Monday, July 24, 2006

Nightclub Racism - Is It Really Racism or Simple Stereotypes?

Lately there seems to be some well-publicized concerns with alleged racism in nightclubs, specifically concerning nightclub security staff. People are quick to jump and call someone a racist, because they believe that they are being discriminated against as a result of their skin colour. Racism is a term that is being thrown around loosely which is tragic in itself. In my experiences, most security staff make decisions based on the training and experience that enable them to identify factors that effect peoples behavior, not on skin colour. Some of these factors are attitude, posture, sobriety, attire, disposition and the company you keep. I believe that most of the recent complaints about nightclub staff being racist are actually situations where the staff are stereotyping the patrons, not being racist.

1)racism (rszm)

n. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

2)stereotype (str--tp, str-)

n. A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image: One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type

Doormen are certainly guilty of being stereotypical while working and with good cause. They are also accused of being racist, but I believe that in many situations the patron that feels as if he has been denied because of race, is actually being denied due to the stereotypes the doorman has based on previous experiences. After 10 years experience dealing with everything from Triads, Hell Angels, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Indo-Canadian gangs, and the KKK, I can honestly say that I will on occasion not allow entry to someone based on my experiences and knowledge and because of a stereotype Ive formed over the years. It is never based on what colour their skin is.

For example, 4 guys approach the door wanting to come in. They all look average in dress, and all of them are the same race. Will I let them in? It all depends on their answers and the "tests" I give them while they stand in front of me waiting to get in. I know from experience that a group of 4 of more men together in a drinking establishment could mean a) a great party b) potential problems. How do I make the decision? I'll talk with the guys a bit, ask for ID, make some jokes, ask them how their night is going and generally get a feel for their attitude and build up a dialogue with them. If they are standoffish, reluctant to speak, looking "shifty" then I will not allow them entrance, or delay their entry long enough to see if they will be a threat. If they are positive, and not full of attitude then I will happily let them in. Regardless if it is 4 whites or 4 east indians, I will not let a group of people in if I sense some sort of underlying current of hostility. Now what if they were all a different race? The same applies. I judge them based on the "tests" I give them while talking to them at the front door.

Education has taught me never judge a person by his or her race. Common sense has taught me not to let in 4 guys with bad attitudes. That is the difference. Racism by definition is "Discrimination based on race. I am certainly not a racist, but I am guilty of stereotyping (One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type) I will not allow 4 guys with bad attitudes in, as I know from experience that they will either create a problem, or cause enough tension inside that a problem will start. I will not however deny access to 4 guys just because they are all a particular race. That would be racism.

In closing I want to say that in my opinion, stereotypes are the root of the problem and not racism. Working security in a nightclub is a dangerous and thankless job, certainly not made any easier by people screaming, racism at every turn.