Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby Hoopes » Sun Sep 07, 2003 10:33 am

I will always love this event for giving tight-assed white people a good excuse to cut loose, but was anyone besides me bothered by the poverty of ethnic diversity at Burning Man? Sure, I saw a number of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and even an American Indian couple, but the demographics of Burning Man look a lot more like Kansas than Oakland, L.A., or NYC.

I realize that camping in the desert has not had a traditional place in African-American culture since the 1870s (black cowboys & such) and that being around a lot of white folks in costume setting icons on fire at night has some understandibly negative associations. However, I wonder what could be done to encourage more diverse participation in the event.

It would be nice to see as many people-of-color as colored people (of the purple, green, and polka-dot variety).

On the other hand, maybe Burning Man is an attempt by Anglo-American white people to create a new ethnicity within American society. Is this mostly an Anglo attempt (with Utilikilts instead of Tartan plaids and so forth)? Does Larry Harvey with his cowboy hat, shades, and smokes affect the spin? What does Burning Man look and feel like from the perspective of an African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or even a bona fide foreigner? (As if it even matters.)
Last edited by Hoopes on Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:11 pm

\ What does Burning Man look and feel like from the perspective of an African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or even a bona fide foreigner? (As if it even matters.)


Probably what it looks like to any jew, straight, gay, Laotian or Laplander who has never experienced the playa. Their perspective(s) are probably gonna be forged in the field of media where it's reported on in many ways, from many angles and with all the bias inherent therein.

This thread is continually popping its head up from time to time and the general response is that it doesn't matter. Really. People of color do not go to Burning Man because they choose not to go to Burning Man. A simple answer that a good deal of folks find difficult to stomach because they seem to want to believe there's more - much more - to it than that.
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Re: Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:21 pm

Hoopes wrote:...anyone besides me bothered by the poverty of ethnic diversity at Burning Man?


If the old E-Playa were still in place you could read a few thousand posts on just this subject. The general consensus was, "No."


Hoopes wrote:...What does Burning Man look and feel like from the perspective of an African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or even a bona fide foreigner?


Ask 'em when you see 'em on the Playa. They're around.

I met quite a few Israelis this year. You'd think they'd get enough of deserts at home, but no. Good artists among them. And they interpreted some Hebrew text for me.
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Postby Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:28 pm

I met quite a few Israelis this year. You'd think they'd get enough of deserts at home, but no. Good artists among them. And they interpreted some Hebrew text for me.


Too bad you couldn't get em to help you pull that calf head out of your ass.
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:30 pm

Isotopia wrote:Too bad you couldn't get em to help you pull that calf head out of your ass.


Calves and Hebrew culture go way back, which annoyed Moses to distraction.
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Burning Man or Burning Bush?

Postby Hoopes » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:42 pm

The Burning Man and the Golden Calf undoubtedly have a lot in common. Picture Larry Harvey emerging from a giant dust devil carrying tablets inscribed "If it didn't come from your body, don't put it in the potty", "Leave No Trace", and the like.
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Re: Burning Man or Burning Bush?

Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 1:04 pm

Hoopes wrote:The Burning Man and the Golden Calf undoubtedly have a lot in common. Picture Larry Harvey emerging from a giant dust devil carrying tablets inscribed "If it didn't come from your body, don't put it in the potty", "Leave No Trace", and the like.


Yeah, but instead of disgust brought on by his minions' succumbing to debauchery, Larry would smash the tablets because he ran out of cigarettes.
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Re: Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby a2^8 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:02 pm

Hoopes wrote: (As if it even matters.)



Yup it matters, at least to me. There were more people of color there this year than before, visibly. It was cool to see and be a part of. I'm glad this issue is brought up no matter how much it bugs some folks. Props2Hoopes!

I know a lot of folks who won't travel through small towns...getting a bad reception, which is an understatment for what I'm trying to say without saying.
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Postby Ivy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:15 pm

I'm glad this issue is brought up no matter how much it bugs some folks.


I don't think it's the issue that bothers some people so much; rather, the fact that there were 1,000+ posts discussing this eariler that are no longer acessible or able to be contributed to.
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Postby TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:47 pm

Eh, this topic has been done to death, apparently year after year, and to me it just comes off as more PC, wear-your-liberal-creds-on-yer-sleeve bullshit.

It's especially annoying because we all face the same hurdles just getting there and surviving; it's just a fact of what we're doing and where we're doing it. You can't change the distance from there to here, you can't change the human body's water requirements, etc, so you have a minimum threshold that can't be lowered. Of course, the BMorg could start sponsoring the purported underrepresented demographic <i>du jour</i>, but they'd have to dramatically raise ticket prices to do it.

