Burning Man founder: “I don’t think black folks like to camp as much as white folks”

The 'Burning Man census' shows just 1.3% of attendees at the Nevada festival are black

Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, has been forced to defend the festivals lack of racial diversity, after a Burning Man census showed the festival is 87% white and only 1.3% black.

One of the festival’s ten core principles – in fact, the first one on the list – is ‘radical inclusion’, and after the release of the census stats, Harvey found himself defending the ratios to The Guardian:

“I don’t think black folks like to camp as much as white folks,” Harvey said. “This has never been imagined by us as a utopian society,” he continued. “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 organisation 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. We’re not going to set racial quotas.”


Burning Man is set in Black Rock City, a temporary annual community in the Black Rock desert in Nevada. It dates to 1986, and has a number of principles, including radical self-reliance, radical self-expression and gifting. It’s attendance is currently around the 70,000 mark.

Clarifying his comment on camping to The Guardian, Harvey looked to historical context: “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.”