Well, that's quite some gotcha quote from the Guardian's sitdown with Burning Man head honcho Larry Harvey. When asked why there are so few black people at Burning Man, the annual Nevada festival's co-founder replied, "I don't think black folks like to camp as much as white folks". And just in case that line wasn't problematic enough, he added, "we're not going to set racial quotas."
According to the most recent Black Rock city census, complied yearly by a team of academic demographers and anthropologists to determine the makeup of the festival, 87% of burners identified as white; 6% identified as Hispanic, 6% as Asian, and 2% as Native Americans (figures rounded) – on the latter of whose ancestral lands the event occurs. The smallest demographic of burners – 1.3% – identified as black. According to the census, which also measures income, this means that the temporary city is home to twice as many people who earn $300,000 a year as it is to black people.
So given that the first of the festival's 10 principles is "radical inclusion", what does it mean that the festival's vision of a utopian society is 90% white?
"This has never been, imagined by us, as a utopian society," Harvey answered. "I'll believe in utopia when I meet my first perfect person, and this community is made up of 70,000 imperfect persons.
"That being the case," he continued, "I think it's a little much to expect the organization to solve the problem of racial parity. We do see a fast-increasing influx of Asians, black folks. I actually see black folks out here, unlike some of our liberal critics."
When asked by the Guardian reporter to explain his outrage-generating quote, Harvey replied:
"Remember a group that was enslaved and made to work. Slavishly, you know in the fields. 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."