Frosted Blake’s

GA Voice - - LGBT Atlanta -

“The man­age­ment at Blake’s is an em­bar­rass­ment to our city and our move­ment, but the short-lived dress code was sur­pris­ing only in how lazy it was in con­ceal­ing its in­tent.”

A Supreme Court vic­tory pro­vides a boost to any birth­day plans, as I found out when the same-sex mar­riage rul­ing kicked off the week­end of my 35th. The last week­end in June wound up be­ing an en­chant­ing blur of bar-hop­ping and giddy, hope­ful con­ver­sa­tions with strangers, and a per­sonal con­tent­ment upon reach­ing an age where I am un­de­ni­ably Grown.

Yet my most dis­tinct mem­ory from that week­end was the ami­able big­otry I gagged on while fin­ish­ing my first drink at Blake’s.

My friend and I were at the bar when we started chat­ting with two guys, one of whom was black and cel­e­brat­ing his birth­day, and his best friend, a white het­ero­sex­ual. My friend com­pli­mented the beauty of their friend­ship, and they ex­changed tipsy pro­fes­sions of their fra­ter­nal love for one another, across cat­e­gories.

My friend drifted into con­ver­sa­tion with the birth­day boy, while the kick-ass bestie and I plunged into an in­tox­i­cat­ing dis­cus­sion.

“So what was it like at Auburn?” the white, het­ero­sex­ual best friend asked. “It must’ve been sweet, huh? I mean—I don’t wanna be That Guy, but you had schol­ar­ships, right? As a mi­nor­ity.”

I kept my cup to­ward my face and my straw in my mouth to buy time to ab­sorb the nerve and/or naïveté thus re­vealed within some­one who thereto­fore had seemed so en­light­ened.

“I had sev­eral schol­ar­ships,” I said in a clar­i­fy­ing tone. “Some were mi­nor­ity-based, but many weren’t. I’d like to think ... and I think oth­ers would think ... that I earned what­ever I got. And I guess I will be That Guy and note that a cou­ple of them were from The New York Times.”

Truth­fully, the New York Times schol­ar­ships may have been among the mi­nor­ity-based ones, but he didn’t need to know that. Be­cause he clearly didn’t know that $1,000 stipends are not the mus­cle that lifts kids from the ghet­tos to col­lege de­grees at out-of-state-tu­ition rates, and he was obliv­i­ous to any merit or in­ge­nu­ity that a mi­nor­ity stu­dent might ex­hibit to aid his ma­tric­u­la­tion through higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“You’re a su­per cool dude and you seem to have a good heart, but that was a dick thing to say,” I said. “It’s a hurt­ful pre­sump­tion, and not what I was ex­pect­ing from you.”

We like­wise should not ex­pect a mar­quee el­e­ment of LGBT At­lanta like Blake’s to use coded racism to steer mem­bers of our com­mu­nity away from its es­tab­lish­ment—es­pe­cially as our move­ment shifts its fight to the realm of public ac­com­mo­da­tions. The man­age­ment at Blake’s is an em­bar­rass­ment to our city and our move­ment, but the short­lived dress code was sur­pris­ing only in how lazy it was in con­ceal­ing its in­tent.

I’ve been in the park­ing lot at 10th and Pied­mont and seen groups of white guys de­bate whether to go into Blake’s or party across the street; some­times some­one will blurt out some­thing along the lines of “It’s too dark in Blake’s,” but more of­ten fa­cial move­ments and know­ing glances guide the groups across the street. If I wit­ness these en­coun­ters as a ca­sual pa­tron, surely the folks who run Blake’s are aware of the ris­ing un­ease among their long­time cus­tomers due to the in­flux of black gay men on cer­tain nights.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of black men who (used to) go to Blake’s were young and mid­dle-aged pro­fes­sion­als, whose ex­pe­ri­ence and merit are de­graded when Blake’s—the man­age­ment, and the tra­di­tional clien­tele—clas­si­fies their way of dress, and by im­pli­ca­tion their very pres­ence, as threat­en­ing and un­wel­come. The crowd at Blake’s is will­ing to get ratchet and yell “Bye Feli­cia” all day, but let au­then­tic black peo­ple and cul­ture ar­rive in their space, and see how quickly they turn into That Guy.

Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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