Oh, you Fancy, huh? Not fancy enough for Racism though

Posted: November 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You boys lost?

Sooooo. For all you post-racial America cheerleaders, more bad news. Your team appears to be losing. Badly. Like Redskins getting pounded by Mike Vick badly. So apparently, after the annual Harvard-Yale game, ground zero for the elite (black, white, Asian, and other) of this country and the world, a group of black students and alums from Harvard threw a little afterparty at a new club called Cure in Boston. Now, I attended one of these Harvard Yale afterparties in ’08 when I was in grad school (At neither one of these prestigious institutions, mind you) and it was a fine time. Great crowd, lots of fun, and they were pouring Patron doubles for $12. Probably the best time I’d had a club setting in Boston. Here’s the article from Jezebel

A party for black Harvard and Yale alums at a Boston club this weekend was shut down just after 11pm. Why? The club owner was concerned that a long line of black people outside would make the club look bad.

A group of recent graduates had sold tickets in advance for a party at a new Boston club, Cure, to follow Saturday’s Harvard-Yale game. By 10:30pm, though, club management freaked out and claimed it had seen “local gang bangers” around, despite the strict guest-list policy implemented by organizers. At first they demanded that guests show student ID — not exactly practical given the fact that it was a party aimed at alums — and then eventually shut down the entire club.

“We were perceived as a threat because of our skin color,” wrote one organizer, Michael Beal, in the email below. “I am further dismayed that after having spent the last few hours with the club owner, I do not believe him to be a racist; which only adds to my consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country.”

It echoed a firestorm three years ago, on the other side of the Charles River. In May 2007, called by other students, Harvard University Police asked students at a gathering of black Harvard student organizations on a campus green to show ID. That sparked an independent review and a police restructuring.

OK. Fair enough. Not too different from the story last year of the Chicago club that wouldn’t let the one black fella in because his “jeans were too baggy” and in an epic experiment in double standards, switched pants with a white student, who was let right on in. You and I have been out on the town before. We know this happens all the time.
But it’s not a news story when this happens usually. What makes this particular incident newsworthy is the addition of the phrase “Harvad and Yale” students. If this was “group of UMCP black students” or “group of employed working class black folk” denied entry, no one would bat an eyelid. The reason this story has legs is not just because of the Ivy League slant, but to some degree what it says about elitism, race relations, and class structures in America and Black America.
Here’s why. The Ivy halo is what makes this outrageous because it implies that these were “good” blacks denied admission because of their race. Having Harvard or Yale next to your name is supposed to suggest that you’re unassailable, a different kind of black person from the hoi polloi starting fights, cursing loudly, and assailing white women. Let’s be honest, People are mad because it takes away the justification of racism.
But if they weren’t the “black elite”, in a lot of people’s minds, the justification would be there. Take out the Harvard and Yale and just describe them as a group of black clubgoers and the mental image shifts from Carlton Banks
To something more along the lines of these gentlemen:

I'm on the guestlist. T-Killa plus four

Now, let’s be honest. Do you really want “these gentlemen” at your club? The liberal in you will probably come up with some justification that these fellas are no ore prone to violence, antisocial behavior, or street harassment than any other race of men. But the conservative in you sees these guys in the line, and you decide to turn in early tonight.
Now in truth, the only connecting thread between the above pictures is race. That’s about it. These people have probably almost nothing else in common. But this is where it gets difficult. White people tend to have a very clear level of social stratification. I rarely see townies from South Boston (a violent breed of goon if ever one existed) kicking it on Newbury and mixing with the Harvard crowd. It’s just not done. With us, there’s a bit more social mixing between the classes. I thought this was an extremely interesting comment from the Jezebel article to give the situation a bit more context, agree or disagree:
Reading this article, I can understand why people are so upset and are labeling the club management as racist. However, I think that some background information is essential here.  

In its previous incarnation, Cure Lounge was known as ‘Aria’. Aria was a hugely popular venue for black crowds, among them black gang members. There was frequent gang-related violence in the club, and ultimately a gang-related shooting forced the closure of Aria.

Not all black people are violent gang members, just as not all Muslims are suicide bombers and not all Jews are money hungry. Unfortunately we live in a world where there are always a few bad eggs, and the bad eggs can spoil things for a group as a whole.

In this case, the club owners have had a very bad experience with a small group of people who belong to a particular minority, and that bad experience led to the closure of the club and a loss of revenue for several years. I don’t think that shutting down this event was the right thing to do, but I can understand why they would be so cautious about wanting to convey the right image with the re-opening of their club.

Having lived in Boston for a number of years and attended the clubs these people own, I can attest to the fact that the owners are NOT racist. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: the owners and the staff at these clubs are made up primarily of minorities – there are Jews and Muslims on their staff; people from Israel, people from the Middle East, and yes: black people. Even Michael admits in his letter that he does not believe the owners are racist.

