What is geocaching? It’s like a scavenger hunt happening all over the world. People hide things (geocaches), and post the coordinates where those caches can be found. Other people use GPS (and, in this day and age, cell phones) to find those caches. Sometimes caches are big (I think the largest is literally a house), other times tiny (think tip of your little finger). Sometimes they’re easy to find (obvious in an expected container), other times hard (fiendishly hidden in mind boggling ways). Sometimes they’re easy to get to (the middle of your local convenience store parking lot), other times incredibly difficult to reach (there’s one on the International Space Station, for Pete’s sake!!!). So millions of people all over the world hunt for the over three million active geocaches on Earth, poking, prodding, and investigating in secret places and in plain sight. For me, however, there is an added complication…
Let us not be naive. Being a black man living in America adds a certain amount of risk to many activities: driving, walking, vacationing, hiking, and any number of other pursuits, both mundane and extraordinary. In fact, “<insert variable here> while black” is a commonly accepted term used to highlight the complications skin color can create in conjunction with other exploits.
Let’s see how they mix…
It is not lost on me that I, a black man, have taken on a hobby that could lead me into trouble. While I offer my thanks to Pokemon Go for making a black dude wandering around looking at a cell phone far less suspicious, in the two months I’ve been doing this, I’ve been stopped by cops and security guards more times than I care to count (well, alright, seven if you must know) while other cachers in the forums have noted they’ve rarely or never been stopped in years. Add to it the fact that geocaching is (at least in the West) a predominantly white pastime for several reasons, a fact backed up by a quick search for images of geocachers on Google or photos of geocaching events. But I don’t honestly believe it’s the cachers themselves. I recently attended my first local gathering of geocachers and while I was talking to one, I said that I had had a bit of trepidation about coming. He replied “I hope it’s not because you’re a little tanner than the rest of us.” My first, kneejerk reaction was shock and speechlessness (a state for which I am not known). My second, more thoughtful thought was actually more like relief. He noted a fact, signaled that it was of no consequence to him, and expressed his hope that I wouldn’t let it bother me, either. And while I had intended to keep doing this regardless of what other people think, it was nice to feel that it might not be an issue I have to think too hard about among my fellow geocachers.
My point here (and I do have one) is the tagline: I geocache. I’m black. Let’s see how they mix.