October 28, 2011

Burning Man as a Whitopia

Black journalist Rich Benjamin coined the word "whitopia" a few years ago for a place white people move to. Most of them tend to be in the Great Basin between the Sierras and the Rockies. Perhaps the most striking Great Basin whitopia is one that only exists for one week per year. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
BURNING MAN AT 20 / 'Inclusive' is illusive for burners
September 03, 2005|By Vanessa Marlin, Special to the Chronicle 
(09-03) 04:00 PST Black Rock City, Nev. -- The absence of people of color at an event touted by founder Larry Harvey as "radically inclusive" is a popular topic of discussion among burners. 
"We're f -- ing here this year, and I'm a happy bastard," says Black Light, who would not give his real name. He is from Brooklyn and founded the Land of Califa camp, made up exclusively of African Americans. Members of the camp perform tribal music and create "meals of cultural delight" such as jerk chicken and collard greens. 
Observant veterans say the number of minority burners, as those who attend Burning Man call themselves, is slowly expanding, pointing to camps like Roller Disco, lorded over by the "Godfather of Skate," David D. Miles, who is African American and runs Friday Night Skate in San Francisco. His assistants, who teach people to skate with secondhand skates, are Latino, African American and Asian. 
Although diversity is being addressed in creative ways by some burners, Burning Man spokeswoman "Maid" Marian Goodell dismisses the topic as irrelevant in a short discussion laced with expletives. 
"This isn't a white-Euro bunch," she says. "We're totally mixed." 
But that's hard to tell on the playa. 
Harvey acknowledges the lack of diversity, although he says no statistical studies have been done. 
Burning Man's official census purposely does not collect information on race or ethnicity. The form simply asks whether the person filling it out considers himself white or not, and "Does this question offend you?" 
Harvey says the race question comes up every year, but it's not right to put Burning Man in the position of fixing historical racial injustice. 
Juke Mackey of Oregon, whose ancestry is Norwegian and African American, has been coming to Burning Man for 11 years and brought his 12-year-old daughter Sofi this year. He says the inclusive dynamics of Burning Man unite people of all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds. "From corporate lawyers to a step above homeless, people you would never put together are here like it's our family reunion." 
Harvey says as the father of a mixed-race child, diversity is important to him. He says the absence of minorities reflects the larger issue of social injustice. 
"There is a justifiable fear among minorities about leaving their tight- knit communities," he says. "Not to mention the enormous cost." 
Harvey says he doesn't want Burning Man to get a reputation as a redneck, lily-white festival. But he understands why Burning Man is attractive for white people who lack tight-knit cultural communities. 
"Whites are radically isolated from their families and each other," he said. "It's easy to get lost in a life where no one is connected."

55 comments:

Hannah the Fair said...

They could always pay inner city people to 'pad out' their events. Bus a couple of hundred blacks to wherever the protest is, tell them they'll only be paid if they behave themselves and there you have it. A complete, multicultural, rainbow mass grouping.

That the Whites who attend are there because they care about the cause but the young Blacks had to be paid to show up needn't be trumpeted by the organizers. In fact, it probably wouldn't be mentioned at all.

I'm surprised that the wealthy groups organizing these well managed and contained protests against the rich haven't done this yet.

Don't rent-a-mobs go all the way back to Greco-Roman days?

Anonymous said...

White liberals must remove themselves from non-whites to feel liberal toward them.

Anonymous said...

Do blacks even wanna go to an event called Burning Man?

Georgia Resident said...

Quite frankly, complaining that one's ethnicity isn't sufficiently represented in Burning Man is like complaining that it's underrepresented in the Special Olympics.

PA said...

Moldbug once wrote about the diversity-imperative being a mandate to plant neo-Stasi eyes and ears into any white grouping, lest whites speak too freely.

I agree with him. It's creepy stuff. My small act of quiet resistance is to have an all-white friends list on FB.

Geoff Matthews said...

I'm pretty sure that Flaming Pole has at least some Mexicans attending.

http://www.flamingpole.com/

Anonymous said...

What's your source for saying that criminals shut down the summer of love in Haight Asbury?

I've never heard this before, although it sounds completely plausible.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Grateful Dead concerts were almost completely white. The music was much too cerebral for the riff raff. Lots of middle class beer hippies. Another whitetopia. White kids safely living dangerously.

stari_momak said...

In other news, African-Americans still boycotting L L Bean.

ironrailsironweights said...

Juke Mackey of Oregon, whose ancestry is Norwegian and African American, has been coming to Burning Man for 11 years and brought his 12-year-old daughter Sofi this year

I can't even begin to imagine why anyone would bring a child to Burning Man. "Daddy, why is everyone using drugs and why aren't they wearing any clothes?"

Peter

Jacob Roberson said...

