Why Surf Culture Desperately Needs More Diversity

A friend of mine who owns a surf brand recently received an absolutely bonkers series of racist emails. The sender purchased my friend’s product online, then somehow figured out his ethnicity after the fact. Before the order arrived, the customer sent an email canceling his purchase, citing my friend’s ethnicity as the reason. {snip}

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{snip} But my friend’s run-in with at least one surfer’s ethnic phobias did force me to realize how much I, a white guy from a mostly-white Californian beach town, have overestimated the shared experience of all surfers. All part of the same tribe, right? Clearly, that’s also not remotely true.

It’s clear that surf culture does have a problem, and that problem stems from a lack of diversity within our ranks. “History of Surfing” author Matt Warshaw pointed out in a 2015 essay published on Surfer.com that, as a pastime developed largely by brown-skinned Polynesians (as well as Africans in some places and Peruvians in others), surfing has always been multi-cultural.

After all, it was whites who were forced to “break surfing’s glass ceiling in terms of race, a hundred-plus years ago, in Hawaii,” says Warshaw. For surfers, “Hawaii is always there in the back of our minds. Play the race card, in other words, and you answer to Duke Kahanamoku.”

That historical aspect may very well be true, but it doesn’t at all address the issue that surfing today, at least in the world’s two most globally influential surfing nations — the USA and Australia — is overwhelmingly white and upper middle class. This is true in countless lineups, where you’re likely to paddle out and find a mostly homogenous pack of white people surfing on expensive boards, wearing expensive gear in areas with a high cost of living. If you can’t afford it, you ain’t surfing.

I called Jeff Williams, co-president of the Black Surfer’s Collective (an organization that brings inner-city black kids in L.A. to the beach) to talk to him about diversity in surfing. “I’ve never really had problems with actual racism in surfing,” Williams said. “I’ve surfed all over the world, and everywhere I’ve ever been, most surfers are pretty cool.” But he does see the lack of minorities in the surf in the U.S. as problematic. “Look, anytime you try to talk about diversity in surfing, it all boils down to access,” he said. {snip}

Williams thinks {snip} it would take something like a “surfing Tiger Woods” to get inner-city kids to start paying attention to surf culture in a real way. But if we did gain more diverse surf stars bringing different voices and experiences to the table, the mainstream surf culture could only change for the better. Think about The Brazilian Storm: the South American vanguard brought fiery competitiveness and legions of exuberant fans to the World Tour, giving professional surfing a much-needed injection of passion.

But tease that out to include more people of color and more people coming from communities not typically associated with surfing. What styles would emerge and what influences would inform them? What might surf art look like with if it was inspired by a surf experience that differed from the easygoing, middle-class beach life? How might board design evolve if more diverse voices were able to participate in the conversation?

I don’t have the answers, but you don’t have to look very far to find parallels in other sports. Skate culture is far more dynamic because of the cacophony of viewpoints, with universally-acclaimed skaters of diverse races and socioeconomic backgrounds adding to the melting pot. Surfing can only gain from more perspectives adding to our own understanding of what it means to be a surfer, and from embracing those who didn’t come to the beach easily, but made their way nonetheless.

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The Diversity Staff at the University of Michigan Is Nearly 100 Full-Time Employees

Year after year, media note and sometimes bemoan the ballooning cost of higher education.

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There are various reasons for surging costs, but the primary one is the remarkable expansion of university administration in recent decades. As Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, wrote in the New York Times a few years ago:

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Universities are large and require administrators to function, of course. The problem is there seems to be no end to the expansion. This point was recently illustrated by Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Perry, who also is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, used the University of Michigan as an example to highlight the rise of “diversicrats” (diversity bureaucrats) on today’s campuses. The numbers are astonishing.

  1. The University of Michigan currently employs a diversity staff of nearly 100 (93) full-time diversity administrators, officers, directors, vice-provosts, deans, consultants, specialists, investigators, managers, executive assistants, administrative assistants, analysts, and coordinators.
  2. More than one-quarter (26) of these “diversicrats” earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and the total payroll for this small army is $8.4 million. When you add to cash salaries an estimated 32.45% for UM’s very generous fringe benefit package for the average employee in this group (retirement, health care, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, paid leave, paid vacation, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc.) the total employee compensation for this group tops $11 million per year. And of course that doesn’t count the cost of office space, telephones, computers and printers, printing, postage, programs, training, or travel expenses.

If you fell out of your chair upon realizing that the University of Michigan has a full-time diversity staff of nearly one hundred employees, one of whom earns more than the president of the United States, you can be forgiven. I nearly did too.

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Almost all species on Earth today came into being at about the same time, scientific study declares

What David Thaler of the University of Basel in Switzerland said about a scientific study he co-authored — and that was just published by journal Human Evolution — underscores how shocking his findings were even to him.

“This conclusion is very surprising,” he told Agence France-Presse, “and I fought against it as hard as I could.”

What’s so surprising?

Thaler and his co-author Mark Stoeckle of the Rockefeller University in New York discovered that nine out of 10 species on Earth today, including humans, came into being at roughly the same time — 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, AFP reported.

In other words, 90 percent of animal life — genetically speaking — is about the same age, the outlet noted.

