It’s official: Sharks are racist.

I always wondered about this. I mean, why is it the great white shark? What’s so great about it? It’s not the biggest shark. The biggest shark is the whale shark, which can grow to 60 feet. The biggest great white only got to 20 feet. The International Shark Attack File lists the great white shark as having the most attacks on humans, but that seems a dubious distinction and not really so great.

Maybe the great white shark just had a really good press agent when Adam and Eve got around to naming sharks. In any case, in light of the latest study, maybe it’s time to rename this animal. Maybe it should be the not-so-great white shark. Probably the best thing to do is to drop the white part of its name, since white is bad, and call it something else. It’s only white on the bottom and grey on top. Perhaps the great grey shark would be more suitable.

This topic comes up because a new study has been released indicating that Shark Week lacks diversity, featuring mostly white male scientists. The study was done by Lisa Whitenack, an associate professor at Allegheny College. She has always loved sharks and watched Shark Week every year growing up.

 Image: Great white shark. YouTube screen grab.

However, over time, Whitenack became concerned because the scientists were all men. Whitenack said, “I don’t come from a family of scientists. I didn’t see very many people that looked like me on television.” I would say I wonder how Jacques Cousteau was able to invent the first scuba equipment to film underwater because there were no scientists on TV when he was a little boy (or TV, for that matter), but that might be insensitive.

Somehow Lisa Whitenack became a scientist even though her TV did not support her career choice. To rectify that injustice, she studied hundreds of “Shark Week” episodes that aired between 1988 and 2020. It was worse than Whitenack feared. Not only were the scientists overwhelmingly white men, but a disproportionate number of them were named “Mike.”

Clearly, something must be done, but what? Considering that the most famous shark is the great white shark, it’s possible sharks are just racists who prefer white men named Mike to document their activities. If that’s the case, who’s going to get in the water and argue with them?

Pandra Selivanov is the author of Future Slave, a story about a 21st century black teenager who goes back in time and becomes a slave in the old south.

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