Being black while in nature: ‘You’re an endangered species’

California:  It was 2011 when Rue Mapp was followed by a white woman in an Oakland, California, park, while out on a national campaign to get local families connected with nature.

The woman had spotted the group en route to the park and decided to follow them. When they got off the bus, she followed them all the way through the park, and when they began to play in the dirt, she started to harass them. She claimed they were bringing “invasive species” into the park.

“The kids around me might have rightly been thinking, ‘Is she talking about us?’” says Rue, who is black. She says the incident brought “so many levels of shame, embarrassment and of not feeling welcome in nature”.

If that incident were filmed today, it would probably go viral, just as the harassment of Christian Cooper did this week. The video, circulated hundreds of thousands of times in the last week, shows Amy Cooper, a white woman calling the police on Cooper, an avid bird-watcher, after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in a popular bird-watching section of Central Park. “I am going to call the police and tell them an African American man is threatening my life,” she threatened.

In the days after the video went viral, the woman lost her job and surrendered her dog – but many black people say that it is not an isolated incident.

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