Posts Tagged ‘class warfare’

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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Before

Before

After

After

So I went to Sequoia’s on the DC waterfront for my birthday a few weeks ago.  Well, let me restate that. Tried to go to Sequoia. After a lovey dinner at Bistro Fraincais (I highly recomend their early bird prix fixe special: 3 courses for $25), we strolled down there only to find that last call is now 9PM. Last year, it was 10PM. Back in the day, I think it was like 12PM. My friends and I all surmised the same thing: They’re really trying hard to get rid of the element. By the element, I’m referring to a name my friend Bianca calls a certain class of people. You know who I’m talking about. So we went over to Tony and Joe’s, which is right next to Sequoia, and where the element migrates once the Hennessy stops flowing at Sequoia. If you’re unfamiliar with sequoia, it’s a large seafood restaurant in Washington DC right on the harbor. What makes the place neat is that it’s large, has great views of the water, and has a huge outdoor area with tables and a bar and these nicely lit trees. If you live in Brooklyn, think a much more upscale Habana. But with fish, not corn.

All this brought me back to a conversation I had a few years ago when my Mom, my Dad, and his friend Chucky were all eating at Sequoia on what happened to be a Sunday evening. Chucky’s from Cape Cod and is one of the few black people I know who can pull off a Massachusetts accent without a hint of irony. You know, like BAH-ston. Cape CAHD. Things of that nature. We were eating my mom began discussing the influx of people who frankly, didn’t look like they belonged there. The Element. I explained to my Mom, who’s a rural sociologist by training , and naturally thinks of these patterns in nerd terms, that around 5 or 6, there’s a shift change in the consumer base. The upper class whites and blacks finishing up Sunday Brunch dates or an early dinner with the family close out their tabs and vacate to make room for lower class negroes from Prince George’s county and Ward 7 and 8, and their middle class hangers-on who ascribe to emulate their hip lower class values and sense of style. Chucky, who lives a stone’s throw away from Martha’s vineyard mentioned that the same thing had been happening recently there. The Mom, being the little fireplug that she is, argued that we shoudn’t let them drive us out, rather we should stand fast against the tide and rally forth. We should take back this beach from these trespassers! It was a stump speech worthy of Winston Churchill. I invited her to stay around in that case. To which she replied, “I don’t need to be around these ghetto people. Tennis is on. I’m going home.” Way to abandon your troops, Mom.

So I had pretty much forgotten about this whole shebang but for the fact that a couple of articles came out recently talking about the ever-widening class divide that seems to be gripping Black America. One in the Root, was about the over-representation of foreign blacks in Ivy League schools. The comments show the schism as people argue for the many reasons American blacks underperform.  One in New York Mag, written by the insufferable Toure, was actually directed at the exact same phenomena Chucky was talking about two years ago: The Element invading Martha’s Vineyard and the response by upper-crusty blacks wearing polo shirts and eating cucumber sandwiches. The response wasn’t positive. But the strategic response was very effective:

“A series of community meetings were convened. “No one said ‘Where all these loud niggers coming from?’ But that was the vibe from black and white Vineyarders.” In 1997, a solution was implemented that was simple and subtle enough to fix the problem while avoiding charges of racism: The ferry from Woods Hole changed its policy to eliminate standby passengers and to make reservations nontransferable. Party promoters could no longer buy tickets in bulk, and most students wouldn’t think to make a reservation months ahead of time. The parties moved elsewhere, and the Vineyard went back to business as usual.”

So why? Why did they come to OUR places with their unrefined manners, baggy clothes, rude conduct towards women and loud cursing? And better yet, why are we so perturbed by this? Are we threatened, embarassed, annoyed? Why can’t we just get along? Here are some ideas I’ve heard:

1. You all like to start shit: As part of your general chip on your shoulder and obsession with swag and being tough guys, an unacceptable percentage of you didn’t come to socialize, you came to fight. An unacceptable percentage of that percentage came with guns. Now while you all can beat each other in the streets and shoot at each other all day with somewhat limited repercussions, the same isn’t true for us. A felony assault charge for us would throw a serious wrench into most of our plans. Which when we invariably run into you leaves us with some unpalatable choices:

-Get Chumped

-Fight you and lose. You’re probably better at it than we are since you have so much practice. Also, your freinds will undoubtedly jump us, and since a couple of our friends are kind of punks, you’ll have the numbers advantage.

-Fight you and win. And get hauled off to jail, incurring bail costs, legal defense fees and a potentially career killing felony. Great

2. You make it harder for us. People associate us with you because of the fairly obvious phenotypical similarities. So when you show up with your retrograde behavior, let’s face it, it reflects badly on us. Next time WE show up to the same place, we’re going to be subject to a certain level of suspicion because last time YOU were there, three people got shot.

3. You’re a bad influence As much as we would like to make our brand of unthreatening academic high achievement “cool”, it appears that you all with your casual nonchalance, shiny watches, and rollicking swagger have won the culture wars up to this point. Which means that you’ve done a magnificent job of subverting OUR youth to your way of life. Witness the piss-poor academic performance of schools in even high-income black suburbs and the fact that we all dress like you. You are a fashionable bunch, I’ll grant you that. But your seductive negative influence on too many of US has got to stop.

4. You judge us. Not unlike how we judge you, so I can’t really blame you. It’s called cass warfare, not class one-side assault.Regarding the vineyard, one person in the article said:

“It’s this mecca where you can be yourself and be with people who have so much in common with you. No one has to feign some street cred when they’re playing tennis.” It’s a source of communion and of pride. “When you see a beautiful black family with their kids, it makes you feel really good about being black,”

You all, not so much. We don’t really feel good about being black around you all for two reasons. One, your version of blackness is wack. It’s an infantile celebration of violence, materialism, mysogyny, and general underperformance. Two, you make us feel that our version of blackness is inadequate. We know we should be confident in our version and believe in it, but it’s difficult. We want to feel conencted to “blackness”, not have it questioned or ridiculed because we don’t engage in the more self-destructive aspects of your culture. We realize we can be  a little tight-assed sometime. We’ll work on it.

So am I totally out of line here? Was this just a rant designed to up the arms race of class warfare/ Or are wroking towards something of a resolution? What are your thoughts? I’ve only covered one side of the argument. Part II will discuss what the upper class is doing oh so wrong.