An Update on Diversity & Radical Inclusion

As an organization that believes the world’s a better place with Burning Man in it, and one that’s committed to spreading the culture that comes from Black Rock City throughout the world, we have a long way to go when it comes to race and diversity. As a culture that preaches the virtues of diversity, equality, and Radical Inclusion, the fact remains that our community and spaces are predominantly white. The barrier to entry for Burning Man experiences is often dictated by privilege, and we’re committed to changing this.

Two months ago, Burning Man Project shared a statement in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in recognition of the fact that, as an organization, we can do better to truly live up to the principle of Radical Inclusion.

Despite many conversations and community-led initiatives over the years, that was our first public-facing statement of explicit support for racial justice. While this was an important moment for us and we received some positive feedback, we also know that words are not enough. We understand the time for action is now, and we are ready to move forward with concrete steps.

So what are we actually doing?

  • We’ve started an advisory group of community leaders who have vast experience focusing on this work. With their guidance, we’re roadmapping more ways Burning Man Project and Black Rock City can actively practice anti-racism, work towards better representation of people of color in Burning Man spaces, and more.
  • Created an internal stewardship workgroup of knowledgeable anti-racism and racial justice staff advocates within the organization to advise leadership and support the success of this work.
  • Implemented unconscious bias and anti-racism training for staff, starting with our year-round employees and soon after rolling out to volunteer leaders and Burning Man Project volunteers.
  • Holding bi-weekly internal staff discussions on race, identity, systemic racism, social justice, and other related topics.
  • Encouraging our staff to engage in developing collaborations with organizations that are established as social justice leaders.
  • Gathering data around the self-identified racial and ethnic representation that exists now within our paid staff. We’re also assessing diversity specifically within our leadership teams. Better understanding our current representation helps us work on steps like evaluating our hiring practices and leadership pathways to make sure we build a staff that represents the event and community we want to see.
  • Actively elevating voices of color on our communications channels (Burning Man Journal, Burning Man Live podcast, and more) and social media pages. We’re making a conscious effort to bring all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices and storytellers to the forefront.
  • Increasing BIPOC event access by making changes to our theme camp, artist, and mutant vehicle selection processes.
  • Building a section of the Burning Man website dedicated to efforts from Burning Man Project and the wider community on this and related topics.

Also, here are some of our ambitions over the next year:

  • Support efforts to increase participation of BIPOC in Black Rock City through proactive community-oriented outreach and organizing resources for theme camps, art projects, volunteer teams, and mutant vehicles that are committed to Radical Inclusion and racial equity.
  • Review our program areas outside of Black Rock City through a lens of racial justice and determine how we can use our funding streams to amplify engagement of Black, Indigenous, and other artists, innovators, and community builders of color.
  • Facilitate ongoing regularly scheduled community-wide conversations about racial justice, identity, systemic racism, restorative justice, and more.
  • Learn and incorporate equity checks in our policies and decision-making to consider their impacts on different racial and ethnic groups.

This is just the beginning of a comprehensive roadmap currently in development. We acknowledge that some of these first steps will be internal and may not be obvious to the world outside Burning Man Project. We are embracing this moment as an opportunity to step up as both an organization and a global, diverse culture. We look forward to the future, and we hope you are along for the ride.

Stay tuned to the Jackrabbit Speaks for further information and ways to get involved. For more perspectives from the community, check out this series on the Burning Man Journal. If you have any feedback or questions, please email diversity@burningman.org.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

15 Comments on “An Update on Diversity & Radical Inclusion

  • James M says:

    Thank you for showing us the actionable steps you are taking and giving us an idea of where you’re headed. It’s also very well written. I have always believed that Burning Man Project wants to create a more equitable organization, as well as a more equitable and diverse BRC and this gives me lots of hope. As a POC, I appreciate the transparency and I look forward to more!

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  • Jean Grey says:

    Thank you. Please more of this. More addressing the privilege involved in burning man. More action on anti-racism and inclusion of BIPOC. Much more.

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    • Lady Bacchus says:

      These are some great actions. I cant wait ti see if I as a black woman can actually be invluded in burns with out having to white wash myself.. To be able to actually go to black rock. I as of nkw can obly offord to go to regional burns. And only go if i do the work of bringing my own camp cause otherwise i dont feel safe.

      How many black folk are involved at the org level, were at these meeting making these changes?

      I think it would be amazing to host a nation wide burn protest in solidarity with BLM.
      You can speak to me about this idea.

