‘On December 1, 1955, Mrs Rosa Parks refused to move when she was asked to get up and move back by the bus operator. Mrs Parks was sitting in the first seat in the unreserved section. All of the seats were taken, and if Mrs Parks had followed the command of the bus operator she would have stood up and given up her seat for a male white passenger, who had just boarded the bus. In a quiet, calm, dignified manner, so characteristic of the radiant personality of Mrs Parks, she refused to move. The result was her arrest.’ – Martin Luther King
The image of Rosa Parks protesting for the rights of herself and fellow black people in Alabama is infamous, but change most definitely did not happen in one day. What is easily forgotten is that following that event that caused such a huge media explosion, black people in Montgomery refused to use the buses that drove them many miles on a daily basis, to and from work, for over a year until they were desegregated. It was only after this act of solidarity that real change was made.
Fast forward to 2015, and after the news that DSTRKT nightclub in London’s West End refused entry to a group of black women as they were ‘too dark’ and ‘too fat,’ the black community in the UK is left outraged. Images and videos of protests outside the venue were splashed across twitter and other social media, but is that really enough to create change? Here is why I know it is necessary that we must boycott DSTRKT.
A Quick History lesson
…And no, not the one students will/should get in the classroom in October for Black History Month. I’m talking about the history of you and your boys/girls getting together a few weeks, months or even years back, preparing for a night out. Remember that night when your mates decided it would be ‘extra fleeky’ to get dressed up and travel to the West End to have a night popping bottles of Grey Goose? Remember how you had to tell one of your male friends that the dresscode is strict, so maybe they should wear smarter shoes than pradas in case the bouncers enforce a strict ‘no trainers’ rule? Remember how in the queue, you/your male friends had to look around in panic to find a group of white girls to enter with?
If this doesn’t reflect an experience of yours, I am sure it has effected someone you know. Or if not, let me inform you that this is a regular occurrence for young black people in London. The sad thing is when I first read the article in the Voice regarding what happened to Zalika Miller and her beautiful friends on a night out (below), my first question was ‘is this news?’ I’m 23, and it only took me a few months into being 18 for me to realise certain clubs have a certain ‘aesthetic’ they want to uphold. For example In 2012, the only way my ex-partner and his friends could gain entry into a club in Clapham on New Years Eve was through knowing a woman who worked inside. And even then we were rushed and panicked to get there at a time to guarantee she could get us in!
Furthermore, having spoken to my friends, this is far from an isolated incident. So it made me think: why was this such a shock? Maybe it was the screenshots that took it too far. Within a conversation Zalika Miller, an up and coming actress, had with a (black) club promoter by the name of Marcus, he told her in no uncertain terms ‘they only want to let to two mixed race girls in.’ After the girls were asked to stand against a wall so they could be
racially profiled judged worthy of entry, Marcus then went on to say that allowing entry to overweight girls would make him ‘loose his job.’
But again, this profiling is far from new. All you have to do is type in ‘DSTRKT’ on google to find trip advisor reviews stating that people are ‘Shocked by [their] openly racist door policy.’ So again what made this different? Perhaps we were all feeling collectively riled up after watching Reggie Yates: Race Riots USA on BBC3 that evening. Or then again, maybe this just reflects our modern society; we will play ignorant to apparent racism and discrimination until it is literally put under our noses. Another incident this story echoes is the huge uproar surrounding fellow blogger Simone (@HairIsSimba) being told to ‘lose the braids or lose the job.’ Thousands of women took to social media to share their similar experiences, begging the question why do we need one isolated incident to hit social media before we call for change?
Whatever the reason, one thing we can confirm is people can no longer claim to be blind to the racism that is apparent on the club’s doorstep. But as I’ve said before, this isn’t isolated to DSTRKT. Plenty of clubs in London’s West End, Clapham and even Essex have similar policies that you will be able to see once you gain the privilege of walking through their doors. If we are honest with ourself, this is something we have had to facilitate for years; from being selective about the ratio of men to women in your group before reaching the clubbing, to begging Billy, your best white friend, to come for the night out to guarantee entry.
What do we need to do?
Now we have moved past the history lesson, its time to look to the future. But how can this possibly change? A twitter storm and media coverage of the protests is effective in the short term; so effective in fact that it made it onto BBC News. But how effective are they really in the long run, and do they really get justice? If Ferguson is anything to go by, we can see that creating a scene doesn’t equate justice.
Now, at times like this I almost feel bad for DSTRKT. I mean, they never said that black people couldn’t enter… just not dark ones or overweight ones . As a desperate attempt to play the ‘I’m not racist because’ card, DSTRKT tweeted this image which was instantly picked up on by black twitter users.
Painful, isn’t it? What DSTRKT need to understand is posting a picture of a semi-nude black woman isn’t the best way to prove race equality. But then again, there was one woman of colour who stood their corner. Karrueche, the woman that made being an ex a job description, still attended the event after meeting protesters face on outside. As shallow as it might sound, Karrueche made one of the most telling and profound statements of the evening by describing the events as “unfortunate” as “I’m half African-American too. I have godsisters and family who have darker skin as well. I don’t support any sort of discrimination. I love people for who they are”… but then followed by attending the event and cashing her cheque.
That right there says it all. Whether we like it or not, DSTRKT is a business, and just like them selling cheap vodka in Grey Goose bottles for a profit: it’s immoral, but if it makes them money they do not care. That is why it is imperative that if you do not like how something is run, you don’t just complain about it, you follow through by refusing to give them money. This cannot hurt a business if one or two people refuse to do so; but if every young black person AND every white person with black friends refused to go to DSTRKT (and the likes of) until they removed their discriminatory door policy, they would have to change. Heck, it might even lead to an impromptu ‘hip hop/urban night.’
But in all seriousness, here is the alternative: we complain yet still seek their approval and give them our money, making us as hypocritical as a health conscious animal loving vegan going to Macdonalds and buying a Big Mac. And really, what are we missing?
So in conclusion, we must stand together. If the whole of Montgomery’s black community can refuse to travel by bus, through sun, rain and snow, for a whole year, we can avoid stunting in a club that still enforces inequality and cultural appropriation. It’s this simple: don’t give money to the clubs that will play black music but will refuse to give entry to your brothers, sisters or friends, for if you do you are confirming that we don’t see ourselves as being worthy of being treated as equal. Instead, if you are black, brown, white, blue or green and are against racism, do not give money to racist clubs, brands or businesses. The power is in the £ people, and if they don’t listen to your cries for justice, wait to hear them crying over their bank balance.
With love from London,