Posted on September 8, 2015

Burning Man Founder Addresses Diversity Problem by Suggesting Black People Don’t Like Camping Because of Slavery

Jess Denham, Independent, September 7, 2015

Burning Man’s founder has considered the reason behind his festival’s lack of diversity and come up with a simple if highly controversial answer–black people just don’t like camping as much as white people because it reminds them of slavery.

Larry Harvey set up the iconic experimental event with a group of friends in 1986 and it is still held every year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. ‘Radical inclusion’ is one of the festival’s key principles, but a recent report found that just 1.3 per cent of around 70,000 ‘burners’ identify as black.

When the Guardian put these figures to Harvey during a recent interview, his response was come up with possible reasons behind them and insist that he will never “set racial quotas”.

“I got a lot of criticism for once saying I don’t think black folks like to camp as much as white folks,” he said. “I think it’s a little much to expect the organisation to solve the problem of racial parity. We do see a fast-increasing influx of Asians, black folks.”

Harvey believes that “historic reasons” are to blame for the diversity issue. “Remember a group that was enslaved and made to work? Slavishly, you know, in the fields,” he said, adding that his ex-wife and children are African-American.

“This goes all the way back to the Caribbean scene, when the average life of a slave in the fields was very short. And so, there’s that background, that agrarian poverty associated with things. Maybe your first move isn’t to go camping. Seriously.”

Harvey added that he does not intend to offend people with his comments, which came shortly before this year’s burners left the desert on Sunday night following the ritual burning of a wooden temple.