5 Gay Bar Practices That Are Not-So-Secretly Racist

5 Gay Bar Practices That Are Not-So-Secretly Racist

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On Wednesday, openly gay Pennsylvania state Representative Brian Sims wrote an article stating that gayborhoods needed “to work together to overcome racist behavior.”

While Sims’ article included offenses like LGBTQ organizations “underpaying, under-promoting and under-developing black and brown employees” and “work environments [where] trans women are often pitted against each other, hyper-sexualized and tokenized,” his column comes on the heels of a short report on racist business practices used by Philadelphia gay bars published earlier this year by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights.

Their report cited the most common racist practices used to create “preferable environments” for white, cisgender men. Here’s some of what they found (and as a man of color, I can say that I’ve heard many of these from my other queer friends of color, too):

1. Preferential dress codes

When gay bars forbid bandanas worn over heads, jerseys worn as shirts and sagging pants below the waist, they aren’t talking about their white clientele.

2. Selective ID/security checks and cover charges

Call this a “show me your papers” maneuver. While bars are legally obligated to check ID to stop underage drinking, when bouncers and doormen only check the ID of some clubgoers and not others, it’s important to consider why they’re checking them. The same holds for cover charges and security checks — either everyone should get them or no one should get them.

3. Shitty service

It can be tough when you’re a person of color who’s overlooked by the bartender for the umpteenth time while he serves the white clientele first. Is it just your perception? Is it just a coincidence? Is the bar just super busy?

4. Monochrome staff

Bars can make a diverse community feel welcome by hiring staff of various races and ethnicities. What better way to show your support than by supporting individual community members with jobs and cash?

5. Race nights

While the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights didn’t include this one in their report, it’s worth noting. If a club wants to hold a Latin, Arabian or hip-hop night, it can seem like an inclusive gesture. But it can also exoticize or other these cultures, and imply that they’re excluded every other night. Truly inclusive clubs have their ethnically themed nights planned and promoted by people from those communities rather than just profiting off of cultural appropriation.


(Featured image by gilaxia via iStock)

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