Recently, I made a trip downtown to a certain retro dance club with a few friends for a night of drinking and good old-fashioned debauchery. Like any university students after a long midterm week of sleepless nights, we were all ready to order a round (or three) of tequila shots and altogether forget about the pressures of the world of academia as we retire to a place you can stand for one night only.
Unfortunately for us, we were about to encounter one of the most notoriously loathed demons of city nightlife: the dance club bouncer. These lecherous beasts aren’t found at every bar, but meeting one usually leaves you feeling violated in one way or another. In this case, a member of our group was held up and harassed by one of these creatures, who refused to let her into the bar because he claimed her ID wasn’t legitimate. Despite the fact that she held perfectly valid Alberta government identification (bearing her photo, signature, and proof that she was indeed over the age of 18), he continued to insist that she couldn’t be allowed into the club. The problem? My friend’s ID is an Aboriginal status card.
The bouncer informed us that status cards weren’t accepted based on some mysterious bar policy, having experienced “problems” with them in the past. He claimed the government office that issues the cards is full of corruption, and as a result, the IDs are usually counterfeit. Having provided this ID at various bars, restaurants, and liquor stores numerous times without any mention of this so-called policy before, she was at a bit of a loss, and frankly, so were we. What was this guy talking about?
As he kept insisting that my friend wouldn’t be allowed in the club, it became pretty clear that his lame excuses about her ID were nothing but lies intended to cover up the fact that he was simply a world-class jackass. After finally openly admitting that he just didn’t like her and the “problems” apparently associated with her “community,” it dawned on us — the bar policy this guy was enforcing was essentially racism.
Certain clubs in Edmonton have signs posted right on their front doors proclaiming in giant capital letters, “Ed Hardy clothes not allowed in.” This odd type of discrimination against certain designer clothing brands is not only openly accepted by most people, but also generally agreed upon as a good idea. Apparently, the association particular fashion lines have with acting like a preppy douchebag is so strong that it provides grounds to actually deny a person entry into a drinking establishment. And that’s fine — plenty of bars choose to enforce dress codes. If they don’t feel like granting admittance to guys decked out in trucker hats or shirts with bedazzled skulls and tigers all over them, that’s their prerogative.
However, the buck stops there — dress code does not apply to the colour of someone’s skin. It’s undeniable that, as with clothing brands, there are negative stereotypes associated with virtually every ethnicity out there, but that clearly doesn’t make it okay to deny someone the respect they deserve, at a bar or otherwise.
It’s always hard to understand the realities of discrimination until they slap you right in the face. Most of us have been taught from a young age about the intolerant ways of the past, but few of us recognize that they are still relevant issues in the 21st century. In the end, none of this is really about being allowed into some stupid club (which, incidentally, lost the business of just about everyone I know after that night). When racism appears in our everyday lives, no matter how minor the incident may seem, we all have a responsibility to talk about it. If we can’t do that, people like our friend the bouncer are allowed to get away with whatever they want, and decades of improvements in human rights are reversed.