By Virgil Vaupel
Thanks For Listening 

The Opening of Pandora's Box


This subject has been ever on my mind for 30 or so years. I just haven’t had the opportunity to voice in on the issue until now when a feller named Glenn Nelson had a story in the New York Times titled “Why Are Our Parks So White?” thus opening the discussion.

He’s a thirty-something white guy living in North Carolina (or maybe South) who had a story in the NY Times about the lack of black folks visiting our national parks. He advocates “racial diversity” by luring more African-Americans to one or more of the 400 locations managed by the National Park Service across the nation.

I guess this feller has never heard the old axiom “you can lead a horse to water” ….and etc. I’m saying we can build 400 more national parks and that going to draw more black visitors? Folks have to have a reason to visit a national park. And after finding the reason, will drive for days to get to one of the majors. This isn’t “Field of Dreams.”

The NPS hired an outfit out of Laramie, Wyoming to do a survey on their park system. The Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) deduced, after interviewing over 5,000 people for at least 15 minutes each, that just seven percent of the visitors to any one of our national parks and related areas are African-American. Annually there are around 293 million total visitors.

Jeff Cheatham, a 29-year-old black writer living in Seattle, within eyeshot of Mount Rainier National Park, admits he’s “never been and never thought about going.” He added that he doesn’t even know what a national park is and always thought it was simply a “large open space with lots of grass.” Yikes!! There are some lawns in Glasgow that would qualify under that description.

What comes next? What will it take for more black folks to visit Mount Rushmore, Glacier, Smokey Mountain, The Everglades, Yellowstone or Presque Isle State Park? And why don’t they do so now?

The answers to that question are listed in the WYSAC survey. 54% of blacks interviewed cited that “the high cost of food and lodging” was a deterrent and the same 54% checked “too far to travel” as a reason for not going. 36% of whites said food and lodging and 32% said too far to travel.

4% of the white folks interviewed said they didn’t like the service they received at some of the NP’s, while 11 % of the black folks said the same about the service.

80% of National Park employees are white.

Glenn Nelson stated in his NY Times story, “The National Park Service is the logical leader to blaze a trail to racial diversity.” Seems like a statement such as that one rates right up there with Justin Boots e-mail to me stating, “by outsourcing our manufacturing to China and Mexico we are saving American jobs.”

The scary part about this is this: Will the government start subsidizing black folks to visit the parks? Will you the taxpayer be responsible for travel, food and lodging vouchers so more black families can take a vacation to the Grand Canyon?

On a similar note there is a push to get more minority players into pro hockey. See, there aren’t any and that ‘angers’ the NAACP ‘off’. As you know, they fight tooth and nail for racial equality in all sports. They’re pretty quiet about pro football however, where 85% or so of all starters are black. The percentage for black starters in the NBA is even higher. If we’re talking racial parity and diversity I, for one, would like to see more black female cheerleaders in college and pro football and basketball where black women only make up about 5% of the total.

I know there are those of you who will consider this column racist and an incitant. It is neither. I am neither. I’m just a humble reporter reporting things most Americans would agree with, but are too afraid to voice their own opinions.

Depending on what survey you subscribe to, the African-American population in the United States hovers somewhere between 15 and 20%.

I’m not sayin’ racial parity and/or diversity is a bad thing or a good thing. That would be for you to decide. I simply report on my own observations.

That’s it for now folks. Thanks for listening.


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