorities crying foul against whites when normal ppl know America is better than this. The op-ed written by this student is trying to strike race war of words. It is obvious bc he is white. In sociology, there is no race anyways. Race is something gov’t made up. As a American, I am sick of all this bs. Btw, I am Asian and I enjoy the company of all American.

    • Well put. Give the man a beer!

  • GB66

    So if outdoor activities is linked to white culture, would not POC participating in it be “cultural appropriation”.

  • BHF ✔Covfefe

    So because POC choose not to participate, it is “racist”? You want to know why Donald J. Trump is your President? This is a poster child example of why.