We cannot stay silent in the face of race-based violence in our cities, communities and parks.
The staff at NPCA grieve and condemn the recent horrific acts of violence and intimidation against people of color in our country.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” All of us are living with the burden of this threat today in Minneapolis and Louisville, in the streets of our largest cities and trails of our smallest rural towns, in our parks and public spaces, and even in the privacy of our own homes. NPCA joins in solidarity with the larger community in saying again and again what should be obvious to all — that no one should have to live in fear based on the color of their skin.
The cruel and senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the sinister threats against Christian Cooper are not isolated examples of injustice. These crimes are part of a larger pattern of systemic racism that challenges our most fundamental sense of fairness and freedom in a country that is supposed to stand, above all, for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
People of color must take great risks to pursue happiness in the same ways that many others take for granted. But despite real and persistent dangers, many people risk suspicion, harassment and brutality to claim their right to exist, whether at a Starbucks, in a car, lying home in bed — or by enjoying outdoor spaces, where simple acts of running or birding can result in confrontation or murder.
Until we as a society demonstrate basic empathy and understanding for the gravely different experience people of color have in the outdoors, a privileged few will continue to perpetuate dangerous myths of the outdoors as a white space — a myth that harms all of us.
Our outdoor spaces, including national parks, are places of refuge and respite that all people should be able to enjoy and feel pride in. Many of our parks are testament to the American struggle for equality and the hard-won fight for human rights, whether it is at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, César E. Chávez National Monument, Manzanar National Historic Site or the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail.
These stories unite all of us, and it is up to all of us to carry on the legacy and spirit that these civil rights struggles represent by being present for the ongoing civil rights struggles of today.
We all are diminished if any of us feel excluded or unwelcome. NPCA stands with communities of color against these unspeakable acts of violence and pledges to continue to work with people of every color toward the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including safe outdoor spaces for all.
About the author
Theresa Pierno President and CEO
Theresa Pierno is President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. She joined NPCA in 2004 after a distinguished career in public service and natural resource protection, and has helped to solidify the organization's role as the voice of America's national parks.