Short Take: The Price of Whiteness In Detroit? $10

Back when the call was to end discrimination in public accommodations, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted.

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

But that was when the law sought to remove a detriment based on race imposed on black and brown people by white people. Even though it applies with equal force when the sides change, despite the fashionable redefinition of discrimination applying only when it’s the privileged doing the dirty to the oppressed, the law still prohibits discrimination based on race, no matter who is doing the discriminating and who is taking the hit.

Tickets to Detroit’s Afrofuture music festival come in two price tiers, one for POC, people of color, whatever that means, and one for NONPOC, which means white folks.

A Detroit music festival is changing its ticket pricing system after organizers say they were harassed by white supremacists and racist comments.

What exactly this means isn’t clear, given that there’s no explanation of what they mean by “harassed” or “white supremacists and racist comments.” This could refer to threats by neo-Nazis to buy tickets and disrupt a music festival, or this could mean something entirely different. Given the vagaries of the word “harassment,” and the fact that everyone not teetering off the left edge of politics stands a likelihood of being called a white supremacist and racist these days, explanations like this offer little help.

Organizers originally posted the event with an explanation: The prices were based on the idea of equitable access to festivals, which they said are often cost-prohibitive and do not benefit the black communities that host them.

“Events often designed for marginalized Black and Brown communities can be easily co-opted by those with cultural, monetary, and class privileges,” organizer Numi Ori wrote on Facebook. “Our goal is to ensure that the youth of our communities can participate in the building of a just society; one that promotes EQUITY over EQUALITY.[sic]”

It’s hard to fault the organizers for their concern over the cost of music festivals, and expensive tickets certainly affect black communities. But the same is true for anyone paying for cost-prohibitive tickets. But they make clear that they’re not concerned with equality, but EQUITY, which is the new rhetoric for rationalizing racism where you confer a benefit on black people.

The organizers caught serious flack for what was decried as racism. They didn’t care.

In a Monday post, Ori wrote that she and fellow organizer Franchesca Lamarre were changing the pricing system because of racist harassment. “There is no other reason why. This was for the sake of safety,” she wrote.

“I don’t feel not one ounce of sadness or regret about Franchesca Lamarre and I’s choice for creating this ticket structure,” Ori wrote in a July 5 Facebook post. “…Don’t comment on here about what we could have done differently with the structure. We did what we did and equity matters.”

Whether one subscribes to the belief that there can be black racism against whites is one issue, but there is a second problem lurking behind the facile rhetoric of “equity.” In its name, segregation is being rebuilt, just as the worst Klansman might have demanded at the end of a noose, except this time at the demand of the once-oppressed. The point here is to hold a music festival for the benefit of black people, with white people tolerated only if they pay double the price. This isn’t exactly welcoming to people of all races.

When Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, it was a momentous blow for equality. But are we shifting from the racist demand that blacks sit in the back of the bus to the back of the bus is now reserved for blacks only, and white people better keep their butts out of our seats?

Calling the new segregation “equity” might be enough to make the organizers of AfroFuture feel like they’re justified in flagrant racial discrimination, despite the fact that the law expressly prohibits what they’re doing. But are they simply doing to themselves what Martin Luther King, John Lewis and some Freedom Riders fought to end?

12 thoughts on “Short Take: The Price of Whiteness In Detroit? $10

  1. JB

    [Ed. Note: Comments removed at JB’s request because his personal experience is “lost on” me.]

  2. Raging Racist

    I lived in Detroit. It is scarily segregated. This doesn’t surprise me. But how do the ticket sellers determine who is POC v non-POC? Sounds arbitrary and capricious. Do you have to present the race card? What if you already wasted yours on a free Jamba Juice and now have to pay double or miss the festival?

    1. B. McLeod

      Presumably, ticket purchasers have to visit each of the promoters at their respective homes, and only get the lower rate if the promoters accept them as POCs in both their houses. I think this is an old, Elizabethan custom.

  3. Curious

    Scott, do you know if the 1964 Law also applies to training programs? At my private high school, white teachers are being sent to 3-day white privilege bootcamp where they are supposed to interrogate their whiteness in order to fulfill the anti-racist vision of the school. “Teachers of color” do not have to attend such training. Is this also illegal discrimination?
    Thank you.

  4. B. McLeod

    Rapper Tiny Jag, who identifies as biracial, backed out of the event after learning of the discriminatory ticket pricing.

    Notwithstanding the change in pricing, the promoters have certainly managed to signal that NON-POCs are not welcome at this event

  5. Aaron G.

    Not really a new issue, just the first time organizers of an event were so candid about it. Many ticket selling services adjust prices based on magical internet ad-tracking data (including race, sex, and more) to provide different prices for different people. The main trick here is that they don’t openly admit to it as very few people ask.

    Not that “everyone else is doing it” makes anything okay but, it’s interesting to see someone/something simplify the process and advertise it openly.

    1. SHG Post author

      In fairness, their honesty is a virtue. At least they mean what they say and come at it sincerely, even if others disagree with their solution.

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