      Spanks!!

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      • Lady Bacchus says:

        Oh yeah. So I would help host a large event in my home town. 3 days @ 2500 max per day.

        After me hosting consent classes before anyone was allowed into my kink area of the event. And beibg a success. We moved to haveing ALL persons attending the event to take the class. In 3 yrs we totally changed the dynamic of the event.

        What if everyone had to take a 20 min class on racism and consent as part of entry? It would be a lot to put together but totally worth it if it means the unheard are able to feel safer.

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  • Steady says:

    Most of us are well-intentioned, but it takes concerted effort to discover and overcome the unconscious biases we’ve learned just by living in our racist culture. Thank you for doing this work. It may be uncomfortable for some but it is important and necessary.

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  • Trip Advisor says:

    Curious to know how you’re engaging the Pyramid Lake Paiute Nation with the event, since it impacts them and their land?

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    • Wovoka says:

      Having attended BRC in 2019 as a Virgin and been blown away by the spirit of Radial Inclusion, it would not have occurred to me to conduct an informal racial/ethnicity census – I was just so happy to be accepted into the Burning Man “tribe” if you will.
      Anyway, I was inspired to comment upon seeing Trip Advisor’s question if anyone from BRC had engaged with members of the Paiute Nation. Having spent time in Yerington (birthplace of the Paiute Prophet) tracing the history of his Ghost Dance up to the massacre at Wounded Knee, I wondered if anyone might recognize my Playa name (see below), given that we were only 140 miles north of the Reservation. Nobody did.
      I’ll be 80 next year, twice widowed, and deeply in love with someone you’d identify as a POC but I’d recognize as so, only if it were pointed out to me. She is just my darling and I’m perennially facinated by the play of light & shadow over her lovely face. (I’m a people- and wildlife-photographer.)
      The pursuit of a compelling picture around the world has taught me the value of Humilty, a trait I’ve been able to instill in my 5 kids and 9 grandchildren, and so I halfway agree with “Lover” when she/he uses words like “conceited”, “tactics”, “controlling”, etc.
      The only piece of advice I can offer is to set aside your own needs, open your eyes and heart wherever you are, and ask, “how can I help?” “Nuf said.

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  • The Lover says:

    Yep, except unconscious bias training and anti-racism training has not been shown to work…

    So I see this as a well intentioned effort by a lot of white people to jump on a very non-radical non-free thinking “radical” bandwagon: social justice.

    I think it’s very conceited (and white, even colonialist to a degree) to try to bring something that is very white to a community and culture who will look at it as exactly that: white.

    Sure, make it accessible, but to try to convert burning man into something it’s not through anti-racism tactics is very much the sort of controlling methods which goes against radical free expression as it will erode this expression.

    Oh if Larry could see this…

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    • Magic says:

      Thank you for stating what it seems a lot of us think (even people of color I’ve listened to) but are afraid of the condescending repercussions if we say it.

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      • Chaotic NTRL says:

        …super off topic: is this the same Magic that handed out little spell kits burn night 2017?

        Also I too find this response problematic, it’s buried deep in the website not front and center on the landing page, and why isn’t burning man 2020 cancelled in solidarity with actual BLM like every other cultural distraction at this historic moment?
        SHAME on the Org.

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    • Sharifa says:

      Dear The Lover,
      Many BIPOC folx have spent a lot of time and energy asked for, demanded, suggested and offered ways that Burning Man can change and grow to be more inclusive. Why does change and growth seem controlling to you?
      Thanks,
      Sharifa

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  • Davemarr says:

    I would love to see some kind of forum which invites people to explore what Systematic Racism is to them, how they may have experienced it, or what forms it takes in everyday life.

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  • Chaotic NTRL says:

    Where is the front landing page statement that centers the voices of the local tribes asking people to not physically come to Black Rock Desert this year? Why is the messaging all about how not visiting aligns with community principles for the event, with the desires and voices of tribal elders as an anecdotal aside? Why do I see my fellow burners already with their heads on the digital sand, while the major sports franchises and even the commentators are shut down and walking off camera during live broadcast? Your actions, inactions, silence, and continued centering of the white narrative as an Org at this historic moment is shameful.

    WALK THE WALK.

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    • The-Mayor says:

      Why wouldn’t we be allowed to come to the Playa? The playa isn’t owned by Burning Man, or the local tribes. It’s public land that anyone can use. Are you going to apply this logic to literally every other piece of public land that sits in proximity to tribal land? What a moronic sentiment.

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