I love rock music, especially heavy metal. I blast it as I drive down the road and I mosh in concert pits. Rock 'n' roll is not a "nonblack" thing. Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Little Richard … hellooooo.
So when my friend Ish asked if I liked Ozzy Osbourne, I replied, "Hellz yeah.” Ish had tickets to the Ozzy, Judas Priest and Megadeth tribute concert at House of Blues in Houston. He and I and two of our friends, Meggan and Tim, were so excited. We arrived early and waited in line for the doors to open.
A guy went down the line, giving wristbands to anyone 21 and over who wanted to drink alcohol inside. He paused when he reached us. "Y'all here for the Ozzy concert?"
We laughed. "Yes. We're in the right line," I said.
"OK." He gave us wristbands and moved on.
Next, a woman went down the line with a wand, checking everyone for metal objects. She got to us and stopped. "Are y'all here for the Ozzy concert?"
Ha! "Yes, we are. We're in the right line. We're here for the Ozzy concert."
"Oh, OK." She wanded us and moved on.
The female half of the Hispanic couple in front of us turned around and said, "Wow. Everyone keeps stopping y'all." She pulled out a camera and took a selfie with us in the background. We laughed with her about everyone assuming that we should be at a Jay Z concert (love him, too) instead of Ozzy.
"Yeah. I'm used to it," I said. First, I'm an author who writes about situations and characters that aren't "traditionally black." Second, I happen to be part of the small percentage of black female lawyers in Texas. I'm used to people making assumptions about me and freaking out when they learn they're wrong.
Doesn't make it any less annoying.
House of Blues' doors opened. "Have your tickets out so we can scan them."
We followed the line to the door.
"There are two lines. Two lines," they said as we approached.
Okaaay. We got in the other line, the empty one. My friend Meggan handed the gatekeeper her ticket.
"What concert are you here for?" he asked.
"You're at the wrong concert," he interrupted. "March Madness Music Fest is over there." He pointed in the direction of the concert a few blocks away.
"Huh? No, I'm here for this one." Meggan held up her ticket.
He wouldn't scan it. He pointed for her to get out of line. "This isn't the right concert. There are two going on. The one you're looking for is over there."
"We're at the right place," I said. "We're here for the Ozzy concert."
He wouldn't even scan our tickets.
It wasn't funny anymore.
We had waited in line and been questioned twice already, only to get to the front and be told that we weren't in the right place. I shoved Meggan's shoulder. "[Beep] him. Let's go in. We're at the right place. We have the right tickets." We started walking in.
Several voices shouted from behind, "Noooo. You can't."
I turned abruptly and pointed to the Hispanic couple getting their tickets scanned in our original line. "We were standing in line right behind them. We have tickets to this concert."
The guy from our original line raised his scanner and validated my ticket.
I walked inside the door, 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 the concert. Wristband guy and wand girl could have saved us time if we hadn't been in the right line, but the gatekeeper's dismissiveness crossed the line of decency.
I'd made great efforts to put my high school years in a locked mental trunk. But as I stood inside House of Blues, after fighting to get inside instead of getting the same deference as everyone else in line, that trunk unlocked … and out fell the memory of my high school senior trip.
I'd been a student at a private Christian school in Greenville, N.C., since eighth grade and had never fit in. All of my classmates were white. I had just gotten to the point where I felt it was time to stop being so distant from them.
On our senior trip, we crossed the Canadian border with no problems. On the way back into the U.S., however, Border Patrol went down the line of our chartered bus. When he got to me, he stopped and questioned me. On a bus full of white folks, the assumption was that the only black one must be 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 Border Patrol didn't ask anyone else. After looking me up and down, he moved on.
Nothing like being singled out and scrutinized for … being yourself. Despite the good time I'd had on our trip, I was reminded that I was different and did not belong with them. No matter what, I would not be accepted. Our society would always view me as an outsider.
That was 1992.
My three friends and I were given extra scrutiny outside a rock concert in Houston on a Saturday night in 2016.
We'd done nothing wrong.
I am sick of those who treat people this way and those who say that this doesn't happen, as if my experiences aren't real. I don't want special privileges. At 41 years old, I don't care about acceptance, either. I want to be treated equally. If the gatekeeper had just scanned Meggan's ticket as he did for everyone before her, things would have been equal.
Racial biases, stereotypes and profiling are infectious diseases. We aren't one-dimensional, to be stuffed into a tiny "appropriate" box. We're individuals, who should be able to enjoy the same privileges as others without being treated differently.
We had a blast at the concert, the nonsense notwithstanding. I plan to show up with my black friends 10-deep next time.
Davida Green-Norris is a wife to her best friend, a mother of two handfuls, a civil litigation attorney in Houston and the author of racy fiction, such as The Narcoleptic Vampire Series and the rock' n' roll erotic romance novel Best Friends, Fantasy Lovers. She embraces, promotes and fights for love, diversity, equality and acceptance for all. She actively engages with friends and fans as Dicey Grenor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and at diceygrenorbooks.com.