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My Hike Was Great Until I Remembered Trees Are Racist

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I’m an enthusiastic outdoorsman and avid environmentalist. But even more so, I’m a die-hard social justice warrior. So it was with great interest that I clicked on a link to NBC News last week about “Black outdoorsy groups reclaiming the joys of nature.”

First, I want to make sure to check my privilege at the outset of this article. White people are not allowed to write about racism unless they first acknowledge their own status of inferiority under the modern hierarchal complex of social justice.

“Black people across the country are reclaiming the outdoors by forming their own communities of nature enthusiasts,” NBC News reported. Several segregated organizations have now formed, providing “safe spaces for Black people to enjoy outdoor activities and dispel myths that the outdoors doesn’t belong to us.”

It’s no coincidence that Yellowstone, the first national park in the U.S., was established shortly after the Civil War. As industrialization and westward expansion continued, white elites supported the proliferation of national parks in response to urban expansion.

To be honest, I had forgotten that trees were racist. I had become so distracted by the evergreen beauty of Colorado’s forests that I stopped questioning how I could be victimized by their presence, even if I’m not black. Two years ago, a Portland high school reminded me of trees’ racist history when officials rejected the evergreen mascot over the fact that trees were associated with lynching.

I recently went on a hike to soak in the sights and scenery of summer in northern Colorado. My Prius barely made it to the trailhead, though I question whether there should even be roads there in the first place. Through some evergreens, I saw a rainbow. The streak had every color visible but one, of course: black.

Photo courtesy of author

The rainbow was a good reminder of natural racism. Even Colorado’s snow-capped peaks are white.

If you listen closely, however, nature will often tell you something, either about yourself or the world around you. While observing the rainbow through the evergreen trees, I leaned in to hear their message reverberating through their ancient roots. Up came four words carried by the gentle breeze that will haunt me forever.

They whispered, “This is MAGA country.”

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