Where are the African / Asian chasers?

A question I received today from a UK production company got me thinking. They were looking for some chasers to profile, with the hopes of showing some diversity, with females and different ethnicities.

So I want to ask: where are all the non-Caucasians? Having seen the steady stream of people in the field I think it's gotten really, really "white" out there on the Plains.

Now the meteorology programs do have some ethnic diversity, but why doesn't chasing share this? Is there something about the storm chasing mindset that doesn't click with other cultures? Are other ethnicities more pragmatic about spare-time activities and spending time with family?

On the other hand, a lot of rural areas on the Plains are certainly known to be extremely conservative, maybe even xenophobic about other cultures, so I can understand some people having apprehension about breaking down or meeting the wrong people on those remote stretches.

Any thoughts here?

Tim, that's a good question. I have wondered about that myself. I don't think that is because of worry about breaking down in rural Great Plains.
Storm chasing is expensive. That may rule out some people but it still doesn't explain the lack of other ethnic groups especially Asians. Occupations and studies that can be related to storm chasing (ie computer science, mathematics, journalism, meterology etc.) are all more diverse. I e-mailed a few of my non chase friends. I am looking forward to reading other responses.

Bill Hark
We had a black guy in our major for a while and I was chatting with him one day about chasing and he said I was crazy. So I asked him why he wouldnt want to chase. and he told me this: "Black people are scared of bad weather". His words, not mine.

Every time a little storm would come through town he would call me from inside his bathroom asking if a tornado was coming. :lol:

I'd laugh and tell him all was good and even invited him to come out and shoot lightning with us at night downtown.

Again, those were his words, not mine. :wink:
I think the demographics of chasing might closely reflect the viewership of channels like PBS, Discovery, The Learning Channel, National Geographic, etc. I bring this up because most people who have begun chasing the past 20 years have developed an interest in chasing based on something they've seen on TV.
Actually... I saw an african-american chaser for the first time on May 11. He was driving a 4 door sedan solo with OU and MSU stickers on it. I forget what the license plate was, but it was definetly wx. At OU, I would say 95% of the undergrad are white, 5% latino/part latino. Grad student wise, it is pretty much whites and asians.

Perception rules

The Great Plains are not particularly noted for anti-black racism, though vast stretches of chase country have very few African-Americans. But if I were black, I'd probably feel safer in rural Kansas than rural Indiana.

A random sample of people from the states that produce the most chasers would yield very few African-Americans. In the states where most chasers hail from, African-Americans tend to live in or near large cities, which bodes ill for chasing in itself. Factor in income disparities and the proportion of blacks falls again.

To this, add widespread suspicions among African-Americans that some cops are out to get them for DWB (driving while black). Even if only one rural cop in 100 is racist, travelling 4,000 miles is an excellent way to make that racist's acquaintance.
From my experience in the southern plains (in the sticks), it is disturbing how many still have "race" issues. Stopping at gas stations etc, I've heard some interesting things that have simply appauled me.

Coming from N. IL where I went to a public school district that had a larger population of combined minorities than white, tolerance and equality was the norm. Most of the reading in classes centered on awareness of other cultures. Granted, people still hung out in their own groups, but I can never recall any racial issues... or people making racial slurs from the heart.

That said, I believe the main reason there aren't many black chasers out there is because of a general lack of interest in meteorology.

I definitely believe a lot of it is related to culture. My upbringing encouraged me to be interested in weather (not to mention the fact that I grew up in tornado alley)...many trips to the library on lazy summer days, the emphasis on science and math at my high school, etc.

I think, culturally speaking, a lot African Americans are encouraged (by their upbringing) to be involved in athletics or some form of the arts. I remember growing up with some black kids who would just run circles around us when we played outside...they were very talented athletically, so I imagine their gift greatly influenced their college/career choice (not to say they weren't smart--just to say they had unusual athletic talent). Of course, not all African Americans are athletes, but on the whole, their culture encourages athleticism (and their culture is different, political correctness aside).

So, really, I think people go in the direction of location/culture/talent, with an emphasis on location. I imagine I wouldn't have wanted to become a meteorologist (I am myself a white/Latino mix) if I had not grown up in Oklahoma. However, a tornado event in my hometown (Stillwater) piqued my curiosity...and since my environment was already favorable for pursuing an interest in science, that event became the catalyst to send me in the direction I am still going.

