Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hunting: It's not just for white guys

I know a lot of hunters in America live in places that are not very ethnically diverse - regions where mere black and white is considered diversity, or where a Norwegian-German couple counts as a mixed marriage.

But I live and work in one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the nation. My students at Sacramento State are black, white, Mexican, Asian, Filipino, Russian, Central American and a hundred mixes thereof (because we got over that whole interracial marriage freakout decades ago). Ethnic diversity is like wallpaper to me.

Well, at work. Not so much out in the field, where white guys still constitute the majority of my gun-toting compadres.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a white-guy hater. Boyfriend is a white guy! But growing up in a state like this has taught me to relish diversity because I love basking in different perspectives.

When Kristine at the Outdoor Bloggers Summit challenged us to write about why the outdoors is for everyone, I was sold. Great idea, I thought.

I would love to do one of my classic Holly posts about hunter statistics, because the last report I saw from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed Latinos to be one of the fastest growing segments of the hunting community. Considering their growing place in our population, that's important to hunting. If hunting remains largely the domain of white guys, we are doomed to ever-shrinking numbers.

But the best data I have available is from 2001 - I'm still waiting for the F&WS to crunch the numbers from its 2006 survey. So that's out. No one wants to eat yesterday's biscuits.

I could write one of my personal tales about being a woman hunter, but dang, you've heard all that from me before.

So what I wanted to do was share with you a couple things one of my friends wrote. Hellen is the woman who asked me to help her get into duck hunting. She got her first duck ever this past season - a greenhead! And she's written a couple times about what it's like to be the one who gets stared at, bigtime. White sistahs, if you think guys look at you funny, you should see how they look at an Asian woman - aren't they supposed to be docile mail-order brides or something?

So I'd encourage you to look at two blog posts Hellen has done. Here's a sample from the first, which she wrote after we went on our famous All-Girl Hunt with Bald Pete. It starts where two other hunters had just passed by our blind along the river and stopped to chat.

Dana's friends were two white men, youngish middle age. Under normal circumstances, I would have been wary of them. They look like the kind of men that have given me a lot of grief at various points in my life. And even though they were enthusiastic and welcoming of new hunters, two of which were women of color, I couldn't help wondering if their kindness was based on us being with Dana, a local woman that they know. I couldn't help wondering if it had just been Jenn and me, if they would have been as nice. (Holly's note: Jenn is a Latina.) It's hard to say. I'd like to think that they would be. But then, Jenn and I would have had several strikes against us: women, of color, not local, and in the good blind.

I was on that hunt and had no idea what had been going through Hellen's head - the prejudice she had faced that made her ever-wary.

And here's a sample from a more recent post on being the other in hunting.

While I have not been subjected to hostile and mean-spirited discrimination in the hunting world yet, I have been subject to that kind of treatment all my life as a Asian-American growing up in the U.S. during the post-civil rights era.

I know what she's
(another female hunter) talking about when she describes feeling outcast for no other reason than her gender. But now add to that being called names, excluded, ignored, or screamed epithets at for being Asian when I was a young girl on the playground or a grown woman seeking service in a store. For some Asian=Invisible, for some Asian=worthless, for some Asian=punching bag. Welcome to my world.

Or, having people come up to me and say "You don't sound Asian" or meeting someone for the first time after only talking to the phone and having them say with a feeling of betrayal "You didn't sound Asian on the phone." Or having someone speak really slowly and loudly to me, "DO... YOU... UNDERSTAND... ME?" Uh, I'm Asian, not deaf.

This is stuff most of us in the hunting community just don't have to deal with. Even I tend to assume that when we're out in the field, we're all just brothers and sisters in camo. But to all my white homies out there, I hope you read Hellen's words and think about what she's saying. And next time you see someone who's not just like you out in the field, maybe you could go out of your way to extend a hand and say, "Nice to meet you."

You cannot change the past experiences that person has faced. But you can be part of a better future. And if hunting is to have a future, people like Hellen need to be a huge part of it.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


SimplyOutdoors said...

Excellent points Holly.

I really have never looked at hunting from this perspective before. For me, if you want to hunt or fish, I'm there for ya - whether your black, white, hispanic, alien, or whatever. If you want to hunt, I'll support ya.

I'm not really sure why I've never thought about this particular subject before. Maybe it's because, for me anyway, it was never an issue. If I ran into on the river, or while afield, I simply extended my hand and shared in the experience. It didn't matter to me what race or creed you where; it just mattered that we were enjoying the same activity- being outdoors.

An excellent post. Another one of yours that got me to thinking:)

Josh said...

Great post, Holly! Last year at the White House Conference on Wildlife Policy, I heard the same concerns about demographics and funding and traditions. Many of these older white guys were talking about how to get a more diverse constituency.

