Unnatural State of Mind

Contributed by Roger Porter, who discovers something amiss during his recent trip to the beach with his daughter. He shares a thought provoking perspective. Please leave a comment below with your reactions.

Today I found myself at Natural Bridges State Park near Santa Cruz, CA. Natural Bridges is the perfect place to go on a warm spring day because of its magnificent beach and the breathtaking views. The people are beautiful too, and they seemed to represent every corner of the world…every corner except mine. I realized as I was showing my daughter the amazing tide pools at the park that outside of us there were no other black people there.

Santa Cruz, CA

The beach was really crowded as a matter of fact. There were Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos, French people, Mexicans, Whites, Asians, but no black folk to be seen. I thought to myself maybe it’s because Santa Cruz has a very small African-American population, but as we walked through the park I heard several different languages being spoken and I smelled a very diverse array of ethnic foods being cooked on the grill. It became pretty clear that everyone there was not from Santa Cruz proper or even the surrounding area.

The lack of blackness at the beach puzzled me a bit. I can’t understand how a group of people who lived on the coast of Africa for thousands and thousands of years, unlearned loving the beach so quickly. And it isn’t just the beach either. It’s also understood that hiking, and camping are extremely uncool things for black people to do (incidentally I enjoy doing all of these activities regularly). How did this happen? How did appreciating the beauty of the Earth become strictly forbidden for the Earths original people?

I can’t give a very thorough answer to that question; however, I know it has a lot to do with the legacy of slavery and segregation. I know a large part of institutionalized racism is confining an oppressed group to a certain space and disallowing them to ever come out. That’s what ghettos, barrios, shantytowns, and favelas are all about and today was proof as to how effective those constructs have become. After a while people don’t even try to leave their boundaries. Not even on a gorgeous Saturday in the liberal state of California.

It was a very nice day at the beach though. We saw starfish, crabs, and jellyfish, built a sand castle and played in the water until close to sunset. I made it a point that we were among the last people to leave just to represent because after all, you know how we do— LOL.

Roger Porter is a writer and educator from Oakland, CA USA whose first book, “The Souls of Hood Folk,” is available at lulu.com. He has a degree in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. He describes himself as “An average everyday man from East Oakland who writes about average everyday hood life.”

3 Thoughts on “Unnatural State of Mind”

  • Great op-ed. I was born and raised on the east coast CT where people sail swim and practically live at he beach from May to early September bc of our harsh winters.When I moved to California a year ago i thought I’d spend my weekends being a beach bum…but N.Cali is an exception. It’s very cold, hardly beach weather– and aside from not knowing where the beaches are yet…until now– that has been my excuse.

    I’ll be sure to make an appearance there soon! I haven’t explored santa cruz yet.

  • I sure hope you do visit the coastline – since that is what I think of instead of “beach”, but Santa Cruz can definitely satisfy that California Dreaming impulse. Just about an hour drive out of the SF area (with no traffic).

    Also check out Half Moon Bay, where you’ll find die-hard surfers taking waves…

    Thanks for your comment!


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