**SPECIAL THANKS TO “THE ROOT” FOR PUBLISHING MY STORY
ON APRIL 16, 2016**
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the responses to this post, but it was a conversation that needed to be had. So many folks messaged me that they could relate. I hope I did my small part in bringing about bigger change.
Be sure to follow The Root if you have an interest in breaking stereotypes and promoting equality. And if you don’t, you’re probably on the wrong author’s blog. I am about diversity, inclusion, equality, and justice for all.
Thanks for your help, Yesha Callahan!
**added on 5-25-16** RIP Prince. His death is truly heartbreaking. He was and will always be heavily influential for rock music, musicians, and fans, though his impact could never be limited to just rock.
A more detailed version of my story (2500 words):
This will be the realest post I’ve ever written, because it is deeply personal… and I do not care how anyone else feels about it. This is MY experience. MY life. It is what is real to ME. I am just so sick of biases, stereotypes, and profiling, that I am actually going to use my blog platform to vent about it. I am sick of being silent about MY experiences, in order for others to remain comfortable, while trying to tell me what is and isn’t going on in the world through their own limited scopes. If you can’t at least be empathetic to my plight, just because it is not your experience, you can get the fuck on.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
I listen to rock music. Not just rock…metal. I listen to heavy metal. I’m a black female, and I like heavy metal rock. I blast it as I drive down the road. I go to rock and heavy metal concerts. I get my mosh on in the pit. Deal with it.
Rock-n-roll is not a “non-black” thing. Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Little Richard… Hellooooo.
That’s not all the music I listen to, mind you. I love everything, except country, though I support Tim McGraw. His love and diversity message is one that I can get down with, so I follow and share his posts. But you get my point. If you’ve read my books (the opening scene of THE NARCOLEPTIC VAMPIRE SERIES is set to Marilyn Manson’s “You and Me and the Devil Makes 3” and BEST FRIENDS, FANTASY LOVERS is a rock-n-roll erotic romance) or have read my previous blog posts about music, you’ll see that I cannot be boxed in to only listening to what is expected of me: hiphop, R & B, gospel, and pop. Apparently, these are the only “acceptable” genres for me…because I tend to raise eyebrows when folks learn otherwise.
Here’s a middle finger for your box.
So, I went to a rock concert last night. And I was pretty doggone excited about going to it, too. Last week, my friend, Ish, sent a message out of the blue asking if I liked Ozzy. “HELLZ YEAH,” I replied. We commenced to make plans to go to the Ozzy, Judas Priest, and Megadeth Tributes concert at the House of Blues last night. “Tribute concert” basically meant the actual artists wouldn’t be there, but some kickass bands would give us an experience that would make us feel like the real bands were. Let me be clear–the bands did not disappoint. They were AWESOME. (Thanks, JudasX, Gigadeth, and OZZ!) Ish had extra tickets, so I mentioned I knew some other people who would be interested in going. I reached out to them. We all couldn’t wait. We posted about it constantly on FB, in fact. Unfortunately, some had to back out at the last minute, but it was all good.
Flash forward to last night…
You couldn’t tell us anything. We were going to rock out to Ozzy, dammit. We continued to post on social media in the hours leading up to the concert.
We arrived early.
We got in line.
We waited with the rest of the fans because doors hadn’t opened yet.
Then a guy went down the line giving wristbands to those over 21 that wanted to drink alcohol once they got inside. He went down the row nice and easy until he got to us. “Y’all here for the Ozzy concert?” We laughed. “Yes. We’re in the right line,” I said. He said, “Okay,” and gave those of us who were going to drink *ahem* a wristband, and went on down the line of people behind us.
Pretty efficient, right? It would make the line go faster once the doors finally opened.
A few minutes later, a female went down the line with a wand to scan everyone for weapons and metal objects. She got to us and stopped. “Are y’all here for the Ozzy concert?” Ha! “Yes, we are. We are in the right line. We are here for the Ozzy concert.” “Oh, okay.” And she wanded us down and moved down the line of people behind us.
