Senior Editor

I think we can all admit that 2020 was a painful year. Twelve long months that have included disease, social unrest, and a divisive election. At some point, though, we need to ask ourselves if we’ve learned anything from all the strife. Did we learn to treat each other better? When you listen to social posts like Ryan Harris‘ last night, the answer feels like a resounding, “Not really.”

According to Harris, an African American shaper who owns Los Angeles-based Earth Technologies, one of his friends, David Malana, was teaching a surf lesson with an African American women when another surfer yelled the N-Word at her. Malana runs the non-profit, Color the Water that provides free surf lessons to people of color. Another friend of Harris’ was surfing nearby and heard the conflict start. He approached the man and was repeatedly called the N-word as well. Ryan shared the incident on the Earth Technologies Instagram account, above. Incensed, the surfers followed the person who used the racial epithet out of the water where an argument ensued.

“I read this text from a buddy,” Harris says, “and pretty much immediately got a migraine. I’m sick of this shit and the fact that it’s happening at a place that I’ve been surfing for 20 years and it’s never happened to me, this whole Black Lives Matter movement, like, that didn’t happen this summer? That doesn’t matter? What in the hell is wrong with people? It’s just shocking and upsetting and today it feels like shit hasn’t really changed. No matter how I was raised or how hard we try to educate people there’s still just knuckleheads and ignorant ASSHOLES out there! Sucks.”

The fact that it happened in one of California’s most diverse lineups is especially jarring.

“It’s the shock and awe that it happened here,” Ryan told me. “I’d expect it to happen in Orange County or somewhere like that, but not at Porto, not at my spot, that’s some nerve, man. I wasn’t there, unfortunately. It was some beginning surfers, the guy probably started spouting off after one of the girls lost her board.” 

Harris, along with Selema Masekela, Hunter Jones, and Danielle Black Lyons founded 1 Planet One People earlier this year to combat environmental and social injustices. Sadly, its mission seems more relevant and important than ever.

You can listen to Ryan speak on the intersection of race and environmentalism at EVOLVE 2020, The Inertia’s annual summit, which is live today. 


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