Dealing with current events feels like we’re still dealing with the past; our country’s history is filled with race and inequality issues. Unfortunately, many people feel this way in the outdoors, too. But the natural world is what connects all humans, and I don’t think anyone should ever have to feel like they don’t belong when they’re outside.
As a woman of color, I have always felt different in the sports I was a part of. I was the only brown person and typically the only one who also had curly brown hair. I was the only woman of color on my high school cross-country team, one of the few on my college track/cross-country team at Oregon State University. Even now it feels rare to run into another woman of color while climbing.
But this isn’t something I’ve been vocal about before, because I didn’t want to stand out more than I already did. I wanted to feel “normal,” to blend in. And if I did speak up, I wasn’t sure anyone would even listen.
Growing up in Dana Point and Laguna Hills, California, I have always felt different. My parents were never together. I didn’t have light skin or straight hair like my stepsisters.
Now, when people ask where I’m from, I answer “California.” To which they always follow up with: “But like … where are you from??”
I never knew why the question bugged me until I got older. I think it’s because I wasn’t asked this as much when I was a kid living in southern California, because it is quite diverse. Now, I live in Boulder, Colorado, where the population is mostly white.
I always felt I never had a true role model while growing up. I looked up to my mom, but she didn’t have the same darker skin color or the same curly hair as I did. As a child, you are frequently asked who your role model is. My mom was a hard worker and she was also my role model; however, I felt like I deserved what my white counterparts had. I should have been able to look up to famous athletes, artists, scientists, politicians, and historical figures who looked like me.
Because the outdoors are a common space shared by everyone, I believe it should also be a space where children, regardless of their genetics, can seek role models who share their identity. I hope I can fill this gap – to be a role model for others that feel they’re the odd one out, and for women of color in general. I am currently raising awareness this month about breast cancer. I try to be the best version of myself (I know super cheesy) and hope that others notice that in some way. I hope to inspire others to do the same. I think before the Black Lives Matter Movement I was afraid to speak up and say how I felt; that my opinion did not matter because no one had ever told me that I mattered. It is inspiring to see others speak up about feeling the same way about discrimination. I now feel a community rising up.