I think the real issue here is one that has always existed and is incredibly difficult to deal with: there is no good way to discern whether an individual is a security threat or not. There was a legitimate fear (based in experience) that black gang members may have seen a large number of black people outside the club as an invitation to return there themselves; and as tight as Michael’s guest list may have been, people do find ways to crash parties.

As Michael mentioned in his letter, better communication with club management would likely have prevented this issue; however the club will also have to think carefully about how they deal with security in the future, and how they prevent gang members from getting in to their establishment without being perceived as racist. It’s a complex problem and I would hate to be in their shoes, but I do not believe for a moment that this was racially motivated.

If anybody has any constructive criticism or suggestions as to how to keep gang members from entering clubs, please post them – I’m not sure how I would go about solving a problem like that.

Read more: http://jezebel.com/5696308/club-mistakes-black-harvard-crowd-for-local-gangbangers#ixzz167Ei0700

I wrote a piece a while back about Class warfare. Two pieces actually. Our Kind of people vs. You all
The first is probably more germane to the topic of hand as I explained why uppity blacks hate it when non-uppity blacks crash their wine and cheese parties. Kind of like the email that the Harvard Yale promoter sent out:

Dear friends,

On behalf of Brandon, Kwame, myself and Triumph as an organization I want to profusely apologize for the ordeal you were put through tonight with the club shutting the party down at 11:15PM. Please know that we are working with event-brite to refund every person who purchased a ticket for tonight’s event as soon as possible. Asides from an apology I believe it is important to be completely transparent about what occurred tonight and what we are doing about it. I apologize for the verbose nature of the email, and hope that you will take the time to read it in its entirety.

What Happened?

At approximately 10:30PM club management called the owner to say that they saw individuals on line whom they recognized as “local gang bangers” (their words not mine). In response to this, the club owner directed the bouncers to only let individuals with a Harvard or Yale ID in to the club. At this point Kwame and I argued that no alumnus would have his or her expired college ID with them and reiterated that the reason we did the party on a pre-sold basis with strict admittance based solely on the guest list was to guarantee that the only attendees were Harvard and Yale alumni, grad students and their close friends and to ensure that no “bad seeds” could contaminate our party. However, given that this was the club’s opening weekend, the owner was particularly sensitive to anything going wrong.

At approximately 10:45, after we won the argument concerning the amazing quality of our crowd and the strictness of our guest list, management began letting people in but then became worried that as our crowd waited in line it could attract the attention of “local gang bangers” passing by who would try to gain entrance to our party. Furthermore, they feared that if these individuals were turned away for not being on the guest list they could hypothetically cause problems with the bouncers outside of the club and draw negative attention to the establishment. Despite the fact that our Friday night party went off without a hitch and had no problems when we turned people away from the door for not being on our list, management decided to shut the party down as to avoid the hypothetical chance of attracting the “wrong crowd” (again their words not mine). In spite of our attempts to reason with them, we were left in a position where despite agreeing with our logic, the decision had been made and we were left powerless

Please be assured that we are working with event-brite to refund every person who purchased a ticket for tonight’s event as soon as possible. To those who gained entrance and wasted their money on cabs and drinks at the bar I am extremely sorry. As anyone who knows us understands, the only reason we created Triumph was to foster an environment where educated individuals (black and non-black) can congregate knowing that they are amongst like-minded persons. As a Harvard Business School student I am annoyed by the financial loss we will record as a result of the club’s rash decision. As a Harvard college alum I am angry that my college roommate flew in from Los Angeles and my teammate from San Francisco and were denied the opportunity to reconnect with old friends on our homecoming weekend. However, as a black man, these emotions are trumped by an arduous feeling of sadness that regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, Law, Medical, Business and PhD students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color. I am further dismayed that after having spent the last few hours with the club owner, I do not believe him to be a racist; which only adds to my consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country.

Kwame and I thought that we had taken every precaution to ensure that this night would go on without incident but have learned a valuable lesson from this. We usually go through painstaking detail to be explicit and transparent about our crowd as to have no surprises the day of the event. We did not do that in this case as we thought Harvard and Yale alumni and Graduate students spoke for its self. We also did not negotiate directly with the owner but rather used a booking agent to secure this beautiful club before it opened to the public. These are lessons learned and we will never make these mistakes again if we ever do another event.

Over the next days and weeks we will work with the club’s management and Harvard student groups to ensure that this does not happen to others in the future. Again, I am sorry for and embarrassed by what happened tonight. We will keep you posted as things progress and appreciate the support you have shown us over the last five years of Triumph. We have sent this email to all those who purchased tickets via event-brite but realize we are missing many email addresses of those affected by tonight. If you know of others who should receive this email please forward it to them. If there is anything I can do to help in the future please feel free to reach out to me or Kwame directly.

