Do private businesses have the right to decide who frequents their establishment? In Black Run America, the notion of private businesses serving customers at their discretion is not allowed, as all companies hoping to maintain positive standing with the government are coerced into conducting business with patrons of every race.
However, Black people are painfully aware that special rules exist that circumvent the law of forced association mandated by legislation that work to include Black patrons where they might not be welcome.
Notoriously, night clubs and bars throughout the United States utilize the clandestine methodology of barring Black people from patronizing their establishment through the elaborate usage of dress codes to deny entry to those who fail to uphold the standards of proper accoutrement's as prescribed by the owners.
Black people are known to have a unique sense of fashion, primarily wearing pants that routinely are on the ground instead of their waist. Owners of bars and restaurants are in the business of turning a profit and these proprietors are painfully aware of the track record that exists of Black nightclubs and bars that routinely are profiled on local nightly news channels for unsavory accomplishments.
Clubs and restaurants across America, forbidden by the government to practice discriminatory policies of denying patrons by the color of their skin instead deny entry to potential customers based on the clothes that adorn their bodies.
Kansas City - recently the home of Flash Mobs - has an area of town popular for the nightlife offered there that strangely imposes rules that seemed targeted toward barring Black people in a fashion completely legal:
Cordish instituted a dress code in June 2008 that has been called racist by critics. The dress code includes a ban on bandanas, work boots, ripped or baggy clothing, shorts that fall below the knees, athletic jerseys, and chains.[City Hall questioned the Cordish company about the dress code, noting that the dress code seemed targeted towards black males and was inconsistently enforced.It has long since been established that Black people do not like belts. Many restaurants and bars have enacted dress codes that deny entry to people who wear baggy pants, which seem to target Black people excessively for their propensity for finding belts unbecoming is legendary.
Councilwoman Melba Curls said her son was turned away from the district, while Counselwoman Beth Gottstein stated that "the message I keep getting is that Cordish is only available to some." David Cordish stated that the company was merely attempting to reduce gang related activity. Critics further accused Cordish of exhibiting racial bias when after DJ Jazzy Jeff left the stage early during a performance.
Cornrows, a popular hairstyle found uniquely found in the Black community, seems to be unpopular to owners of bars and restaurants who find this style of hair a potential harbinger of trouble to their place of business.
Dress codes, you see, are primarily a ruse conducted by business owners who wish to return to the days when freedom of association was a right awarded to everyone, even those who own popular restaurants and bars.
Refusing to serve someone based on the color of their skin might seem archaic and nefarious, but the freedom of an owner to serve customers was a right guaranteed once in the free market. Simply instituting policies such as a dress code act as a modern-day Governor George Wallace standing in the door keeping Black people out of enjoying the fun inside the bar:
The situation in Chicago is not to be outdone by the one brewing in Kansas City, where a forum was recently held to discuss the validity of dress codes and find out, once and for all, if they exist to deny Black people entry to private restaurants denied the right by law to deny an individual entry based on their race:
Mother's, a popular night club in Chicago, appears to be reinstating Jim Crow laws as they recently barred entry to six African-American patrons. The six students were part of a senior class trip of 200 students from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and had made plans to visit the establishment. Upon trying to entering the venue, the Black students were denied entry and were told it was because their pants were too baggy.
Not believing the hype, a white student switched pants with one of his classmates and tried the entry process again. Lo and behold, the white student was still allowed in while the Black student was left outside.
At a forum entitled, “Is it your Clothes or your Color?”, sponsored by the Human Rights Commission of Kansas City, Missouri a panel of experts, academics, civil right activists and business owners were brought together to discuss the use of dress codes in the city.This problem of dress codes isn't geographically isolated in the mid-western states, but affects nearly every state where Black people reside and wish to enjoy a beverage:
The issue of whether or not dress codes were being used as a tool of racism became front page news a couple years ago when people of color, mostly African American men, began reporting problems with their enforcement at the Power and Light entertainment district Downtown.
Several complaints were made to the Human Rights Commission, which then took several steps to investigate violations of the Public Accommodations Law, initiated its own testing and worked with the management of Power and Light to make changes to the code.
