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'Our fight against racism benefits white folks more'

PROTEST: The barring of four black girls from London’s DSTRKT nightclub led to protest

WHITE FOLKS have benefitted more from our fight against racism than we have. And I'm going to prove it.

So what if some club in the centre of London is operating a racist door policy? Good. Let them do that. There's nothing like a good old fashion dollop of ‘No dogs, No Irish, No blacks’ to make us realise that we're all in this together, especially the youngers who are going out clubbing and have never faced the kind of petty racism that was standard every weekend when we were their age.

That's why I say good, good, good, good, and three cheers for nightclubs that are barring black people from entering because our experience of fighting this kind of racism is that it is bad for black business.

The whole hoo-ha over the club DSTRKT’s door policy triggered a debate between myself and The Voice’s news editor Elizabeth Pears when I bumped into her in the London Underground earlier this week. She expected me to be incensed at the very idea that any emporium of black music would have the audacity, let alone the temerity, to discriminate in its door policy.  

The nightclub no doubt refutes its accusers’ suggestion that it is a racist policy.  I wouldn't know one way or another. But I can't imagine any business admitting that they are breaking the law, so it's a silly question. However, to expect me to stand up and protest about it is to know nothing about the struggle of my generation when England was a bitch. Yes, we protested what was then blatant racism. The bouncers at what was Charlie Brown's on the Tottenham one-way system didn't shy away from letting you know they were members of the NF (the racist predecessors to the BNP). I was out there like so many others denouncing the bouncers and appealing to the humanity of the white folks who were going in regardless of whether there were any black people inside, as they danced the night away to the black disco music that the deejay was playing. 

And when we went down to Soul Night at the Lyceum Theatre down on The Strand in central London, those bouncers weren't ashamed to say, “Not tonight, sunshine" as they turned away every black man that tried to get in.

That venue was owned by the Mecca organisation and though, I am sure, they would say that they were not aware of the racist door policy of the bouncers they employed in 1976, their company name above the bouncers’ head legitimised the racism in the eyes of us young, gifted and black British boys who thought it was worth arguing with these crew cut Neanderthals to try and convince them that we were not there to rob anyone or rape anyone or fight anyone. We were there to have a good time. And no, we said, we were not the blokes who were barred from there last week, because last week they didn't let any black blokes in either so it couldn't have been us. It must have been a white guy.

SUCCESS: Dougies in east London was a popular black club in the 1980s

Well, we tried to make them see reason until we were blue-black in the face. Eventually, tired of being abused and humiliated by racist cretins, most of us found our ways back home where we started discovering black clubs, where our mates - white and black - had been going to all this time when we were trying to throw our money to the racists, and we found the kind of welcome you find when you go to that bar in Boston called Cheers (according to the television show). Everybody was glad to see you. The bouncers on the door had a smile and a welcome for you and everybody seemed to be having a great time - a better time than was being had at the white gaffs up West.

The reggae clubs were the ultimate welcoming places for black and white. That's why sound systems were so popular. But there were soul and funk and disco sounds too. The venues were often in youth clubs. But that didn't matter. It was all about the vibe and for us who had been rejected elsewhere it was about holding our heads up high and claiming our dignity. Little did we know that we were also funding the black economy and building it up with the help of our conscious white friends who wanted their music and the atmosphere rough and real and authentic, the way only black clubbers/ravers can deliver. Whether it be from the deejay or the dancers or the styles and patterns. When you went to a black club everybody inside looked like they belonged there, whereas when you went to a white club where they were playing Brass Construction it looked like the white folks didn't know what to do with themselves. Eventually those white folks in the white clubs started realising that the real action was elsewhere and started seeking out the neighbourhood clubs where a jam was going on and black and white were jamming together. Faced with that exodus a lot of the uptown clubs started struggling. The only way they survived was by letting punks take over their venues because all the soul boys were now out in the suburbs or at least in the inner city fringes.

Punk came and went in a year and, before you knew it, the West End clubs were back playing black music and, guess what? There was no racist door policy anymore so many of us rushed back to see the inside of venues that we had only dreamt about.

So what do you think happened to the black venues?

Yep, you're right. Some of them survived, but many of them bit the dust. The Four Aces bit the dust. All Nations is now an apartment block. Dougies is some bistro for white folks...I could go on and on and on. Those three iconic Hackney venues are illustrative of the anti-racism dividend. It didn't go to us. It went to white folks. And that is the same over and over and over and over and over and over again. Ask any black business. All we have achieved by getting white people to allow us into their venues is that white folks are richer, enabling to once again bar us from their venues.

So stuff fighting against racist clubs. It's not important. Let them gwan. Why would you want to go where you're not welcome in the first place? Don't gimme that nonsense about the principle of the matter.  Not until you know your history and the struggles that we naively went through on your behalf and the lesson that we have learned as a result: the fight against racism benefits white folks more.

This is nothing new. Get over it.

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