Black History Month Part II: Reclaiming sporting culture

It's hard to think of a sport more awash in images of blonde blue eyed Californians than surfing. Depiction's of surfing from Bruce Brown's "The Endless Summer", fifty years old this year, trafficked in the idea of white surfers traversing the globe to the astonishment of Asian and African onlookers. The standard had been set by the 1966 classic; films and popular culture followed. Yet as Scott Laderman demonstrates in his recent work Empire in Waves, these images rest on a false narrative, the truth is that white Europeans and Americans appropriated surfing from other cultures and then due to segregation and other forces, cast its image in whiteness.  Others have also questioned the … [Read more...]

Civil Rights History at Tropics of Meta

Martin Luther King Day is unique among American holidays, in the sense that it does not commemorate a religious event like Christmas or Easter, a cultural tradition like Thanksgiving or Halloween, or a former president.  Indeed, MLK Day is the only major holiday in the United States that celebrates the role of a political dissident - there is no William Lloyd Garrison or Susan B. Anthony or Ida Tarbell or Eugene Debs Day in the US.  It gives us occasion to consider the role of activism and political struggle in the making of our (hopefully) "more perfect union." In that sense, it is perhaps the most American of holidays. To commemorate the legacy of Dr. King, we have looked back at some … [Read more...]

Opening the Waves for Everyone: Surfing, Race, and Political Awareness

  In recent months the sight of NFL, NBA, and NCAA athletes donning t-shirts protesting the deaths of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, Staten Island’s Eric Garner and other black Americans by law enforcement officers has become commonplace, as have critical reactions to such symbolic acts. The St. Louis Police Department and the Rams’ now famous passive aggressive Twitter battle serves as only one example of the friction that arises when athletes voice a political position. Still, recent protests like those described here seem a far cry from the 1980s. Michael Jordan never did tell kids to stop shooting each other over his sneakers, and when pressed about his politics or rather the lack thereof, … [Read more...]

Politics of Surfing: Environmentalism and Feminism Among California’s Waves

  "California's oceans, waves and beaches are about to become a little cleaner thanks to the efforts of the California State Legislature this week!" the environmental surfing advocacy group, Surfrider Foundation, recently declared. On August 29, 2014, the California legislature overwhelmingly approved a statewide ban on single use plastic shopping bags and imposed a $.10 fee for their paper counterparts. Over the past six years several iterations of similar bills had come and gone, each unsuccessful in its attempt to gain passage. However this year's version, SB 270, authored by three Los Angeles area state senators -- Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) and … [Read more...]