What Do You Call a Black Man With a J.D.?
A "gangbanger," apparently, if you are the owner of the Boston club that expelled dozens of black Harvard and Yale students and alumni last weekend on suspicion of being criminals. Ask D. Omavi Harshaw, who was there.
It was hard to tell if the several dozen black Harvard and Yale graduate students and alumni exiting Cure Lounge Saturday night were shivering from the unwelcoming Boston cold or trembling from anger after we were kicked out of our own private party quite literally because of the color of our skin.
Harvard-Yale football homecoming has a unique significance for black graduate students who gather to celebrate; it is a temporary moment of relief. The Ivy League postgraduate environment can be a very a hostile one for blacks, who are arguably made to feel more at home in America's prisons than in its top universities.
So it's no wonder that the hundreds of black graduate students and alumni who flocked to Cambridge, Mass., last weekend were extremely excited at the opportunity to mix, mingle and dance freely with their peers from across the nation. The culminating party was held at Cure Lounge, a private club. After a long wait in line, things began to warm up as the DJ dropped gems and we dropped money at the bar. Around 10:45 p.m., I had just achieved enough liquid courage to approach this girl when the music suddenly stopped.
The lights came on. Girls stopped dancing. Bartenders began to clean the bar. I then saw looks of confusion become looks of indignation as the bouncers told the crowd that everyone would have to leave.
Why? What they told the crowd: technical difficulties. What they told the promoters, according to an e-mail they later sent out to those who had been invited: The people in line outside [read: black women] would attract "local gangbangers." Yet anyone remotely familiar with Boston knows that local gangbangers in the Theater District look more like Colin Sullivan from The Departed than Omar Little from The Wire.
We were kicked out because apparently the promoters did not tell the owner that the Harvard and Yale graduates and alumni in attendance that night would be black. Quite simply, on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, a group of overprivileged blacks were kicked out of a private venue because of the color of our skin.
The owner of the club wanted to teach us a lesson: We are not above the law. What law, you might ask? Clearly, to him and many like him, the law of the land is that blacks are to behave according to the will of whites, be it through zoning laws, admissions letters or nightclub entries. We may enter, we may even prosper, but we must never control. We must never set the rules of the game. The white owner once again proved the fallacy of a post-racial America. In a sad twist of irony, the group that organized the party is named Triumph, and the club is named Cure.
The black men and women who were on their way to Cure Lounge that night were going to celebrate the mistaken belief that we've made it, by playing by the rules and winning "the Game." Blacks who have graduated from predominantly white schools to work in predominantly white corporations were on their way to a white-owned club, but for all that, we were reminded Saturday that we are still a part of the most stigmatized group in this nation.