You wanna fix an imbalance? Start with the gender imbalance. Two men to every woman is just unfair, so let's start hauling more women out, then we can fix all the other imbalances, get cell phones working, get broadband to every camp, etc.
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:55 pm

casnimot wrote:...You wanna fix an imbalance? Start with the gender imbalance. Two men to every woman is just unfair, so let's start hauling more women out...


Depending on how you crunch the statistics, the odds might not be as bad as you imply. A simple orifice count indicates near-parity.
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Postby TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:59 pm

PJ wrote:
casnimot wrote:...You wanna fix an imbalance? Start with the gender imbalance. Two men to every woman is just unfair, so let's start hauling more women out...


Depending on how you crunch the statistics, the odds might not be as bad as you imply. A simple orifice count indicates near-parity.


Actually, if we're going by orifices, there's already an abundance.
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:03 pm

casnimot wrote:if we're going by orifices, there's already an abundance.


So quit yer bitchin' and go do your duty.
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Postby s5 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:09 pm

this year, we brought out two new zealanders. does that count as diversity? they even have funny accents, and stuff.
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More of everything

Postby Steven bradford » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:09 pm

I notice more people who weren't "white" this year, but I noticed even more that there seemed to be a lot more live music this year, plus an even greater diversity of recorded music.

I'm glad that so many people who are musically inclined chose to bring that to the playa for me to enjoy this year, as it's something I really can't do. (Though I did help with our art car's music selection by adding in some unusual yet fitting selections.)
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Postby TawnyGnosis » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:27 pm

I noticed more diversity this year as well. In our camp alone there were several african americans, hispanics, and asians. But yeah it really didn't seem to have any influence on the experience I had this year. I've also discussed this in length on the old e-playa so I'm not inclined to write a lot on this one.
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Postby stu » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:38 pm

I have to say that, after all the discussion over the summer, I did notice any non-caucasian people that I saw. But that seemed to fade after a couple of days as differences in skin colours certainly were not worth noting by that point in time, what with all the art and stuff.
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:46 pm

stu wrote:differences in skin colours certainly were not worth noting what with all the art and stuff.


Plus there's that "they all look the same upside down" factor.
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Re: Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby Hoopes » Mon Sep 08, 2003 2:58 pm

a2^8 wrote:Yup it matters, at least to me.


Of course it matters. The scene in Black Rock City is one that should be appealing to people of every gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and genetic heritage who value radical self-expression in the context of a larger society that is becoming ever more suspicious of real diversity of opinion, behavior, belief, etc.

I'm glad that Burning Man encourages all types of expression in the context of peaceful coexistence. I smiled to see a large Confederate flag flying on Inspired St. I also smiled to see the upside-down flaming cross the night of the burn. I especially enjoyed the drumming of a large brother in furry white chaps at a drum circle in Center Camp.

There is at least one forum devoted to the topic of sexual violence on the E-Playa, but I have yet to hear of a single episode of racial violence. If Black Rock City is truly free of this, it is the kind of city that should be very attractive to people of color. I do hope it is so. From what I'm reading here, Burning Man is color blind, which is a good thing.
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Postby blyslv » Mon Sep 08, 2003 4:55 pm

Is there a "white" perspective?

African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian,


I imagine some folks would be a little amused at the suggestion that there is one monolithic perspective dictated by race. Liking someone because of their skin color, eye shape or what have you is just as silly as hating them for those things.

If you want more "people of color" at the event what are you doing, besides preaching to the choir, to get them there?
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Postby precipitate » Mon Sep 08, 2003 5:01 pm

> what are you doing, besides preaching to the choir, to get them there?

I recommend free blow jobs for men of color.
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Postby PJ » Mon Sep 08, 2003 7:45 pm

precipitate wrote:I recommend free blow jobs for men of color.



Is white-ish a color?
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Postby playasnake » Mon Sep 08, 2003 8:10 pm

I recommend free blow jobs for men of color.


yes. especially blue. or silver.
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Postby orlando » Mon Sep 08, 2003 8:36 pm

BM is not isolated - it reflects social relations outside of burningman -- this is not a defense I prefrer much more diverse environments to monolithic ones--

Expand your social structures at home, bring new friends each year. The people of color I know that have come have become an integral part of the culture -- a warm invitation is often all it takes.

Also -these are tough times --- tough times affect women and people of color adversely earlier in a downturn than white males. It costs a shitload of cash ( on my scale) for me to even get there. That is also a big reason.
That upturn in the nineties didn't get most of us out of debt. Allot of us were tossed out of work becase 'technologic efficiencies' were found....

Also - big burning effigies are not a turn on for a lot of African Americans for obvious reasons.

All that said - reach out - diversity is joyful.
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Postby Hoopes » Wed Sep 10, 2003 8:28 am

blyslv wrote:I imagine some folks would be a little amused at the suggestion that there is one monolithic perspective dictated by race.


