Racism On The Doors of British Nightclubs
From the clothes people wear to the music they love, what is remarkable is the absolute domination of ‘ black cultural chic’ on the catwalks and on the dance floors of the world. It is remarkable and largely unacknowledged that British, African and Caribbean youth along with their African American cousins have culturally colonised the entire globe. The clothes, the language, the dance moves of youth across the world is dominated by black youth culture. Black is not just cool, its uber cool to the point of freezing.
Of course such cultural assets should translate into economic success and in America we have seen the emergence of mega hip hop business empires and clubs, run by black people, employing black people, even if they end up looking remarkably similar to the tired ‘gangster’ stereotypes of the major recording labels.
Here in the UK we are way behind the US and from the gentrification of Brixton to national average of 60% black youth unemployment we experience economic and cultural appropriation on a scale reminiscent of 1970’s America.
Nightclubs, those supposed bastions of multiculturalism, are a case in point. They blast black music, they usually employ some black DJ’s, bar staff and of course doormen, but take a long look at their cleintele… At many of the top clubs across the country, club managements are operating apartheid-like door policies that regulate the number of black people in their clubs at anyone time. Clubs scenes in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, and London to name but a few, all suffer to some extent from this cultural apartheid.
Black people understand what it’s like to be robbed, 500 years of slavery and colonialism means we’re conditioned to being robbed and rejected. However, this is cultural appropriation at its worst. Whites want to dress like us, they even try and speak like us, they rave to our music, but don’t expect to get in these clubs in big numbers. Club owners are telling their doormen not to let in too many blacks. Nothing is written down and all is done through informal mechanisms, but everyone knows the score.
Of course, it is illegal to discriminate, but many British businesses continue to discriminate having learned to camouflage their prejudice through other means.
In Leicester this week we have yet another example of this informal ‘Club Colour Bar’. Going out clubbing in 2015 you will see scenes reminiscent of Britain in the 1950’s with scores of black youth being told ‘sorry you can’t come in’. The Ghost Nightclub in Leicester, is the latest club whose dirty little secret was exposed last week. University student Kosi Orah and his friends were denied entry into the Club on Sunday 17th May after a bouncer told him the venue was operated a ‘race quota’ .
The whole event was captured on video and the doorman is clearly heard expressing the management view. Of course the club has since apologised and claimed as one would expect, that it did not operate any such policy. The reality is, lurking under these routine denials of racism, many nightclubs, in some of the most diverse cities in the UK, operate a Club Colour Bar.
They are not alone. In London, there have been a string of accusations from Black club goers that in Mayfair, the West End and Soho they are facing similar racism when going for a night out. Underground DJ Snips, who regularly appears on the music channel Jump Off TV, spoke in 2011 of being told that ‘black people were not welcome at the Whisky Mist club.’
In 2012, Tiger Tiger nightclub in Croydon sacked DJ RSI, after he went public in stating that a General Manager had told him ‘there’s too many black people in your room’. More recently Libertines, formerly Chinawhites, was exposed when a London fashion blogger, Fiaso Longe, and her party of black women, were refused entry. When asked why they could not get in, they were told by a white manager: ‘maybe because you’re black, but there are some black people inside, probably because you’re not good looking enough.’
Reading the online responses to these type of incidents on many blog sites, it’s clear that black young people are being de4nied entry by Club owners in much the same was that their parents were. Communities such as the Travellers, who were refused entry en masse by a north London Witherspoons pub, were recently awarded £24,000 compensation after a judge found they faced ‘direct discrimination’.
In his judgement, Judge Hand QC said the thinking of the then-manager of the pub was “suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go”.
The judge added:
“In my judgment this is racial stereotyping of those with that ethnic origin.”
It can be reduced to this crude proposition: whenever Irish Travellers and English Gypsies go to public houses, violent disorder is inevitable because that is how they behave”.
However we must also bear some responsibility, when the reality is, so many of us collude with this racism. Many DJ’s, bar staff and doormen know what’s going on and prefer to keep quiet and take the cash. Black celebrities, footballers, models, actors, and MPs flock to these exclusive havens of white privilege and revel in their exclusivity, wearing such restricted access like a badge of honour. Black punters still queue relentlessly to get in despite knowing the real deal.
Unless there is a real push from local authorities under the Licensing Act then nothing will change. The culture of discrimination in nightclubs need to be smashed. It’s an anathema in 21st century Britain that a cultural apartheid can operate with such impunity. Nightclubs can legally refuse entry for any reason and this untrammelled power means they legally discriminate against black people. I believe that if any club is found to be discriminating whether informally or formally, they should lose their licence automatically.
But it is also true that we as a community need to target these clubs, and more of their patrons need to start speaking up and exposing this cultural apartheid that infests the night time economy of many of our great cities.
Black youth are this country’s future and that we continue to allow this type of racism to continue for so long is a disgrace. It’s time we took action.