Still efficient, House of Blues. Good on ya.
The Hispanic couple in front of us turned around. “Wow. Everyone keeps stopping y’all,” the female persuasion of the couple said, and even pulled out a camera to take a pic of us in the background. “Yeah. I’m used to it,” I said. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it, right? Anywho… We laughed and joked with her about how everyone assumed we should be at a JayZ concert (love him too, btw) instead of at an Ozzy one. But whatevs. Like I said–used to it. Because this applies to just about every area of my life. I am a black author…that writes about…well, nontraditionally “black” things, I’ve been told, from multicultural/diverse characters’ perspectives. And I’m a black female…who happens to be part of the small percentage of us who practice law in the great state of Texas. Ah, yeah. I’m used to people assuming one thing about me, and freaking out when they get something else.
Doesn’t make it any less annoying. Why the stereotype to begin with???
But I digress…
Back to my story. ‘Cause it gets better.
And by better, I mean ridamndiculous.
So…finally the House of Blues doors were opened.
We followed the line up to the door. “Have your tickets out so we can scan them,” they said. Because House of Blues is efficient like that. *thumbs up*
“There are 2 lines. TWO lines,” they said as we approached to have our ticket scanned.
Okay. Let’s get in the other line that’s empty, because…efficiency. Yeah.
My friend, Meggan, went up to the employee in the other “line” and handed him her ticket.
“What concert are you here for?” the gatekeeper asked.
“You’re at the wrong concert,” he said, before she could even finish. “The March Madness Music Fest is over there.” He pointed to the mega concert going on at Discovery Green a few blocks away where Kendrick Lamar (love him too) would perform. We could see it from the House of Blues balcony, and we’d never made plans to go to it.
“Huh? No, I’m here for this one.” Meggan held up her ticket.
He wouldn’t scan it. He just pointed for her to get out of line. “This is not the right concert. The concert you’re looking for is over there. There are two different concerts.”
“We’re at the right place,” I said. “We are here for the Ozzy concert.”
But he had decided to dismiss us and not scan our tickets.
It wasn’t funny anymore.
I was NOT laughing.
He was about to make us miss the tribute concert because of his own biases.
I was pissed the fuck off. We had waited in line and been questioned twice already, to get to the front and be told we were not in the right place and couldn’t get in. Did this douche just leave a certain presidential campaign rally and come straight to the House of Blues to do ticket scans or what?
I gave Meggan’s shoulder a shove. “Fuck him. Let’s go in. We’re at the right place. We have the right tickets.” We started walking in.
Several folks shouted, “Noooo. You can’t.” Honestly, my back was to them at this point, so I don’t know who did the shouting. But I turned immediately and pointed to the Hispanic couple getting their ticket scanned in the line we had been directed out of to go to Douche’s “line”.
“We were standing and waiting in line right behind them. We have tickets to THIS concert,” I said. And I probably had an attitude. Lo’ and behold–I must be the stereotypical angry black woman…because I spoke up and stood up for us to get into the concert Douche wouldn’t let us in.
The guy from the first line held up his scanner, scanned my ticket, saw that it was valid, and I walked on inside the door.
I stood inside wondering what I should do about the way Douche had treated us. Wondering how angry I could appear without embarrassing all black females. Wondering whether it was worth complaining to management and possibly ruining our chances of enjoying what we had come for–the concert. I mean, the first 2 that asked if we were in the right place could have saved us some time if we had actually been in the wrong line, right? A simple inquiry from them wasn’t really that bad. But the last guy–AKA gatekeeper, Douche–his dismissive attitude toward us had crossed the line of decency.