Held at the Bruce R. Watkins Center, some panelists used their time to explain their experiences with dress codes around the city, while others discussed the social and legal implications of dress codes and their effectiveness. Members of the community also were given time to express their feelings about the issue and offer anecdotal information regarding the legacy of racism in Kansas City entertainment areas, including Westport and the Plaza.
Moderated by Daniel Weddle, Clinical Professor at the UMKC Law School, the issue of dress codes aimed at particular sections of the community—particularly people of color---came sharply into focus.
Nia Webster, organizer for Power and Lights Out (PLO) said her organization wasn’t against businesses establishing dress codes but want to help people understand about racial discrimination and how to properly report and respond to those incidents.
“Dress code should not be created to discriminate,” said Webster. “Dress is a perception. A person in a suit isn’t any different than someone with a white shirt and jeans. People who are troublemakers are troublemakers.”
Webster said her organization did a survey and that “90 percent knew someone who had been discriminated against.”
Anthony Burnside, a security specialist and consultant, who was Deputy Sheriff and former nightclub bouncer, said a business “had a right to have any dress code the want”.
“It should be posted on their website instead of people being surprised when they get there and are turned away,” said Burnside. “The point is to make money and have a good time.”
Burnside said when he worked as a bouncer in Westport the management let it be known what type of crowd they wanted; “Mix 93”, a local radio station that has a younger, white demographic.
Dr. Clovis Semmes, author and professor of Black Studies and Sociology at UMKC, said the phenomenon of dress codes is occurring nationally and its history was being written in places like Kansas City.
“They (dress codes) may be emerging as a proxy for racial discrimination,” said Dr. Semmes. “It’s a form of market regulation of prime commercial space.”
Dr. Semmes stated that factors like dress, musical selection and demographic targeting were raising many issues “regarding the physco-social perception of young black men” in “prime commercial areas”.
“If you played heavy metal music or country music you probably won’t see a lot of black people,” added Dr. Semmes. “If you have hip-hop or R&B, which has white fans as well, they don’t want to replace a young white demographic with a black demographic.”
Dr. Semmes went on to mention that sociological studies from the 1960s and 70s pointed to problems with how blacks where perceived by whites.
“In every case, black men were seen as more aggressive,” said Dr. Semmes of the studies where whites compared blacks--acting in the exact same manner as their white counterparts. “It only takes 30 percent of an audience for whites to perceive that blacks are in the majority.”
Dr. Semmes said that in “geographical context” dress codes were an issue of “dealing with corporations regulating markets in prime commercial real estate,” and were rare in “areas that are not prime commercial space.”
Andrea Shelby-Bartee, owner and manger of BodyWorks Phase II nightclub at 84th and Troost said her establishment has used a dress code for years in order to “create a clean, safe atmosphere for everyone to have a good time.”
Bartee added that her establishment was targeting to be “an upscale type of venue” but didn’t feel the dress code discriminated against anyone because of race or ethnicity.
Why is this trend of dress codes mandated by business owners appearing in virtually every city in America and why do they seem to target the habits of dress primarily associated with Black people?
On a blustery Saturday night, the usual line of 20-somethings was missing from in front of Peabody's, the Virginia Beach club.
Instead, small knots of people approached the doorman waiting outside on a stool.
When a young white guy accompanied by two women walked up, the doorman looked at him and his black football jersey, jeans and sneakers. He was rejected.
"This is the fifth place I've been turned away from tonight!" he told his friends.
It's common knowledge among clubgoers that Peabody's has a tight dress code.
Some people have speculated that the policy there and at many other clubs might be a subtle ways of discriminating against black people. Club owners, however, say the dress codes weed out patrons who might cause trouble and, in turn, harm their customers and their business.
White patrons say they're often turned away, too, and some black patrons agree with the policies.
"Our policies keep people safe, and it has worked for eight or nine years," said Brandon Ramsey, one of Peabody's operating partners. "People can take that the wrong way. But Peabody's is a mixed crowd. We work hard so people can come here and have a good time."
