AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Friends Condone a Racist

Hey Bonita,

This incident didn’t happen in Athens, but I can’t get it out of mind, and I need to figure out how to handle this. There is a new bar in my hometown that is getting really popular. They host lots of bands and trivia nights, karaoke and stuff like that, and I’d gone there a few times before and had a really good time. Cheap drinks and great company for sure, and I’m only a few degrees of separation from the owner’s circle of friends. He’s always been really nice to me and my friends when he’s there, and I’ve never thought anything untoward of him or his employees until this happened. A friend’s band was playing a show there, and they were allowed to put like five people on the guest list, so they put me and some other friends. I carpooled there with a lady friend, and when we got to the door I said my name, showed my ID and said I was on the list for the concert tonight, and he let me in just fine. But when my friend showed her ID and said she was on the list, he actually scratched her name off. WHILE we were standing there and watching him. He told her that she wasn’t on the list and had to pay the cover charge, and thankfully she pushed back and pointed out what he’d just done. He just kind of acted like he’d gotten confused and waved her in, but he wouldn’t even look at her. It made for an awkward start to the evening.

So she told our friends in the band about this happening, and they just kind of laughed it off and chalked it up to the doorman being a Nazi. (My friend is black.) She was horrified to learn this, and so was I, and I almost didn’t believe it until I started casually investigating this guy. Turns out that a bunch of my friends either know or know of him and are fully aware of his racist views.  Apparently at his house he has replicas of Nazi stuff and a swastika flag. Obviously I’ve never been to his house, but I can’t believe how many people I know have hung out with this guy and spent enough time with him to know this about him. 

So what do I do? I’m definitely not going back to this bar until that guy quits, but I feel really motivated to confront any friends I share with this guy and ask them what the hell they’re doing.  I also feel awful for bringing my lady friend face to face with this guy. And I also wanna ask the bar owner why he’d hire a known white supremacist. Would I be destroying my relationships and hometown bar scene by digging all of this up? This all happened during summer break, and I don’t wanna be seen as stirring the pot on something that’s in the past.

Anonymous Non-Racist

Hey Anonymous,

I think you can start by speaking to the one person who almost certainly doesn’t think that the opportunity to address this has passed, and that’s your poor Black friend who had this guy’s racism inflicted upon her. She probably felt really crappy being singled out like that—imagine having your name scratched away right in front of you, almost like being told that you don’t exist.  I’m sure it didn’t help to have so-called friends laugh about a racist using the very minimal power they wield in their job against her. This was just a show at a small-town bar, but sometimes these people express their racism by passing people over for promotions or making dangerous assumptions. I once went to a local nonprofit hospital with a ruptured ovarian cyst but was left sweating, crying and writhing in pain on a gurney in the hallway for two hours because the ER staff thought I was faking to get pain medication. It was obvious from the moment I stepped inside, and especially after they all magically developed an outstanding bedside manner after an actual doctor saw me. Imagine if I’d had internal bleeding or something. I’d probably be dead right now instead of fuming over implicit bias keeping me from getting adequate medical care.

You can absolutely let the bar owner know what you’ve learned about this jabroni, but be prepared for him to possibly not care at all. He may already know, and he may even share some of his worker’s views. I think you can also encourage your friends not to patronize or play music at any place that this guy works at, not to mention being better people by kicking racists out of their lives and taking these kinds of transgressions more seriously. These conversations will not be pleasant or easy, but when y’all look back at this, you’ll be on the right side of this story.

Need advice? Email, or use our anonymous online form at