Colored greens are just kale, bred for more heat tolerance. Poor white people only eat 'em in The South, poor black people everywhere, hence Colored Greens.

jaded said...

I like my Whitopia's anchored in a culture and place. Huge, drafty castles feature in mine; I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. What gives with the liberal arts grad students hanging out in the desert?

Polynices said...

And these self-same dirty hippies all vote democrat and support the insane "diversity" policies that oppress the rest of us. But actually applying that stuff to their little hippy party? Nah. Sooo not surprised.

[really sorry if this double posts, blogger acted goofy when I tried logging in]

Anonymous said...

Sailer, I hope you continue writing up this subtopic. The OWS/Burner comparisons were percolating earlier in the month but your econ/poli-sci bit of analysis was a treat (as well as the observation that Manhattan is now safe enough for this to be possible). As someone who used to hear from my mother about her trek over to Altamont 42 years ago, the Forrest Gumpification of recent U.S. history has always bugged me and I must've seen dozens of Time-Life retrospectives without even the tiniest dose of reality. This 1968 pastiche that gets staged every year on every college campus (minus the tear gas, police dogs, and bad teeth) seems as if it's never going to finish its run, after 4 decades. Who ever really thought it was a good idea to subordinate American culture to Woodstocky schmaltz?

Anonymous said...

anon 4:01--try the coffee table book "Hippie" that came out in 2004. Christopher Hitchens had reviewed it in the Sunday New York Times, thus drawing a sniffy reply from Tom Hayden

Kylie said...

"I like my Whitopia's anchored in a culture and place. Huge, drafty castles feature in mine; I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one."

You're not. It's part of why Nosferatu is a favorite of mine. You just can't beat Orava Castle (Orlok's castle in the film) for atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I just can't help thinking of the numerous Whitopias in Europe: many of them actually medieval (Spain & the Czech Rep), some Georgian (some of the UK). I wonder if there's a difference in utopian visions between Europe with all it's architecture rooted firmly in history and America that only has a smattering of mission style and some art deco to show for centuries of settlement. While we can embrace a disposable Burning Man utopia, I can't help but think Europeans would prefer incorporating their palaces, castles and cityscapes harking back to earlier eras.

Anonymous said...

"Moldbug once wrote about the diversity-imperative being a mandate to plant neo-Stasi eyes and ears into any white grouping, lest whites speak too freely."

Pretty much. I remember that my college Western Civ class (yes, we were still required to take that) had 2 Muslims and a black guy in it (several East Asians too, but they don't figure much WRT pre-1500Western Civ). They never participated much in class, but I can remember thinking that when the subjects of Islam or slavery came up that many students were probably reluctant to voice full-throated support of the West for fear of offending them.

Anonymous said...

@stari_momak "while we'd like african americans to get their rucksacks and snowshoe gear from us"

:)

Harry Baldwin said...

Burning Man founder Larry David says, "There is a justifiable fear among minorities about leaving their tight-knit communities."

Yes, we have been reading all summer about blacks setting foot outside their tight-knit communities and being beaten by flash mobs of young whites. They're much safer in their own communities, bound by ties of mutual respect, close familial ties, and deference to the elderly.

"Harvey says he doesn't want Burning Man to get a reputation as a redneck, lily-white festival."

Funny how when the topic is whites, it's all right to use pejoratives like "lily white" and "redneck." Has it ever occurred to rednecks to attend Burning Man? They'd see lots of nekkid chicks there, maybe they should check it out.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I thought he'd discovered that golf figured prominently in the whitopias of slightly older caucasians.

Remember, there was a section of SWPL on "black music that black people no longer listen to:" jazz, blues, "classic" hip-hop from the 90's. It's not about diversity. It's about the idea of diversity.

Anonymous said...

No, you're missing what's happening. BM isn't a whitetopia - it's cultural Latinization. This is what Carnival would be like if 1) it wasn't tolerated by the elites and 2) people could afford the gas to drive it out of town. What BM has done to the Bay Area is very similar to how Mardi Gras functions in New Orleans and Carnival functions in Latin America - a lot of people now order their social life around a big potlatch festival.

It's very instructive to compare Burning Man to the Panama Pacific International Exhibition and to the 1939 World's Fair in 1939, and extremely depressing. Burning Man makes no monuments, no infrastructure, leaves nothing lasting. People work all year long in solidarity with other people for.... a big party. And they are ok with this, they've taught themselves not to want more or fooled themselves into thinking the more is gonna manifest somehow, maybe at Occupy Oakland. This replacement of real collective action with dreams? Also typically Latin.

Steve Sailer said...

"It's very instructive to compare Burning Man to the Panama Pacific International Exhibition"

Yes, they built a one square mile island in San Francisco Bay for it.

Harry Baldwin said...