Guys........we're all bombarded with politics and political correctness 24-7. So now some of you want to inject it into chasing. "Looking mighty white out there"...you say??
That statement makes me sick. It disgusts me to no end. Please.......keep politics out of this endeavor.
Yeah - this is a hot button issue - but one that I think is reflected both professionally and recreationally. The field of Meteorology is dominated by male caucasians, chasing even more so. I would agree that there is probably some reason for minorities to be hesitant to cruise around rural America west of the Mississippi River - certainly there are a number of locales where diversity is lacking, and they may find themselves quite unwelcome even in this day and age. I recall stopping in a small town in Arizona once where the locals there made it crystal clear it was a 'whites only' community. I'm sure there are many others. Also, I'd agree that there is likely a cultural aspect, science is historically a 'white' and 'Asian' activity in our society. For those who watch Storm Stories, is there much diversity there? It's pretty tough to find diverse role models in this field or any science. I would, however, disagree that it is monetary 'class' separation - in fact most chasers I suspect are generally poor. Expensive hobby - but not many well-to-do chasers that I have met (I know, there are a few). My feeling is that this also stems from the hobby of chasing emerging from deep personal experiences with severe weather - and that impact is likely strongest if you live in a small community, and if that community is in the plains where severe weather is more frequent - you are probably a caucasian.

I haven't seen many black people in meteorology... And NONE in chasing, so far. Why aren't there more black people in chasing? I dunno, maybe it's because for some reason this hobby doesn't appeal to many black people. I mean, why aren't there more white rappers, etc.? :lol:

I have indeed seen a few Mexican people, and I saw a couple Asian people on the road, as well, this year...
I have chased a couple of times with a chaser from Mizzou whom is black. He is a pretty nice guy. I remember thinking "Hey there arent alot of black chasers" and thought to myself he may be the only one, that I know of anyways.
Glenn......where in Arizona did you experience this "whites only" attitude? And approx. what year was it??
From all the years I've been chasing...I've found most chasers to be a good bunch of people overall. Yes, there are some over-inflated egos...but I've found that this is exhibited generally by younger guys, who will probably mellow as they gather more age and life experiences. There are also a whole lot of fun people....and the type of fun folks that I really enjoy....guys and gals willing to push the envelope a bit in pursuit of their passion. To me.....nothing's more rewarding than after a chase to run into a group of other chasers in a dingy little bar next to the motel and swap chase stories while swilling a few beers. It's the best!
All this being said...I plead with you all on bended knee....please consider keeping the politics / political correctness out of chasing. Let this forum die a natural death...then run a stake thru it's heart.
I believe that experiencing a severe thunderstorm grow from infancy to maturity, with all it's attendant sounds, smells, and sights, provides more than enough visual stimuli to keep a person occupied. It's too bad though, that some folks watching this incredible opera also feel the need to take a racial headcount of the others around him / her.
Would it be fair to say that most of us were introduced to storm chasing by a friend? (There seems to be a fair amount of "can I ride along and learn" among us newbies.) So perhaps the answer is that caucasian storm chasers are not talking about or inviting friends of other ethnicity to the activity (perhaps because they don't HAVE any/many). I think THAT is where it starts.

Darren Addy
Kearney, NE
I'm a newbie chaser and about to go on my first chase vacation to the plains this Monday. I also am an ethnic minority in this country being east Indian. At the same time I was born and raised in Indiana and refer to myself as an American when I am abroad.

I have only been through the plains once. It was last year when I was driving through Kansas on I-70 to go backpacking in Colordao. Unfortunately, my experience driving through was not so pleasant. I was pulled over twice in Western Kansas within two hours of each other. The first time I admit was purely justifiable since i was driving 10 miles/hour over speed limit. The officer was cordial and gave me the ticket which I deserved. Having got one ticket already I was making sure that I was driving under the speed limit the rest of the trip. About two hours later farther into western Kansas a polic car comes up next to my car, the officer looks at me and my friend who also happens to be Indian and then pulls us over. He comes up to us and tells us we were swerving our car (which I do not believe we were) and wanted to make sure we weren't intoxicated. Meanwhile another cop car comes as well to the scene. Both officers converse and then ask us if we have any drugs or weapons in our car and then make us step out and search us and the vehicle. It was quite an intimidating situation. After going through our bags in the trunk and looking through the car they let us drive on without incident.