Furthermore, the pair’s study turns on its head the long-held notion that species with large populations spread over the globe — again, humans, for example — will become more genetically diverse over time, AFP said.

But Stoeckle told the outlet that’s not the case, noting that animal genetic diversity is generally “about the same.”

It’s all in DNA ‘barcodes’

The scientists analyzed DNA “barcodes” across 100,000 species and found a sign that showed almost all animals emerged about the same time as humans, AFP reported.

More from the outlet:

What they saw was a lack of variation in so-called “neutral” mutations, which are the slight changes in DNA across generations that neither help nor hurt an individual’s chances of survival.

In other words, they were irrelevant in terms of the natural and sexual drivers of evolution.

How similar or not these “neutral” mutations are to each other is like tree rings — they reveal the approximate age of a species.

Which brings us back to our question: why did the overwhelming majority of species in existence today emerge at about the same time?

Some theories are offered (but not the one you’re probably thinking)

Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University, told AFP that environmental trauma is one possibility.

“Viruses, ice ages, successful new competitors, loss of prey — all these may cause periods when the population of an animal drops sharply,” he told the outlet in reference to the study. “In these periods, it is easier for a genetic innovation to sweep the population and contribute to the emergence of a new species.”

Stoeckle offered to AFP that “the simplest interpretation is that life is always evolving. It is more likely that — at all times in evolution — the animals alive at that point arose relatively recently.”

More from the outlet:

In this view, a species only lasts a certain amount of time before it either evolves into something new or goes extinct.

And yet — another unexpected finding from the study — species have very clear genetic boundaries, and there’s nothing much in between.

“If individuals are stars, then species are galaxies,” said Thaler. “They are compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.”

The absence of “in-between” species is something that also perplexed Darwin, he said.

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Many Universities Host Special Commencement Celebrations for Black Grads Only

Many universities across the nation this month and next will host graduation ceremonies dedicated to their black student populations.

The voluntary celebrations are held in addition to regular, mainstream commencements put on for all students. {snip}

Some of the universities hosting these ceremonies include Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UT Austin, MSU of Denver, University of Washington, UC San Diego, Cal State Northridge, CU Boulder, Whittier College, UC Riverside, Cal State LA, and San Francisco State University, among many others.

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“The Black Graduation Ceremony is a pre-commencement celebration to honor African and African American students who through unyielding determination have successfully completed an undergraduate or graduate degree from the University of Washington,” explains the UW website.

San Francisco State’s website notes that the “mission of the Black African Baccalaureate, Masters, and Doctorate Ceremony is an Afrocentric celebration of the scholarly achievements of Black, African and African American students.”

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Often, Kente cloth stoles are handed to the black grads during these special ceremonies. The stoles symbolize “very special occasions within African Culture. Graduates are encouraged to [wear] their Kente stoles during the college’s graduation ceremony,” MSU Denver’s website states.

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Other special identity groups that are often given extra-special graduation ceremonies include so-called lavender ceremonies for LGBTQ grads and Latinx ceremonies for Latino grads. Also on the list: Native Americans and undocumented students. {snip}

The celebrations are hosted under the guise of honoring diversity.

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“…Participants say the ceremonies are a way of celebrating their shared experience as a group, and not a rejection of official college graduations, which they also attend. Depending on one’s point of view, the ceremonies may also be reinforcing an image of the 21st-century campus as an incubator for identity politics.”

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Evergreen State’s “Independent” report whitewashes campus meltdown, claims professor

Evergreen State College released a 38-page “Independent” report on the protests and riots of last spring that is far from “independent,” claims a former administrator at the college. Last spring, Evergreen State was engulfed in riots after a Bret Weinstein, a former professor, sent an email questioning the school’s “day of absence,” which called for white students to leave campus for a day of diversity workshops while students of color stayed on campus to participate in a different form of diversity programming. “If Evergreen’s looming financial crisis becomes fatal, we now have a historical document placing blame not on Bridges, but on [Weinstein].” After accosting Weinstein in class and verbally berating him to the point that the campus police chief suggested he leave campus for his own safety, the student protesters then held several high-ranking administrators hostage until they agreed to comply with a list of demands. The report was commissioned to review the situation and provide feedback on how the college could prevent and control a recurrence of similar disruptions. President George Bridges nominated people to conduct the “Independent” review, which was then followed by vetting and approval of the nominees by the Board of Trustees. Multiple faculty members and a former high-ranking administrator, however, claim that the report is far from “Independent.”

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There has been little diversity among US governors

A young Stacey Abrams had traveled with her parents on a city bus to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion so she could be honored along with the state’s other top students. She’s the first African-American woman to win a major party primary for governor.

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Expert warns of irrevocable biodiversity damage with rising temperature

Cape Town, May 20 – A 3.2 degree Celsius increase in the Earth’s temperature could see 47 per cent of insect species, 26 per cent of vertebrate and 16 per cent of plant species lose at least half of their geographic ranges, an expert on global change has said. Professor Guy Midgley, a world-leading expert on global change and its impact on biodiversity, warned that this might be the outcome if global temperature increase cannot be restricted to 1.5 degree Celsius above historical pre-industrial levels.

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