What's even more interesting is the potential that exists here. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the need for hunting and conservation organizations to start meeting and teaming up with environmental justice groups. They don't carry the same animal rights baggage as many mainstream environmental organizations, whose hands are often tied on hunting issues because their knee-jerk members also tend to be knee-jerk members of PETA.

I have always hunted with Latinos, and more recently, Hmong. It's who I grew up with, and, coming from a poor community, it's where I hunted. We didn't know from the Wildlife Areas and such. We hunted friends' property, and those in-between places that nobody knows or checks on, but that are owned by various government agencies like BLM, BOR, etc.

On a tactical level, it's high-time we in California began actively promoting archery in schools programs, as a way to crack that door a bit.

Terry Scoville said...

Excellent post Holly. A dear friend of mine is of Mexican and American descant. We had a lenghty conversation a few weeks ago about how she is discriminated against on a weekly basis. She has beautiful dark skin and striking features and the comments she gets astounded me.I had no idea and was horrified to hear such stories.

I am with you figuring if someone is out hunting then we've got common ground, regardless of the color of our skin. What matters is that we do extend our hand and welcome those who are different from ourselves!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yep, like you three, I don't think about it because while race and ethnicity isn't invisible to me, it certainly doesn't fall into the category of "problem."

The interesting thing is knowing how much it can be on their minds. And it's a good reminder of hunters' image - for a fair segment of the non-white population in America, a camo-wearing white guy may be assumed to be a bigot. I think it's important to address this directly - it's not enough to silently want or welcome diversity.

There's work to be done, and fortunately, I think we have opportunities galore.

(And I just have to add that the word security code I'm looking at below this window is "anglo." Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa...

Josh said...


All the more reason for some older, camo-ed out white guys to show up at a clean air event with CWA hats on and a box of beautiful, wriggling ducklings.

Anonymous said...

Oh Holly, I knew you'd write something awesome for this challenge, and you did!

I have to go over and read Hellen's blog. It sounds like she's got some great things to say.

I think this post is a great wake up call for every outdoorsperson to make sure they welcome every they see in the field, and to make sure to be extra welcoming to those who may not fit the traditional mold.

I so proud of the quality of posts that are being written for this challenge.

Anonymous said...

That last sentence in the previous post should begin "I am so proud". I got so excited I started leaving out words.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks Kristine!

And for anyone outside of California, I should explain "Anglo" is what we call white people in California.

Phillip said...

Thought provoking stuff, Holly.

Thanks to you and to Kristine's challenge, I had to go and add my own offering. Unfortunately, I don't think I quite got at the heart of it... but you (and Hellen) did it well enough for all of us.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Your post was perfect, Phillip. LOVE the graphic too.

Everybody, please go check out what Phillip wrote here.

And Terry got in on the action today too: Click here.

And check in with Kristine tomorrow to see what she's got to say...

mdmnm said...

Without looking for any demographic evidence, my impression here in NM the person you run into hunting elk or deer is at least, if not more, likely to be Hispanic or Native American as Anglo. The former two communities of native New Mexicans have pretty strong hunting traditions. Waterfowlers seem to include more Anglos, probably due to more of them coming from other places originally.

suzee said...

This was a good eye opener to me... like a lot of others to me it doesn't matter what ethnic background you come from... but I hadn't considered how wary they might be feeling because of past abuse from other people. Thanks Holly and Hellen...

gary said...

Well Holly, I was over in Helleks blog - I was totally awestruck that that still goes on in this country. It was a long blog, but it needed to be. I live in Idaho and I've always feared this state was looked on as a little rednecky and callous, but we have never seen any of this kind of reaction when Sue and I meet others in the field. Its been total exceptence so far. I have an Asian and a German citizen working for me and under some of the heads I've got hanging around the office. I do see the prejudice from white collar and blue collar people alike, and it is so disgusting. Neither have ever been around hunting before they come to work for me, and both are very excepting and excited when we have success, especially for Sue's success. It seems other peoples closed mentality has opened theirs extra wide. Thanks for what both you and Hellek shared. We have a long ways to go it seems.

Native said...

Back in high school a few of us half breeds would hang out together.
Myself, Chocktaw/Irish, Terrence Halote, Zuni/Dutch and Bobby Hatchcock,Cherokee/Irish.
We were the three musketeers of that group and were a bit more adventurous than our other friends and we were, going to the malls,hunting,driving souped up camaro's etc.etc.

This was in 1975 and the stereotypical comments that we would endure were sometimes outrageous.
I remember thinking,even way back then, Man, this is 1975 not 1875 get with it people!

Good and timely post Holly, the hunting community should be just that, COMMUNITY! regardless of race,gender or even sexual persuasion.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Great Holly. I sincerely hope that we are indeed moving on from the past, but fear we have miles to go.