I think one can make many conjectures on why we were stopped and searched. Was it because we were both two 24-year olds driving a nice car? Was it because we looked different than most people who live in west Kansas? Did they think we were potential terrorists? Or maybe the police officer really beileved we were swerving the vehicle? Regardless the reason, I'm not sure I would want to chase in the plains byself, especially in backroads. Its a very unnerving feeling to be powerless and at the mercy of a police officer for no obvious reason especailly when you are far from home and know nobody nearby to help if the situation were to get worse.

I definitely don't think that everyone in the plains are suspicious of minorities and I imagine that most people are very friendly; but at the same time my experience has left me a little apprehensive. However, my fascination with severe weather is stronger than any mild apprehension I have. I'm lucky enough to have other more experieced chasers let me join them and teach me next week. I am looking forward to chasing supercells which we don't see to often in Indiana, and hopefully seeing my first tornado.

Just out of curiostiy, I wouild like to know if any chasers have had their cars searched in the past.

I was pulled over on 06/01/01 by a state pooper (I mean trooper lol) for exceeding the speed limit slightly :lol: and the guy was less than "nice". He saw all the equippment in my car and asked me to open my bags, I did revealing my Asthma inhaler, immediately I was asked if I had a prescription for it, (I thought dude, you've got to be kidding me) I said yes and he rightfully left wrote me my ticket, gave me a quick speech and I was on my way. I believe what Jesal experienced when he was pulled over the 2nd time by a cop in Kansas was definitely racial profiling. Its very easy for a cop to say someone was swerving just so he/she could pull them over and snoop (gonna be kinda hard for the "suspect" to prove he wasn't swerving) unless you can somehow get ahold of the cops inside dash video. 1st he (the cop) tried to see if he could "get" Jesal for DUI and when that didnt work he asked to search the vehicle for drugs/weapons, I'm not trying to politicise this but come on, seems like the cop was definitely doing some fishing (from what Jesal wrote). I myself do not discriminate when chasing based on color, race, handicap, gender etc. as long as your not a "snob" etc. I'll chase with ya. Don't let your experience in Kansas stop you from chasing the plains/midwest Jesal, you'll be missing a whole lot of awsome storms if you do.Also, I have had many, many positive experiences when encountering members of the law enforcement community while chasing/spotting, don't want to seem biased against all police, most are awsome folks!(just a few irritated me) lol.
Thanks everyone for keeping this thread courteous.

I had earlier considered retracting my post, as stereotyping becomes inevitable in any public thread about ethnicity and culture. It's also not a politically correct subject, as others have pointed out. I don't think that alone precludes a discussion on it (after all, we are a scientifically-minded group), but if the thread becomes a hot potato I'll go ahead and lock it.

Tim, a very interesting subject and something I've wondered about for a long time. I'm not sure I have the answer really.

I think to get the answer (or something approaching one), you might have to look farther than chasing itself.

Take NASCAR for example. It's basically an all white organization. Being the series is no longer restricted to the South and thus no longer a "redneck" sport, you'd think there would be a few black drivers. But evidently, African-Americans have little interest in auto racing. That goes for racing in general.

Now, think about sky diving. Pretty much 99% of sjydivers I've seen are white.

How many African-American bungee jumpers have you seen?

What about white water rafting?

I'm really not sure this is an answer, nor could I define what the cause is, but perhaps when it comes to thrill seeking and risky activities, maybe white people are more inherently attracted to such activities? I'm not suggesting that storm chasers are thrill seekers or dare devils exactly. But it's definately a high octane hobby.

In addition, maybe various ethnic groups have more or less interest in things of a scientific nature. I'm not sure what the breakdown would be, but if you could compare how many blacks, hispanics, whites, etc work in scientific related fields, I think you'd find that whites take greater interest.

So I really don't know. It's probably a combination of things. But for now, I believe it's mainly interest and geography, perhaps combined with some sort of inner drive variances among different ethnic groups. That's about all I can put my finger on.

I had earlier considered retracting my post. . .

I'm glad you didn't. I think most people tread cautiously, fearing that they might say something in the wrong way and cause offense. This isn't political correctness, it is called "courtesy".

I have to say, however, that when I saw your subject line I thought you were expanding Stormtrack to other continents (as with the recent China storms). I'm not sure if I were black and born in America I would refer to myself as "African" and the same probably goes for "Asian". Again, not political correctness, just correctness.

Darren Addy
Kearney, NE
I have chased a few times with a african-american named Justin. He is a undergrad in Met @ OU. He is undoubtly one of the smartest guys I have ever talked to. He is way ahead of most of the people in his class. As for chasing, he seemed to like it a lot when we went out.

