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Ethnic Minorities: is it safe to explore the Open Spaces of England?

Ethnic Minorities: is it safe to explore the Open Spaces of England?
Author: Lisa Walker
1 Commentries
History of Ethnic Minority Groups
There is unambiguous evidence to show that low-income earners, young people, older people, ethnic minorities, and disabled persons, under-participate in countryside recreation'.

Black and ethnic minority communities are concentrated in the larger cities, particularly in London where they represent about 30% of the population, yet their perceptions, experiences and thoughts about the British countryside and rural services are rarely considered.

Nearly 8 per cent of the population is from an ethnic minority, and yet they make up only 1 per cent of the visitors to National Parks

Negative Perceptions and External Influences
One of the biggest problems for ethnic minorities' visiting the countryside and other natural open spaces is that there are not many other ethnic people there; this can encourage a sense of alienation.

The city has to appear as an innovative exciting, creative and safe place to live, play and consume, from this a prejudice, especially if people in the countryside have had little contact with ethnic minorities and the only experience they have had of them is via the media.

Further perceptions of the English open spaces may be due to safety issues, cultural beliefs, going to be involved in getting dirty.
It has been recognises that the free time of black and minority ethnic groups is often devoted to 'intra-community' activities, family life, and 'personal development' activities such as further and higher education. From this view it may be assumed that ethnic groups may consider activities outside of these may be a waste of time as it may not benefit their development and opportunities for a good career and life.

Ethnic groups are more likely to face exclusion than others because they believe they suffer from 'powerlessness' and 'inequality of opportunity'. As a result, insufficient attention has been paid to including the experiences and views of minority ethnic groups in rural research and policy-making and in shaping strategies for the delivery of services in rural areas.
A pro-active approach is required to encouraging the use of open spaces by local communities and to the involvement of local people in the development and management of the countryside and green spaces.

Many new strategies reach out to the 'youth' of the communities, BEN is dedicated to encourage the involvement of the youth demographic in ethnic groups.

Members of BEN believe it is important for black people to have a voice in Britain's environmental heritage and future, as these experiences as they really opened up a whole new world for them.

To engage more ethnic minority communities in the environment they need opportunities to see what is on offer. Providing targeted experiences and the chance to have an experience in the country is a good way of doing this.

In order to break down the stereotypes and barriers between ethnic groups and communities the Countryside Commission are using a 'bridge' in the urban fringe areas of the UK, as it offers the opportunity to merge the two conflicting developments and their communities

Non-departmental public body (NDPB) such as Natural England have introduced a main scheme: Action Research Projects (ARPs) this is a tool in place to help to increase the diversity of countryside visitors. There are four main projects to help reach that aim in selected parts of England:
Beyond the Boundary - this tests whether the barriers of confidence and lack of information by Black and Minority Ethnic communities can be overcome through supporting urban and rural communities to twin with one another.
By All Means -Testing whether a measurable increase in the level of access to Kent's countryside routes and sites can be achieved through working closely with disabled people and their representative organisations through all phases of planning, development and management.
Finding Common Ground - Testing whether engaging with women and their families in inner city Plymouth, and linking them with women in rural communities, increases their confidence and unlocks their ability to access the Devon countryside.
The key findings of this conference paper are that the main issues are the barriers that have been formed between the ethnic groups and the 'hosts' in the open spaces in Britain.
The attentions have not been to including the experiences and views of minority ethnic groups in rural research and policy-making to ensure all members of the community benefit from their surrounding this is to be done though shaping strategies.
The lack of information, effective interpretation, and appropriate activities contribute to feelings of alienation, and increased the boundaries as negative images of the countryside and seaside areas became a focused aspect.
The key to resolving these concerns was by using media, and focused strategies on the ethnic youth, would make it possible to overcome communication problems without necessarily reducing the natural qualities of the environment itself.
Offering activities to provide a positive experience of the countryside, such as escorted visits, led walks, mentoring schemes and personal contact, all help to increase participation.
In addition using the resource of the community these schemes may be able to disregard many racial stereotypes, as well as reducing the ethnic minorities' views of the countryside.

Brown, A., Johal, S., and Wong, J.L., (1996-7) BEN- Environmental Ethnic Youth Work, First Year Report
Morris, N., (2003) OPENspace: the research centre for inclusive access to outdoor environments, Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
Natural England (2008) Action Research Projects [Online] Available at: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/outdoorsforall/diversityreview/actionresearch/default.aspx [Accessed 16/04/10]

Changing the mindset of the ethnic minorities as a crucial factor to improve the current situation
Author: Wolk Andrzej
I have decided to comment on this paper as it focuses on an issue which has quite a lot to do with my dissertation I have just handed in, which was about the discrimination of the Roma ethnic minority in Spain. Even though the issue I was discussing in my dissertation was the factors that hamper the access to the employment of the Roma, I can see some common issues in both topics in terms of proposed solutions. The topic also seems interesting to me as the issue of social exclusion of the ethnic minorities in my opinion is very visible in British society. It is therefore worth researching as it determines the future of the whole society and the relations between its particular ethnic groups. As it is commonly known, the contact with nature is essential for every human being for a general prosperity and well being. Accordingly, the issue which is debated in this paper (under-participation of the ethnic minorities in countryside recreation) undoubtedly has to be further analysed.

I think that a big positive thing about the paper is that it identifies an important issue that our society has to face, i.e. the issue of inequality and social exclusion. From my own observations I am drawing a conclusion that a number of people are unaware of the issue and take the current situation in the way it is, without questioning whether it is right or wrong. As the research carried out by you shows, it is wrong and it needs to be changed. As you mention, the perceptions and experiences of the ethnic groups are rarely considered and the ethnic groups suffer from a syndrome of powerlessness and the feeling of inequality. That is true unfortunately and to me the crucial factor in the issue of under participation in the countryside activities and also in the whole array of other social activities is the factor which I would call a burden of slavery that the ethnic minorities bear and now it in a way became a mental slavery, which is exemplified by the feeling of powerlessness, as you said. If I can refer myself to my dissertation about the Roma, in the literature I have researched in Spain, one of the major factors, which is believed to hamper the process of social integration is the outlook the Roma have on the reality and their own position in the society. There is a certain lack of belief that they can succeed and that they deserve an improvement. Moreover, the Roma, and in my view, any ethnic minority which struggles and under participate in social activities, believe that whatever they do, they will not succeed. Therefore, the mindset has to be changed in the group in order for them to succeed. However, how to achieve this, it does not remain clear to me. You make a point saying that a pro active approach has to be adapted so that the ethnic minority can feel the encouragement. You also mention the youth. It seems also a good idea to me as the issue of under participation in the countryside activities (or any other field where the under participation would be visible, like labour market, housing, media, etc) has to be seen as a process, perhaps a generational process which requires much more time to see a change.

The structure of the discussion paper is good as it clearly introduces the issue, provides us with some evidence and subsequently with the proposed solutions. This way, it has been easy for me to follow your way of thinking and presenting it.