I stood there remembering the time when I was in high school. In a class of all white students. I was the only non-white student in my class at the private Christian school I went to in Greenville, NC. I remembered the time we had gone on our senior trip. I had been a student there since the 8th grade, and I had just gotten to the point that I didn’t hate my classmates. I had just gotten to the point that–though I did not fit in–I didn’t mind spending time with them outside of school hours. Maybe I *could* be friends with one or two of them. So, I went with them on the senior trip to Schroon Lake, NY and some city in Canada.
Even as I type this, I feel emotional about it. You see, I’ve made great efforts to put my high school years in a locked mental trunk. Not a combination lock. A heavy duty, titanium lock with an iron key. But as I stood there inside those House of Blues doors–that I’d had to fight to get into instead of being given the same deference as everyone else in line–that trunk unlocked on its own…and out fell this memory. Along with others, but I won’t share the rest.
This one’s important.
My high school classmates and I rode in a chartered bus on our senior trip. Do you know what chartered means? Good. Then you know it basically means only the people that belong there are on it. So I was on it. I had every right to be there. Just like all the other folks on there. And we crossed the Canadian border with no problems.
On the way back, however–YES, COMING BACK INTO THE U.S.–Border patrol climbed onboard and went down the line. Just like they did outside the House of Blues tribute concert last night. And when they got to me, they stopped. They questioned me. Just like they did outside the House of Blues last night. On a bus full of white folks, I was the only black one. That must have meant I was in the wrong place. “What’s your name? What are your parents’ names? Where are you from? Where were you born? Where are you going? Where are you coming from?” Just normal security questions. That Mr. Border Patrol didn’t ask anyone else. Then after looking me up and down, he decided I was just some nervous 17-year-old and left me alone.
I felt like shit. There’s nothing like being singled out and scrutinized for…just being yourself. Despite the good time I’d had with some of my classmates on our trip, I was reminded that I was different from them, and I did not belong with them. No matter what I did, I would not be accepted as a part of them. Our society would always view me as the outsider.
That was in 1992.
I, and my black rocker friends (the 4 of us), were given extra scrutiny outside a rock concert last night in Houston, TX, in 2016.
What exactly had we done wrong?
When will the profiling stop?
*pausing to get myself together*
I am sick of it. Of you. Yes, YOU. Those who say this doesn’t happen. Those who act like my experiences aren’t real. Those who somehow think because Obama was elected, we have racial equality. But THIS was not racial equality. If we had been treated the same way everyone else had in line last night, that would have been equality. If Douche had just scanned Meggan’s ticket and seen that it was valid, things would have been equal.
I don’t want special privileges or concessions to be made for me. And at 41-years-old, I no longer care about your acceptance either. I WANT TO BE TREATED EQUALLY, MOTHERFUCKERS. In all things.
Do better, folks. Your biases are infectious diseases. Your stereotypes are bullshit. And your profiling is disgusting. We are not a one-dimensional label to be stuffed in the tiny box that you think is appropriate. We are individuals. We should not be treated differently to enjoy the same privileges you do. I just want to go to the fucking Judas Priest/Megadeth/Ozzy tribute concert without being harassed or told I don’t belong. Is that too much to ask?
**PLEASE NOTE: My first concert at House of Blues was for the Roologic record label launch in March. It was fabulous. Such a diverse bunch–the artists and the audience. I posted on FB how much I enjoyed the concert. I tweeted to House of Blues how wonderful my experience was. So I’m not the sort of person who only complains when things are bad. I shout positive experiences from the rooftop. I am honestly less likely to share negative ones publicly, but I’ve decided some of my negative experiences need to be shared to combat the rhetoric that somehow the “majority” is being oppressed. That’s not even possible. I’m pretty sure none of the folks that attended the March Madness Music Festival last night were told they were in the wrong concert.**
Will I ever return to the House of Blues in Houston? Damn straight. Apparently, they need to get used to seeing more black faces at rock concerts. I just may show up 10-deep next time. Plus, the bands and bartenders were great! My friends and I had a blast.