As for anyone else I have chased with... yep.. all white.
I'm glad this thread was brought up. I'd like to respectfully disagree with the wishes to stop the discussion. Right now, this thread is merely observation and hypothesis -- two very scientific ideas. If it became a discussion of ways to make things more "equal" or how white people suck, etc, then I'd be all for stopping it.

As for my own views, this isn't something I've really considered. I grew up in a small town that was almost exclusively white...either poor farmers/laborers or very well-off execs worked in Louisville (KY). I am by no means a racist, but I just don't notice when there are few minorities because that's what I'm used to. Reading some of the other posts has given me pause for thought.

I don't believe it is entirely an economic phenomenon. After all, as someone mentioned earlier, it seems a lot of chasers are poor...and if not poor, certainly not rich. However, I'd bet a lot of the chasers who started in the last 10 years began in college (or because of "Twister"...but lets not go there) , so that could possibly reflect economic status. I'm more inclined, however, to think it is largely a matter of geography. The Ohio River valley gets its share of severe weather, and that's a big part of what got me hooked. It's no coincidence that many chasers grew up in severe weather-prone regions...regions that also happen to be rather WASPish.

Not to open a can of worms, but race is not the only method of identifying people, although it is the most visually obvious. I'd be interested to see how chasers breakdown by income/wealth, intelligence, political philosophy (ignoring the polls in "everything else"), religious beliefs, etc.

I'm more inclined, however, to think it is largely a matter of geography. The Ohio River valley gets its share of severe weather, and that's a big part of what got me hooked. It's no coincidence that many chasers grew up in severe weather-prone regions...regions that also happen to be rather WASPish.

I agree with Ben. Geography probably plays a huge role in meteorological interests. Places that have "boring" weather don't tend to spawn many chasers, whereas Tornado Alley spawns them by the dozen. So maybe the place to look would be the demography of the places that receive the most severe weather. You probably won't find many Latino chasers, for example, because many of them live in the Southwest, which isn't exactly known for its exciting weather. We might be trying to read too much into this whole thing. Perhaps it's all dependent on location.

Well, here's the answer: All of us white chasers should agree to "reach out" to minorities.......and inform them that we invite them to chase tornadoes...that we give them our personal permission to do so. Oh yessssss.....we'll all feel really warm and fuzzy....because we did the right thing.
But let's not stop here. Because we have an overwhelming majority of whites that currently chase....or as others in this thread have put it...."waspy" and "mighty white out there" we'll need to penalize those white chasers in some form or another. Perhaps we can deny them access to the target zone live wx. forums in S.T. for a certain amount of time. Or better yet.....insist that they wear the electronic ankle bracelets that will keep them pinned within 50 miles of their homes on high risk days.
Now, I realize that these proposed penalties may seem somewhat severe. But...it's high time this chaser "community" realizes the problems that are festering within.....and we need to take action accordingly...before these racial imbalances reach a boiling point. And be advised....these edits are just one of the many benefits that can be enjoyed by all once we chasers agree to organize and unite. Ohhh, it'll be great. Rules and regs and political correctness that will rival the most stringent homeowner associations.
Um, Joel? Relax.

Honestly, I've never given much thought to the subject - until now, that is. A general lack of minority chasers, I can understand, but for them to be practically non-existent does seem a bit strange. In the end, it's probably just a matter of Tornado Alley demographics.

And, admittedly, potential non-white chasers may look at the community and see it for the "white guys only" club it is (intentional or not, such is the reality), and thus feel less inclined to join in the fun. After all, consider how few women chase - even today. The situation may very well be analogous.
Joel. Calm down. Seriously. You're reading a lot more into this than anyone has said. We're all just making observations here. I haven't seen anyone say that its wrong that chasers are mostly white...only that its interesting. Let's not turn this into a flame war with a bunch of sarcasm. If you can't participate in calm, rational discussion, then don't.

I think sociologists are missing out on a big opportunity here. Studying storm chasers could teach us a lot about society. I think the same could be said for the other adrenaline-related hobbies mentioned: racing, bungee jumping, etc. Here's another question to ponder? What's the racial breakdown of chasers in other countries? I imagine there aren't nearly as many chasers in other parts of the world, but we have several countries represented here on ST. Knowing admittedly little about the racial composition of other countries, is the racial breakdown of chasers similar? Different? Not comparable due to the societal racial breakdown?