The irony is that across Hampton Roads, the music thumping inside clubs is often hip-hop, which dominates the charts and lures large crowds to dance, yet club owners set up dress codes that target the "hip-hop look " - the baggy clothes, work boots, 'do rags and other markings.
Ba Da Bing, another Oceanfront night club, looked considerably different than Peabody's from the outside. That night, the patrons were exclusively black, and the people in line had a style that swayed toward roomy pants, boots and camouflage. A security guard, however, said they also don't allow 'do rags, jerseys, gang-related beads, white T-shirts, flags or bandanas.
Ba Da Bing has a reputation for fights.
"A lot of clubs in Virginia Beach make dress codes to keep us out," said James Tamry, 25, a black Norfolk resident who was hanging outside Ba Da Bing on Saturday. He wore a striped Enyce polo shirt and jeans. "We dress a certain way."
At the same time, he said, he understands. "You have a lot of the younger guys, 18 to 21, that come out just to prove how tough they are."
Tamry, who is in the Navy, said clubs "are trying to keep the peace. But to me, something can happen anywhere."
Indeed. Norfolk police spokesman Chris Amos said a suspect was taken into custody last weekend after a knife fight in the Waterside parking garage, ostensibly after leaving one of the mall's very non hip-hop bar-restaurants.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a discrimination complaint last week against Kokoamos, a bar and grill in Virginia Beach. The ACLU said the club's practice of banning cornrows and dreadlocks was discriminatory and potentially a violation of federal law.
Kevin Martingayle, a Virginia Beach lawyer whose practice areas include civil rights, said clubs are free to discriminate but not on the basis of race, gender or disability. Any place, therefore, that conducts business transactions with the public is within its rights to bar people with baggy jeans, because nearly anyone can wear big pants. But banning blond hair, for example, would discriminate on a different basis that might violate federal law.
Kokoamos' owner Barry Davis said the hip-hop look creates an atmosphere in which violence is more likely to break out. Hair aside, other club owners more or less shared that sentiment.
"It's more a young thing," said Terry Webb, who runs Reign in Norfolk, a trendy spot favored among upscale hip-hoppers. "How many women do you know who work at a Fortune 500 company that would talk to a man in a white T-shirt? At a certain age, it has to stop. No grown man should be going out in a jersey unless he's going to a sporting event."
We know that Black people do not like tipping, so perhaps it is an economic issue. Patrons of bars and restaurants normally tip a waiter or bar tender based upon their service, but Black people are known to refrain from parting with money in a voluntary manner for services rendered.
Or, perhaps it is due to the high-levels of violence that follow Black people at nightclubs throughout America. Bar owners are working to make a profit and develop of reputation of providing a fun, safe environment for patrons to enjoy a good time replete with shots of alcohol and removed from shots that come from guns.
Like the William Gates Foundation Scholarship which is only available to minority students, dress codes seem targeted only at minorities. Private businesses and corporations are mandated by law to serve every patron, regardless of race, yet few people question the rights of a private charity to grant scholarships solely by race, excluding all white people.
If one is morally wrong, shouldn't the other be as well?
Dress codes exist in nearly every city, an attempt by business owners to proactively engage troublemakers by keeping them out of their establishment and they target only Black people in the process.
Business owners risk lawsuits and horrible publicity to implement such dress codes. Perhaps, after failing to enact the three rules set forth by Dalton in the film Road House on how to properly run a bar, business owners realized they would rather face financial ruination by social ostracism than allow Black people to grace their businesses.
ZZ Top said every girl loves a sharp dressed man. Business owners say - through the advent of dress codes - that everyone still doesn't like Black people in their establishment, regardless of the publicity that accompanies any attempt to implement a dress code.
Stuff Black People Don't Like includes dress codes, for utilizing such draconian methods to bar Black people from frequenting a place of business should have been relegated to the bad old days of Jim Crow.
Yet, if forced diversity is so great and freedom of association such an outdated method of conducting of business, why do restaurants and bars across the United States continue to risk closing by having dress codes?
Even the NBA - a league that is 80 percent Black - instituted a dress code for its players. Bars, restaurants and the NBA all have the commonality of dress codes to Black people's chagrin.