Sincerely,

Michael Beal (Harvard ’06, HBS ’12), Kwame Owusu-Kesse (Harvard ’06, HBS ’12, HKS ’12) and Brandon Terry (Harvard ’05, Oxford ’07, Yale PhD ’12)

Now, I ain’t no big city lawyer, but there seems to be a great deal of subtext in this email that because the party consisted of Harvard and Yale alums, there was an understanding that the crowd would be suitable enough for white people to forgive their blackness. The phrase “contaminate our party”  I think speaks volumes to the idea that the promoters thought of themselves as “the good blacks” and everyone else as “those other n****s.” And the good blacks, their status being evident through their educational credentials, should not have to suffer the stereotypes or racism those other n****s have to deal with. Because they’ve earned their way out of it. While non-ivy blacks should be viewed skeptically and watched and monitored, a certain class of elite blacks shouldn’t.

Am I wrong here, or was that in fact the tone of the email. Discuss.
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Comments
  1. Dawnavette says:

    Excellent post!!!!!!!!!! I found out about this story yesterday from you & @WrittenByBene. Perhaps I am overly-passionate,but while in agreement with every word you typed, the Black Ivy-Leauge promoter really pissed me off. The nerve that in 2010 he would assume his degrees/ educational and career accomplishments would trump racial profiling & discrimination?!? Narrow-minded and delusional Brothas are just as embarrassing of a set-back as “bad seeds” trying to wreck a party. Great post!

  2. Anon says:

    Interesting. Seems to parallel the Juan Williams stereotyping (which also seems to contradict Juan Williams earlier defense of black people of all class levels).

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Najeema, jadabradley and Alisha L. Gordon, Vitamin D. Vitamin D said: IRT @farajiftw: My take on the Harvard Yale brouhaha: http://bit.ly/gnnqsg #classwarfare #velvetrope #elitism […]

  4. Fishwood says:

    You are wrong that this story has legs. I came across it while passing through Twitter and have yet to see it, even after searching, in the mainstream media I visit nor in my corner of the blogosphere. Your entry was the first hit. It ought to, but so far it doesn’t.

    • Wow! says:

      Actually, Fishwood, you will find it at least on MSNBC and the Huffington Post. It is taking a bit of time, but the story has legs.

      I think in general, we as a people should stop being surprised or annoyed by our own classism. We are no different than any other people group on the planet in that regard. These people are not gangbangers, they do not associate with gangbangers, and being black does not make them potential gangbangers. The actions of the club owner were reprehensible. Yes, the alumni should be able to assume that their degrees and school association, along with a very discrete guest list and PAID, TICKETED guests should have afforded them some level of respect and benefit of the doubt. Of course, this is Boston, for Pete’s sake, and all of that means nothing. I can remember feeling very out of place in that city, and never going anywhere while there on business without taking a white co-worker with me. I felt as though it was very clear that I was traveling in areas where I “didn’t belong”. I don’t think I was being paranoid; I was just that uncomfortable with how I was received and spoken to in more than one venue. Certifications, MBA, resume – none of that meant anything to the man who shook several hands but pointedly ignored mine, or the woman who followed me in the piano store, or the waitress first claimed she didn’t hear me order and then showed up with everyone’s food except mine after a 1/2 hour wait (kudos to my co-workers; we walked out as a group).

      This story will grow, and it will not be good for Cure Lounge.

  5. Chuck says:

    My dude.. Whats up man.. Glad you posted this cause i would have not have seen otherwise. This story hits home on a couple of different fronts, but not what you think. First, I’m from the “streets” of Boston, 2) Ivy league educated, and 3) I know Kwanme, Michael, and been to Triumph parties in NYC. (and i used to club at Aria before it was shut down.. so i know the issues surrounding the all levels of the story (CRAZY!)

    Knowing the guys of that wrote the letter, I want to say that they did not have any underlying meaning or subtext behind their words however they can be misconstrued as classist on some level with the meaning and various angles you can look at the wordage. However, they are overall good guys and would never look down upon “non-ivy blacks” (his words, not mine), because of what they and their organization stands for. I dont think that they literally meant that because of their degrees and status that they were immune to racial profiling, absolutely not the case at all. Its more of who presents a threat and who doesnt. Yes, he threw the degrees out there as a disclaimer, but you shouldnt look at that as the primary reason to rule me out, but on some degree it does help to understand the level of the type of person you may be dealing with.

    When i first read the article, I was very dismayed at the decision of the club onwer to shut the party down because I know the type of party Triumph throws and they type of people that would be in attendance. No way, in this day in age, would i think that a club owner would disallow entrance because of the color of their skin, especially after attended so many Triumph parties. But then realized the dynamics of Boston. I grew up in those streets, rode around in the cars full of knuckle heads, and understand the precaution of safety. However, there are some street guys that care and some that dont. Aria used to be a nice spot that attracted a hood crowd so you have to look at the situation from the other side of the glass. But the club owner should have understand the policy of the strict guest lists, and understand this is why we have bouncers. Duhh!!!!

    At the end of the day, club owners were wrong. And faraji, lighten up on the elitism usage among certain blacks. Elitism is more of a frame of mind, you have to weed out the bad apples that think they all that.. lol..

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