The story is depressingly familiar:
My name is Brandon Ball. I am 32 years old. I am African American. Tonight I was with my friends Dan Scarbrough (42) and Ken Piggee (43). Both are also African American. We were in the Midtown area of Houston, TX tonight and tried to go into The Gaslamp. Both Dan and Ken had on blazers. I had on a button up and slacks. When we walked up the guy at the door told us $20 each (pictured below in the long sleeve shirt). We didn’t want to pay that amount so we decided to go to the next bar down, The Dogwood, which was free.
After about 30 minutes we left The Dogwood and were walking back. As we passed The Gaslamp we noticed folks walking into The Gaslamp without having to pay. Those folks who didn’t have to pay were white. I brought this to Dan’s attention a few minutes later and he said we should go back and just watch from across the street to see if there was some “funny business” going on.
Ken, Dan, and I went back and watched from across the street as the guys who were working the front door of The Gaslamp (pictured) allowed white people to come in one after the other. Every black person who we watched try to go in was told there was a $20 cover or that their attire was not proper. One black guy was told that he could not get in because he had on Polo Boots.
Dan spoke to several people who were told there was a $20 cover and they pretty much all said the same thing. It was not just blacks they were charging. It was people of both Asian and Latin decent.
Don’t even try to tell me this was about anything other than race. Too many people I know have heard other verses of this pathetic song. I have direct experience with two bars in the past three years expressing very directly that the music being played needed to change because it was attracting people the bar didn’t want. In the context of those particular episodes, the people not wanted were Black and Latinx, or, in the words of the management of each place, “urban” and “Mexican.”
Back to The Gaslamp. The bar’s attorney posted a really odd video that seems to make the case that:
- If people want to be able to fight discrimination, they should vote for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (vote YES on Prop. 1) this November.
- The bar’s management wants to be known as assholes (their word, not mine) with a highly selective door policy.
- They’re going to do us all the favor of codifying the rules they’re playing by as far as attire, cover charge, number of people in a party who have to be female for the rules to be bent, etc., so we’ll all know what proxies they use for skin color when making decisions at the door.
The whole episode, start to finish, is disgusting. That any business thinks discrimination is an acceptable or defensible business model infuriates me. That friends of my friends were treated this way at The Gaslamp, and that friends of mine get treated like this all of the time, turns my face purple with rage.
What I’m about to say is as unoriginal as the story that started this piece. I shouldn’t have to say it, except that after watching this video, I can tell that it has to be said yet again.
The attorney explains in the video one reason they won’t let just anyone in, and it is a really, really, really old, tired, offensive story:
We will tell you that you need some girls, and that this isn’t bros night out, because we don’t want you creeping out the girls that we already have inside.
I’d like to make one thing especially clear. Do not use me to justify your discrimination.
White men have a deplorable, violent, and deadly history of justifying their discrimination by claiming they’re just protecting the white womenfolk from the sexual advances of Black men.
I can’t even pick a link to share about this—there are literally tens of thousands of essays from just the past couple of years alone.
Charleston, South Carolina.
Over and over again.
So, to The Gaslamp and any other bar or club in Houston trying to explain away your racist door policies by saying you’re just trying to maintain a safe balance of women and men in your club, stop.
Don’t say it, and don’t try to pretend that’s what you are doing, and don’t make this about me.
It isn’t about me.
It is about you and your racist door policies and the grave insult and threat your behavior is to men in our city.