My Facebook has blown up with all different kinds of feelings about the Bar Louie dress code which bans: flat brims, athletic wear, large chains worn outside of shirt, long white T-Shirts, and sleeveless undershirts, among other things. Some folks are outraged at what they perceive as overt racism while others are outraged at the outrage. I happen to fall in the former of those categories and want to take this opportunity to, as my comrade Jamie Utt reminds me to do, “call in” all those folks who would never knowingly collude with racism but nevertheless find themselves on the wrong side of this argument.
Before I dive into Bar Louie’s specific dress code policy I want to address the issue of Dress Codes in general. Dress codes in general are used as an enforcement tool for white mainstream social norms via living under white supremacy: either portray yourself this way or you cannot participate. These policies are only aimed at doing one thing: making the customer comfortable. This is all well and good at first glance but when we dig a bit deeper we see that this almost always means patrolling and policing nonwhite expression. This is because in our popular culture and mainstream media, and therefore mainstream society, blackness and anything non-white is associated with violence and all things fucked up. So when policies are aimed at alleviating those fears and placating to “the customer” they end up disproportionately excluding people of color. This is racist. We know this is racist. Many of the supporters of dress code policies know this is racist but fail to make the connection that if our society has deemed people of color violent and problematic and our dress code is aimed at alleviating those anxieties then our dress code perpetuates racist beliefs via confirmation that those beliefs are somehow valid. Why else would you make an exclusionary policy in the first place?
Intent Vs. Impact
Which leads to the next, and most important, thing: How you mean something doesn’t matter even in the slightest bit! Holy Shit I’m sick of this argument!
It doesn’t matter whether the owners of Bar Louie hate people of color, if they are active members of the KKK, or if they are leaders in Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition because the policy they created disproportionately impacts people of color! Impact always matters more than intent!
No, the policy doesn’t say “No Blacks” and it can apply to other groups besides blacks. I, for one, probably wouldn’t get in because all I wear is baggy clothes and flat brim hats and guess what my money is just as good as the hipster yuppie whose jeans are so damn tight he can’t feel his scrotum anymore! The fact is the impact is far, far too similar to Jim Crow.
Some will say that I have ignored the real threat and propensity for violence that this dress code aims to counter. To that I simply say bullshit. The percentage of people who are dressed with any item banned on Bar Louie’s new dress code that would commit any act of violence is no infinitely small as to be comical if it weren’t so damn pitiful to have to even mention. Damn near every person I know, whose wardrobe consists of every item banned on this dress code, is doing solid good work lifting up community, but because he wears a straight brim TC hat and a chain he can’t come in your establishment… fuck outta here.
If Bar Louie was really concerned with stopping violence how bout they come up with a dress code to weed out all the frat boys and yuppie privileged douche bags who prey on females, harassing them sometimes to the point of sexual assault. Pretty sure that happens at a more precarious rate!
Assimilate or Die!
So, my friends who think this is a reasonable response to some valid threat I ask you to consider this: Why does Bar Louie feel more comfortable with customers in polo’s and khakis vs. a polo and baggy jeans; or how bout a golf visor vs. a snapback hat? How does this make their clientele feel more comfortable and what does it require of people of color? Do you still think it’s not racist?