Burning Man founder Larry David says

Oops, make that Larry Harvey, not Larry David. I like the thought, though.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Whereas you can live a full life in SF, as, say, a Chinese middle class person, and Burning Man will enter into your consciousness not at all.

Kylie said...

"'There is a justifiable fear among minorities about leaving their tight- knit communities,' he says. 'Not to mention the enormous cost.'"

This goes a ways toward explaining the continued popularity of Devil's Night in towns with sizable black populations.

Why face the fear and shoulder the cost that comes with leaving your community to attend Burning Man in the desert when you can just burn down a vacant house or two or three right in your own neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to freedom of association? Why does every event have to be "diverse"?

Aaron in Israel said...

Two articles in a row. Hey, right-wingers, can we now retire the talking point about how the liberal media only criticizes the right for being too white and always gives its own side a pass?

Anonymous said...

"Hey, right-wingers, can we now retire the talking point about how the liberal media only criticizes the right for being too white and always gives its own side a pass?"

You have a lot of difficult with statistics, huh? You like to think in absolutes.

It's easier, sure, but...well, whatever. I guess the left side of the bell curve has to make comments too.

Mr. Anon said...

"Aaron in Israel said...

Two articles in a row. Hey, right-wingers, can we now retire the talking point about how the liberal media only criticizes the right for being too white and always gives its own side a pass?"

Yeah, two right in a row. The first one in 2005, and the second one last month. A regular avalanche of press coverage.

Fred said...

"BTW, Grateful Dead concerts were almost completely white. The music was much too cerebral for the riff raff."

It was as cerebral as Jazz, which isn't saying much. It was white Hippie Jazz.

sabril said...

It reminds me of my co-op days in college. People shared all the cooking and cleaning; it was all peace/love/dove/tye-die. And all Euro with 1 or 2 Asians.

It worked really well until a couple black girls moved in. (And mind you, these were blacks who had been admitted to a top-10 college.)

Anyway, most blacks are pure poison for a group like that. They don't do their cooking or cleaning tasks despite the social pressure and they cause a lot of white kids to start slacking off with their bad example.

Whiskey said...

That's a good point on the Latinization. It is also part of the eternal adolescence, a giant hook-up scene instead of a minor party. You can't get serious business done if you take off for two weeks to run around naked in the Desert stoned out of your mind.

Anonymous said...

You know what else is too white?
You guessed it—the juggalos.

http://vimeo.com/29589320/

Anonymous said...

Of course, the 'burning man' is based on that ancient pagan Celtic British tradition, the wicker man, which was mentioned by Julius Caesar in his 'Gallic Wars'.An excellent film starring Deward Woodward was based on it too.
Basically, the 'wicker man' was a human sacrifice to the ancient gods - made by the druids - which entailed the construction of a huge wooden and wicker man effigy with victims imprioned within the body.The whole was set alight during the rligious festivity, the howls of the victims being deemed pleasing to the gods.
If Caesar had never recorded this ancient Celtic tradition, then it is likely it would have passed unknown to modern history.
Excellent mediaeval woodcuts and depictions (I just love mediaeval woodcuts for their spookiness and naiviete) of the wicker man are in existence.

Kylie said...

Hey, Aaron in Israel, just wanted you to know that I'm really sick of how the liberal media only criticizes the right for being too white and always gives its own side a pass.

Anonymous said...

You can't get serious business done if you take off for two weeks to run around naked in the Desert stoned out of your mind.

Of course you can, you insane workaholic American. It's called "a vacation." The running around stoned at a party in the desert isn't the big thing here; it's the elaborate art projects that require quite a lot of expertise and coordination, and for what? This thing is huge and what comes out of it?

A handful of stable marriages; some tech company bonding and networking; college friend networks reaffirming themselves. These are fine things to happen, but it should be leading to more and it never does. It always feels like it's about to, but it's been feeling that way since the early 90s and no matter how much funny money gets dumped in the scene, they might as well have all stayed in Oakland because there is no there there.

I met my husband at a Burning Man related event nearly 12 years ago. We have three kids and the oldest is 8. Nothing about the reporting on Burning Man or the general impression of the scene has changed in that time. The articles are full of this corny 'gee whiz look at these crazies in the desert" tone with a total absence of a sense that this is now a Bay Area institution, and it seems to be the last hurrah of white California. There is more dynamism among Juggalos.

Anonymous said...

Maybe only white people are dumb enough to go to such things, especially if you have to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

It seems like a lot of pro-diverse things are actually Jewtopian.

stari_momak said...

["It's very instructive to compare Burning Man to the Panama Pacific International Exhibition"

Yes, they built a one square mile island in San Francisco Bay for it.]

Or think of the Panama-California Exhibition, which left San Diego with a lot of great buildings in Balboa park.

http://www.sandiegohistory.org/pancal/sdexpo4.htm

Anonymous said...

