70 National Parks To Learn About Racial Inequality

The week has been difficult and eye-opening here at Park Chasers. As many of you know, for the past 15 years we’ve called the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul home.  Last week our beloved city was thrust into the center of a long-building crisis, exposing some of the worst of what our country has too long ignored.  While we were fortunate to be safe and relatively unharmed, that’s not the story for all families in our state and around the nation.  Like many of you, we’ve taken the week away from business as usual, for reflection and deep, thoughtful conversations with loved ones.

What is our role in this? Are we asking the right questions of ourselves and of others?

What are the best ways to stand by our friends and community members of color, even when we can’t fully understand?  

How do we learn from history as we’re watching it unfold ourselves?  

As we reflected on all of these questions and continue to ponder the new ones that arise, we return to the parks.  It’s what we know best, after all. 
Photo Credit: nps.gov

What The National Parks Can Teach Us About Racial Inequality

In fact, the National Park Service has been helpful in teaching us much about our country’s shared history — including the painful parts.  The NPS dedicates itself to the documentation and preservation of the places, lives and stories that have shaped our country and brought us to this place. We’ll be the first to admit, they haven’t always gotten it right, and there’s much more work to do. But for people who have had their eyes opened this past week and are committed to learning more, we think the parks are one place to start.  More than 70 of the 400+ different national park units commemorate or preserve the stories and heritage of people of color.  Many of these units are tied directly to the ongoing struggle against racial inequality that has raged on our continent since the first Europeans arrived centuries ago.  We know that a 90 minute visit to a national park does not in itself solve the mountain of struggle ahead.  But for the millions of Americans who would like options to continue the conversation, it’s one more resource out there. It’s time for us all to learn these stories, spend time in these places, and hear the voices that have been silenced for far too long. We’re sharing a list of places around the National Park Service where you can get started… Listening.  Learning.  Standing together.

Moving Forward.

All week the voice of late Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota has rang true for us.  Before his death in 2002, Wellstone worked tirelessly to address economic and social inequalities.  In a 1999 speech to the Sheet Metal Workers Union, he’s famously quoted saying: In a 1999 speech to the Sheet Metal Workers Union, he stated: “Whatever happened to the idea…that we all do better when we all do better?” Going forward, we know that we must do better. We must encourage our friends and family members to do better. We all must move forward with a commitment to listening, to learning, and to understanding more about the path that others walk. We hope you join us on a healing road forward and that the national parks can play a part.
Photo Credit: nps.gov

70 National Parks to Learn About Racial Inequality

As we share this list, we must first recognize that all United States National Parks rest on indigenous lands, most of which were forcibly taken.  While we share several national park sites to learn about racial inequality below, it’s not without acknowledgement of this historical injustice.  Many of the artifacts that rest in NPS museums belong to native communities and the lands we share have a different heritage that often goes untold.   In the coming months, we’ll be revising all of our past articles and posts to reflect and acknowledge the indigenous people who called these places home.

Parks Documenting African American Heritage

The National Park Service has more than 25 different units dedicated to telling the stories of Black Americans in our country. From a cemetery hidden under the streets of Manhattan to the times before when we have filled the streets seeking justice, here are some places to start.  We also encourage you to check out the Civil Rights Travel Itineraries developed by the NPS and National Park Foundation.

Parks Documenting Latino Heritage

Although much of this week’s attention has gathered around the Black community, we must move forward to do better for all communities of color.  The 13 national parks below and the American Latino Heritage Fund work to tell the stories of Latino Americans and their fight for racial equity.

Parks Documenting Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

In order for us to learn from our past mistakes, the National Park Service invites us to learn more about the times when our country failed its citizens the most. The government ordered internment camps and aggressive racial discrimination faced by Asian Americans following World War II continues to impact communities today. Visit one of these units and learn about the vibrant heritage of Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans:

Parks Documenting Indigenous Heritage

As mentioned above, we cannot celebrate the national parks without acknowledging that these places were created because the U.S. government either ignored, invalidated, or did not recognize the rights of Native American communities.  It’s up to each of us to hold the National Park Service accountable to do what it can to restore and reconnect with the heritage of the people who our parks truly belong to. That being said, there are several national parks to learn about racial inequality specific to Indigenous communities:

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Do you have a story to tell? A national park that pushed you to think differently about race and inequality? Share your comments with us below and keep the dialogue going.
THE PARK CHASERS

THE PARK CHASERS

Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 101/423

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