City DopeNews

Discrimination at Downtown Bars Is More Widespread Than We Thought

As reported here two weeks ago, Athens-Clarke County commissioners Mike Hamby, Andy Herod and Kelly Girtz are drafting a resolution for a January vote ordering the county attorney’s office to write a local anti-discrimination ordinance in response to numerous reports that African American UGA students are being denied entry to downtown bars (instances of which Flagpole detailed in a Nov. 18 article).

“We’ve been hearing about this for years, and it’s accelerated to the point that I don’t believe we can ignore them,” Girtz said at the commission’s Dec. 1 meeting.

The problems may be worse than we realized, even after General Beauregard’s famous “N*****ita” drink came to light. UGA student Andrew Roberts compiled a list of times fellow students have been turned away from a downtown bar based on skin color. He provided the list to Commissioner Allison Wright, who passed it on to police and the media. The list includes more than 50 allegations of discrimination at more than a dozen student bars downtown.

“People on campus have had enough,” Wright said. “We’ve had enough. We need to let other people know we’ve had enough.”

Most commonly, black students reported that they were kept out of bars on the grounds that their clothing violated a dress code. In many cases, those students were part of a mixed-race group where their similarly dressed white friends were allowed in, or they witnessed doormen allowing in white people who were wearing the same thing—for example, such completely unacceptable attire as a black T-shirt or high heels—or blatantly violating the dress code.

Here are some of their comments:

• “Athens is really just a faux-liberal town.”

• “[I]t shows just how far some of these bars will go to keep certain people and races out of their bars, in order to keep their ‘fraternity lifestyle’ patrons happy.”

• “It was my first instance of racial discrimination in my life. I felt worthless.”

• “It happens all the time every weekend, feels like the status quo. No one cares to do anything about it.”

• “I realized Athens is a terrible place.”

The ordinance would let the county officials consider reports of discrimination when deciding whether to renew an establishment’s alcohol license. If these bar owners think they can make more money from white Greek students by keeping African Americans out than they lose by keeping African Americans out, let’s see what happens when they can lose their whole livelihood.