Open Letter to SchwuZ

Picture of the SchwuZ entry letter board. The letter board is lit with the word ‘Beyoncelicious’ in the center in between 2 olive branches.

Schwuz,

It is with great disappointment, frustration, and dismay that the Black and Brown Queer community of Berlin, in coalition with our allies, writes this letter urging you to rectify the pain and humiliation you have caused to many members of our community and to address racism present within your space.

On Sunday night, 4 June 2017, a group of Black and Brown femmes, queers, and allies were aggressively targeted and denied access by SchwuZ bouncers to the Beyoncelicious event taking place that night. The group was accosted by a bouncer who aggressively accused the womxn of being “loud” and “annoying” for playing games on the phone of other white patrons while waiting in line for the event. Though the game was initiated on the phone of one the white party-goers, only the Black womxn in line were screamed at for being loud. When the womxn got to the front of the line, the white men who started the game were allowed entry while the Black womxn were denied access.

Racist ideologies that mark Black people as uncivilized contribute to the production of stereotypes that Black people are untrained and do not know “how to behave.” This causes Black joy, laughter, and even the slightest movement that goes against the grain of mainstream society (i.e. dancing, singing, talking, existing, etc.) in public spaces, to be regarded as behaving inappropriately.The recent viral hashtags #LaughingWhileBlack and #ExistingWhileBlack demonstrate the ways in which Black joy and laughter is policed in public spaces.

It was later discovered that two other Black party-goers, who were assumed to be part of the group of Black femmes, were also denied access while their white friends were allowed to enter the party celebrating Beyonce. As an explanation, the bouncer stated: “The party isn’t for you tonight.”

The fact of this race-based targeting was further exacerbated by the fact that the evening was celebrating and profiting from an outspoken Black female artist, Beyonce, whose most recent album Lemonade spoke specifically to the pain and trauma of being Black and woman. The despicable racially-biased actions of the evening demonstrated to the Black and Brown Queer community of Berlin that SchwuZ wants Black money, but not Black bodies.

After reviewing your public responses on the SchwuZ Facebook page, we are unfortunately unsurprised that your team failed to explicitly acknowledge the central role of racism and racial profiling by members of your team as the source of pain to the Black and Brown femmes, queers, and allies who were aggressively and selectively denied access to the Beyoncelicious party.

SchwuZ released their first official reaction to the events that took place outside of Beyoncelicious on their Facebook page Tuesday, 6 June 2017. The statement refers to the racist incident that took place at the entrace of SchwuZ as an ‘allegation.’ It also centered the emotions of the Schwuz team by addressing how ‘shocked and overwhelmed’ they felt without addressing the emotions of the victims of that night and went on to tell the victims that they needed to be ‘patient’ while they ‘analyze the situation and react appropriately.’

An allegation is a claim of wrongdoing without any proof. A group of six Black femmes directly told your team of their experiences and witnesses confirmed and corroborated their stories. To refer to the events that took place as “allegations” is not just insulting, but a denial of fact. To then tell a group of womxn that have been traumatized at the hand of your staff that they need to be patient while a group of white people (one of whom dismissed their concerns that night) decide how/if to acknowledge their experience is patronizing and displays privilege.

If SchwuZ is indeed trained in providing protection against racist and fascist attacks, as they claim online and on signs posted directly next to where the racist event occurred, then there should have already been a pre-existing anti-racist action plan to handle the situation as quickly as possible.

The second address to the public was a clear example of gaslighting, a manipulative practice of sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of victims. By issuing an apology that never once addressed the individuals who were victimized for the color of their skin that night, re-writing the racist incident as ‘a situation between some of (your) white queer and non-queer employees and Black Queers and Queers of Color as well as non-queer people in the queue (that) verbally escalated,’ and claiming that the Black femmes were denied entry into the club because of limited space and a supposed verbal escalation is a re-invention of the events that transpired that removes racism entirely from the equation.

Later in the “apology,” SchwuZ admits that ‘(they) stand on the privileged side of an inherently racist society and (that they) understand that those power structures are unfortunately effective in SchwuZ as well.’ But society is not inherently racist. Racism is maintained through racist structures that are continuously upheld within political, institutional, and public spaces. By failing to openly acknowledge the most obvious and overt incident of racism outside of SchwuZ, it is difficult to believe that SchwuZ is capable of rectifying the less overt, structural racism of their space that centers and uplifts the white majority and marginalizes and excludes less dominant, minority groups.

Schwuz concludes their statement with another general apology to the public while continuing their refusal to name the victims of the event. Finally, they note that the ‘situation’ was unintended, as though intent negates impact.

Both public statements emphasize the importance of transparency, but what is most transparent is that SchwuZ refuses to acknowledge the weight and illegality of what took place or to hold themselves accountable for the failure of their claims of inclusivity. By refusing to name racism in the actions of their bouncers, SchwuZ has chosen to be complicit in upholding racism in their space. Until a determined commitment to anti-racism is enacted at SchwuZ, hiring a few BPOC for the sake of diversity will simply not be enough.

Therefore, It is our duty as a community of systemically marginalized people to bring full transparency to what happened on June 4th and the discrimination that has habitually occurred within SchwuZ by supplying to the public as many testimonies as possible. These testimonies can be accessed in the link below. By doing this we aim to make it impossible to consciously deny that there is a pervasive problem of exclusion, discrimination and othering within the very structure of this ‘inclusive’ queer space and urge the public to join with us in demanding SchwuZ hold themselves accountable and responsible for this injustice.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-3of-zj8Axkz3JrKPYeBArw1Mh6B7LesvfiufG_QX9k/edit?usp=sharing

Demands for Schwuz. Edited since June 9, 2017.

1. SchwuZ as self-proclaimed anti-racist/ anti-fascist, inclusive club and institutional space, must address the way they have upheld racist/fascist values inside and outside (line and door policy) of their venue.

2. SchwuZ must issue a formal, public and official apology regarding the racist event that took place in 4 June 2017 and all other racist behaviors that took place prior. This apology should have no evidence of gaslighting, victim-blaming, or excuses for the behavior. It should also show that SchwuZ is 100% responsible and accountable for their racist practices.

3. Provide compensation for those who have experienced racial, gender, identity discrimination at the hands of their employees.

4. SchwuZ must re-examine employee behavior to be representative of the values it aims to promote (i.e. Employing more people of color within and outside of the Schwuz space as graphic designers, djs, marketing coordinators, door security, etc.)

5. SchwuZ must discontinue the appropriation of music produced by people of color and prioritize Black and Brown bodies access to their space as an equitable anti-racist action.

6. Develop a plan of action for handling racist behavior at SchwuZ.

7. Develop an active discourse on anti-racist and anti-fascist behavior that can be used amongst employees in order to understand how racism and fascism are perpetuated within club spaces.

8. Organize mandatory anti-racist/anti-fascist workshops/trainings for ALL employees including security.

9. SchwuZ must remove the claim that they are trained in dealing with racial conflict and accept that they are as problematic as other queer white spaces until they PROVE that they are not.

10. Make the action plan and the continuous progress of these actions open to the public to hold SchwuZ accountable.