Thursday, October 22, 2009

‘Untrustworthy’ (Read: Black) Students Banned from Chicago Bar

Six black students from Washington University on a senior trip were denied admission to a bar in Chicago because the manager said their "baggy jeans" violated a code. The Student Life newspaper at Wash U has done a good job of covering the story, and has a summary of what happened:
Washington University seniors on their class trip accused a Chicago nightclub of racial discrimination over the weekend, protesting nearby after the club allegedly denied entry to six black male students because of their race. “I think it’s because we were a group of predominantly black men and they felt threatened,” said senior Blake Jones, one of the students who was not allowed into the bar. About 200 Washington University seniors were attending Mother’s Night Club Original bar on Saturday night as part of their class trip to Chicago, sponsored by the Senior Class Council. According to Senior Class President Fernando Cutz, the six black students were told they would not be allowed in because of their failure to comply with the bar’s “baggy jeans” policy. A few white students who had already been admitted then came out to demonstrate that their jeans were more “baggy,” but the black students were still denied admission. The six students offered to change their clothes, but the bar manager still refused to allow them in. The white students were allowed to return.

I blogged about a related situation at Morehouse, in which the school claimed they wanted to outlaw "sagging," or pants worn low enough so that undergarments are revealed. In that post, I also placed a photo of a dress code policy of a bar in Grand Forks, N.D. that said anyone wearing "excessively long shirts" and "flat caps" would be refused service. Many of these policies target a style that is predominantly worn by young black men.

A clever person might be able to argue that the policies themselves aren't racist – they just so happen to target a group of people that is predominantly black. But go back and take a look again at that photo I took of the bar in Grand Forks prohibited FUBU specifically, a clothing line that was designed for and by black people as a response to the marketing of Nike and other companies that were designed by white people. Southpole is a clothing line founded by Korean Americans, and G Unit is 50 Cent's clothing line. None of the designers called out are white, and all of them market their lines to minorities.

Weirdly enough, outlawing overly baggy jeans is kind of outdated – Not only has the "baggy jeans" look become standard for black and white men (and sometimes women) today, but "hip hop style" has moved from Kris Kross-era bagginess to a more fitted kind of jeans. Such policies almost seem to be created by a white person who has a stereotype of a black person that is 10 years old.

The interesting thing about the students from Wash U is that the bar definitely seemed to selectively enforce its policies – the student paper reported that other white students with baggy jeans weren't kicked out. Furthermore, the manager called the students "untrustworthy," according to a press release sent to Campus Progress by the president of the Association of Black Students at Wash U, Tiffany Johnson.

The press release also noted that more than 170 students participated in a 15-minute protest on Sunday morning outside Mother's. Johnson noted that Wash U students plan a second protest in November, presumably to be larger in scale.

The instance of banning black students from a bar in Chicago – and its subsequent fallout – is a harsh reminder that race relations are still a touchy subject in this country.

Cross posted.

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