The dive industry has a racism problem.
In her 2019 article “Finding Color Below the Surface,” Mariah Shore asked the following question:
“Why did I rarely see people who looked like me in the dive community? Where were all the women of color? Of all the divers -- both recreational and professional-- the snorkelers, the swimmers and the scientists, where was the representation of black women? How could I feel such a strong sense of connection to the dive family but not see myself represented in the larger community or in the media surrounding it?”
According to a 2018 demographic analysis of the dive industry conducted by the Diving Equipment and Marketing Agency (DEMA), only 11% of divers nationwide are Black. In 2014 the Sports & Fitness Industry reported the number of Black divers in the U.S. as 8% of the total diving population.
You do not have to look at demographic information however to see that there is in fact a major problem in the dive industry when it comes to our inability to reach Black Americans; as Mariah Shore pointed out. All you have to do is look around. Look at dive and travel marketing. Look at dive shop websites. Look at how diving and dive travel is portrayed in the media. Look at how the major dive agencies market diving on their own websites.
The U.S. has a violent and ugly history of systematic oppression of Black Americans. This oppression has shaped every facet of life including access to pools, beaches and recreational sports like diving. Does the dive industry ever talk about this? No. Have any of the major American scuba training agencies done anything to attempt to address this? Not that we have been able to find. Blue Planet Scuba and hopefully others in the industry intend to change this.
Blue Planet Scuba feels like a sanctuary for many in the dive world. As a Washington, D.C. dive shop we are proud that we are able to represent the diversity of this city within our divers and the community we have created.
We however openly acknowledge and recognize that even as a relatively diverse shop, especially compared to the average dive shop in the U.S., we still have a lot of work to do. As a diverse shop in the heart of an even more diverse city, we believe it is our responsibility to both start a conversation in the dive and travel industries regarding race and privilege beyond the bubble we have created for ourselves and our divers and ultimately enact change.
We want divers, future divers and the dive industry to look inwards and identify inequities, biases and exclusionary practices. Once these are identified, we want the industry to truly grasp why these injustices not only do a disservice to the dive and travel industries but also how they help to prop up and perpetuate systemic racism and structural inequality. And then we want change. Permanent and revolutionary change.
Over the coming months Blue Planet Scuba will be facilitating conversations and action around race, diving and dive travel. We will be providing resources to our divers, our staff and the public about anti-racist thought and behavior, intersectional environmentalism and anticolonial travel. We will also be calling upon dive training organizations, dive tour operators and other dive shops throughout the U.S. to do the same and to take permanent steps to enact equitable change within our industry.
We will be expanding our support of Black dive clubs, providing a platform for Black divers and conservationists and highlighting Black voices in the ocean world on all of our social media platforms as well as in person.
In the meantime we encourage you to use the following resources to begin to delve into the role racism plays in recreational and outdoor activities in the U.S.:
- Loyalty Bookstores: Antiracist reading recommendations
- "Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors" by Carolyn Finney
- "Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape" by Lauret Savoy
- "Pathway to Ph.D.: A true-life story about a social underdog who overcame all odds to become highly successful" by Dr. A. Jose’ Jones
- Racial History of American Swimming Pools, NPR
- "The Black-White Swimming Disparity in America: A Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination" by Jeff Wiltse
- "Hell or High Water: How Racism Kept Black America From Swimming" by Felice Leon
- "Diversity in the Great Outdoors: Is Everyone Welcome in America’s Parks and Public Lands?" by Reyna Askew and Margaret A. Walls
If you would like to make a donation to help support access to diving we encourage you to consider the Black Girls Dive foundation here or the National Association of Black Scuba Divers.
Will you join us? Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be part of this change or if you have more resources to share.