""BTW, Grateful Dead concerts were almost completely white. The music was much too cerebral for the riff raff."

It was as cerebral as Jazz, which isn't saying much. It was white Hippie Jazz."

Have to disagree with you there. Listen to any of the concerts from 1977 or early 1978. Only Wagner is as musically dense and inventive.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be Burning Person? Burning Man sounds sexist.

Anonymous said...

These fools. The natural state of man is to wear clothes, especially outside the tropical zones--but even most people in hot places wear clothes.
Animals have natural clothes: shells, fur, feather. etc.
Man has no such protection, and so he puts on clothes. If dogs had no fur, they would like to wear clothes too.

Besides, if we should go naked, we should do away with houses too. Yeah, let's just explose ourselves to the element.
Another good thing about clothes is hygine. Does anyone wanna sit on a chair on which a bare-butt person sat?

morleysafer said...

Yeah, an episode of CYE set at Burning Man would be pretty great...

Anonymous said...

All the cool countercultural events sooner or later turn bad because thugs, frat boys, and rednecks inevitably show up to mooch and ogle/harass/assault the seminude chicks.

Burning Man's combination of isolation, high cost, and participatory ethos has helped keep it a safe place for Bay Area techies and creative types to spend a few days getting in touch with their college selves, blowing off steam, and hooking up with each other.

David Davenport said...

Burning wicker man at Burning Man:

burning wicker man

Do Burning Man fans repress their desire to burn a cross?

fiery cross

Truth said...

"Have to disagree with you there. Listen to any of the concerts from 1977 or early 1978. Only Wagner is as musically dense and inventive."

So, "Truckin" = "Die Walkurie" for musical density?

I don't know Sport, there are a few instruments missing, aren't there?

Anonymous said...

I advocate feeding LSD to black people. It would go a long way toward kick starting them out of that circular rut so many of them are in.

David Davenport said...

So, "Truckin" = "Die Walkurie" for musical density?

That sentiment is so-o-o typical of an angry black man.

Mr. Sailer is delighted to find out that so many iSteveniks are also Grateful Dead fans.

Matters of taste cannot be disputed.

Anonymous said...

All the cool countercultural events sooner or later turn bad because thugs, frat boys, and rednecks inevitably show up to mooch and ogle/harass/assault the seminude chicks.

Burning Man's combination of isolation, high cost, and participatory ethos has helped keep it a safe place for Bay Area techies and creative types to spend a few days getting in touch with their college selves, blowing off steam, and hooking up with each other.


OK, you're halfway there.

Now ask yourself why all those "cool, countercultural" people completely failed to gain any power.

Why can't they keep the thugs out so the ladies can keep taking off our clothes? The Medicis managed.

Seattle Dr. said...

Slightly off topic, but speaking of Whitopias, I spent some time this summer in Canadian NW, a few hours outside Vancouver BC. That was VERY Whitopia.

The further you get from urban centers the whiter it is. The only non-whites I saw were a handful of NE Asians (American-born, guessing from accents), and just a couple of (guessing based on complexion and stature) northern Indians, but likely also born here (clothes, accent). And of course you see their Native Americans, or First Nations, but that's to be expected.

It has to be the weather -- 80s is considered hot even in mid-summer on the coast, and you see snow-covered peaks from the beach. If it's not cloudy. Water is cold, of course.

It's probably as white as it gets, short of Belarus.

Now speaking of Vancouver BC, there you see all kinds of interesting non-White characters. I even saw a several-dozen strong Sikh biker gang -- big dark guys on Harleys wearing black clothes and colorful turbans. That was a first.

Truth said...

"That sentiment is so-o-o typical of an angry black man."

So what is u tryin' to apply?

Anonymous said...

This 'Whitopia' analysis is what missing from Sailer's prior screed that Mormons were giving away the store by trying to do outreach to minorities.

Mormons will remain 'white' because Mormonism is demanding, stodgy, bourgeouis, and etc. Mormon's unadorned churches, extremely conventional old fashioned hymns, and strong disapproval of congregation participation, flashy preaching, rhetoric, etc., aren't designed to maintain the whitopia, but they have that effect anyway.

-osvaldo M.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this "let's be nude in nature" business--and I mean real nature.

If you were to go through a forest naked, there are snakes, poison ivy, thorn brushes, all sorts of parasites, animal dung, scraggly rocks, etc. Try climbing rocks naked. You'd get scratched all over.

Anonymous said...

The fanbase of the "jamband" genre is also overwhelmingly white.

This summer I went for the first time to Reggae On The River, 4 hours north of San Francisco at the epicenter of the Emerald Triangle. While there were more blacks, mostly of the rasta persuasion, than at a typical summer music festival, they still were no more than 2-3%.