Friday, February 03, 2006

Archie Bunker's Bar and Grill..Part 2

I checked and Ohio doesn't have Confederate roots. During the Civil War Ohio sent troops to represent the Union and Ohio was a critical stop on the Underground Railroad. Slaves escaped southern plantations and made their way north along corridors that are now interstate highways in Ohio. Perhaps the motivation of the Underground Railroad wasn't so much to free the slaves as it was to encourage blacks to get out. That's pretty much the message Columbus night clubs are sending.

The hot spot in Columbus is the Arena District, which is an entertainment mecca built around Nationwide Arena, the downtown complex that is home to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets (I prefer Bleu Jackets because like the cheese this NHL team stinks and crumbles easily)and the subservient Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League. Trendy restaurants, bars and night clubs have sprung up in the area hoping to cater to the event driven crowds.

On February 3rd The Columbus Dispatch ran an article by Alice Cervantes revealing the arbitrary dress codes being enforced by many of the clubs and bars in the Arena District and adjacent area. Patrons are not permitted to wear athletic jerseys unless they are representative of the teams playing on a particular day. In other words you can wear a hockey sweater on game day, but not on the day after. Always forbidden are jerseys of teams not playing.So you can't proudly show your NFL, Major League Baseball or NBA affiliations. Additionally these establishments enforce hat standards that forbid patrons from wearing a cap that is cocked to one side. Stocking and flat brimmed hats are not permitted.

They don't stop there. Other items that are prohibited include "selected" logos (think Fubu) bandannas, baggy clothing and chain necklaces must be tucked inside a shirt. One club owner, Eric Fortney of Gaswerks, claims that he's not trying to be a fashion critic but that he wants to keep out that undesirable element. The chain necklaces are just "more gang-related". He further elaborated and said that you just don't want stabbings and shootings and drive-bys going on in a classy entertainment district. Eric apparently slept through the entire 1990's decade and missed that moment when Hip Hop counter culture became mainstream pop culture. That would have been when blacks and whites united to denounce Vanilla Ice and reject his music.

While nobody is coming out and saying it directly, the subjective dress codes are intended to discourage black patrons. Hockey is a white sport and the clubs in the Arena district cater to white people.By banning clothing associated with the Hip Hop culture these clubs can foster a predominately white environment.

It's true that these are private businesses that have the right to refuse service to anybody, but this is a clear cut attempt to enforce a discriminatory policy. It's not as though these are clubs that endeavor to serve a high class clientele; these are not jacket and tie establishments. Gaswerks is admittedly a jeans and t-shirt kind of place with a laid back vibe. Of course if that T-shit has the Fubu or Ecko logo on it, you'll be turned away at the door. Nascar, however, is always welcome because you don't get much whiter then inbred toothless rednecks who drive in circles really fast.

Sadly this sort of attitude is common in Columbus. Having lived in this town for almost 15 years, I have been stunned at the racial prejudice that is harbored here. Unfortunately it's that northern brand of racial bias where the white people are too cowardly to express their views directly. Epithets fly but only after the perpetrator scans the room for parties that would take offense.

At least in the south racists are open. They fly Confederate flags and scream racially insensitive remarks at anybody of color. That's the sort of racism you can respect. You know where you stand. But in Columbus these racists will shake your hand and treat you like royalty only to cut you and yours to ribbons once you're out of earshot.

Anybody who pays attention knows that Hip Hop is the scene for the 18-34 year-old crowd. Look at the music charts...listen to the songs being played in the clubs. Cindy Lauper's collaborating with Shaggy, Carlos Santanna's playing guitar with the Fugees, Snoop Doggy Dogg is a mainstream icon...Nelly sang a duet with Tim Mcgraw! The lines between black and white are more blurred than ever and these clowns in Columbus want to create a new brand of segregation? For what? Because in their tiny minds gang-bangers wear baggy pants? Please.

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