When was THAT suggested? I think you're a bit naive to think that members of these groups do not experience their "race" on a regular basis in a fashion different from members of the Anglo-European majority. I assume that every individual has a different perspective. I just wanted to learn more about the perception of ethnic or racial identity as a specific dimension of participation in Burning Man.

blyslv wrote:Liking someone because of their skin color, eye shape or what have you is just as silly as hating them for those things.


Liking someone for ANY reason is not silly. Hatiing them is not silly, but sad.

blyslv wrote:If you want more "people of color" at the event what are you doing, besides preaching to the choir, to get them there?


Well, for one thing, I'm using this forum to try and understand different perspectives. Based on that information, I hope I can make a fair representation of the event to people who haven't been there yet. My Jewish friends enjoy hearing about Shabbat services at Camp B'nai Hamidbar, art installations like Shirley Nachmana's "Sukkah", and all the attendees from Israel (now a center of techno/trance music production).

Were there similar theme camps, art installations, and activities that would be especially relevant to the African-American experience? (That is, BESIDES African-inspired drum circles.) Is there any reason to think that Burning Man is not safe and welcoming to people of color? (For example, did anyone experience "profiling" by Rangers, BLM, the sheriff, or other local authorities either at or going to and from the event?) If the Black Rock Arts Foundation is distributing information about potential funding to members of various communities, are African-American art communities also being included?

The sad reality is that throughout U.S. history the Man (not the burning one!) has repeatedly come up with significant disincentives for African-Americans to partake in some of Burning Man's traditional freedoms and pleasures with whites. If the event were to become more Black (if such a thing could happen), would the hand of John Law be more evident?
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Re: Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby zeno » Wed Sep 10, 2003 9:28 am

Hoopes wrote:...was anyone besides me bothered by the poverty of ethnic diversity at Burning Man?


Not me.

Welcome all, but lose the guilt.

Unlike college campuses obsessed with such things, BM is about DIVERSITY OF IDEAS.
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Postby Zane5100 » Wed Sep 10, 2003 9:49 am

playasnake wrote:
I recommend free blow jobs for men of color.


yes. especially blue. or silver.


I can arrange that...
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Postby blyslv » Wed Sep 10, 2003 10:05 am

Hoopes wrote:

When was THAT suggested? I think you're a bit naive to think that members of these groups do not experience their "race" on a regular basis in a fashion different from members of the Anglo-European majority. I assume that every individual has a different perspective. I just wanted to learn more about the perception of ethnic or racial identity as a specific dimension of participation in Burning Man.


This is a much more interesting question, at least to me, the extent to which our identity filters or changes our perceptions. And yes I think it would be naive to assume that one could exist in this world independant of thier skin color. I don't have any suggestions for changing it though.
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Re: Mostly White People or Just a Lot of Playa Dust?

Postby twist » Wed Sep 10, 2003 11:52 am

Hoopes wrote:I will always love this event for giving tight-assed white people a good excuse to cut loose, but was anyone besides me bothered by the poverty of ethnic diversity at Burning Man?
...
However, I wonder what could be done to encourage more diverse participation in the event.
...
On the other hand, maybe Burning Man is an attempt by Anglo-American white people to create a new ethnicity within American society.


Wow, these comments bring me right back to my good old liberal arts edumacation.

The thing you said that struck me the most was mentioning the "tight-assed white people" who had a chance to cut loose. It's interesting that some people do see BM as their one time a year to actually be themselves.

Speaking for myself and a lot of people that I know and love, this is not the case. A lot of people live creative lives in the real world and use this event as a celebration of what's already going on wihtn themselves.

It's also interesting to see you categorize all the white folk as tight-asses while the people of color who would attend do not have this distinction. As if people of color go to celebrate their culture while white folk go to appropriate and create their own exclusive party time.

Where did the white folks get this idea in the first place, then? By reading some National Geographics and deciding on what pagan ritual to copy and use for their own ends?

As far as I can tell, the guy who started this whole thing is a white guy. He burned a wooden thing on a beach with his white friend. Since most of their friends were probably white (I'm assuming here, forgive me) they all came down to the beach for successive burns and made it into their own thing.

Eventually, the law stepped in and said this wasn't the best idea so they moved it to the desert. Most of the people who went out there (from what the photos look like) were pretty white. As years passed, they told their friends about it it gew into what it is today.

I'd guess that the inertia of the event has kept it a mostly white thing. Economics being what they are might explain why more white guys can make it out there every year.

I'd also guess that the event truly grows out of word of mouth. Who did you tell about it? Who are you inviting to go out with you next year?

I would love to see more camps like Asian Princess camp or Bollywood camp. It would bring a healthy diversity to the playa. It would be a lot better than a bunch of white-guilters pointing fingers at all the other goofy white people.
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Postby Zane5100 » Wed Sep 10, 2003 11:58 am

Image

Who wants to take another whack...?
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