The Harvard-Yale Game was this weekend. I didn’t attend. I’m at that uncomfortable age where I’m too old to go to The Game and get black-out drunk at the keg, but too young to show up in a fur coat handing out glasses of Cristal (rhymes with “Mystal”) while my butler grills porterhouse steaks out of the back of my Range Rover.
I look forward to going to The Game in the future, but I’m really glad I didn’t go this year. If I had, I might have been arrested. Seriously, you would have logged on to Above the Law this morning and been entertained by my “Letter From a Boston Jail” or something.
Because if I had gone to The Game, I probably would have gone to the party hosted
by the Harvard’s Black Law Student Association (and other affinity groups) at a new Boston club called Cure Lounge. And had I gone to that, when the club owners shut down the party essentially because too many black people were gathering in one place, I would have had major objections and been thrown in jail for “being an angry black person in Boston” (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days).
CORRECTION: According to the Harvard BLSA president, “Harvard BLSA was not involved in organizing or running the party in question…. [T]he event was run by a group that is not affiliated with Harvard BLSA or Harvard Law School. Harvard BLSA did cover the ticket cost of several members who attended the party.”
I wouldn’t have been able to adjust quickly enough to being back in a place like Boston, so I would have gone nuclear when somebody suggested that too many African-American Harvard and Yale students might attract “gang-bangers.”
Was there a lawyer in the line outside the club who could have objected? Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered….
The story first appeared on Jezebel and has been bouncing around my inbox since yesterday. Here’s how multiple sources describe what went down at Cure Lounge in Boston on Friday night:
- Current Harvard and Yale students, as well as alumni from both schools, pre-purchased tickets to the gathering.
- There was a line.
- Concerned about uninvited people coming to the club, the bouncers were told that only people with a Harvard or Yale student I.D. could enter the club.
- The event organizers protested, stating that (obviously) alumni were probably not clinging to their student IDs.
- Access was re-granted to all ticket-holding individuals for a time.
- At 11:15 p.m. the entire event was shut down by the club’s owner.
- Multiple people claim they were told: “there are black women in line… who attract black men… which looks bad” for a new club like Cure.
The next day, the event organizers told people what had been happening behind the scenes in an email. Here is the most important part:
From: [Beal, Michael (Harvard ’06, HBS ’12)]…
At approximately 10:30PM club management called the owner to say that they saw individuals on line whom they recognized as “local gang bangers” (their words not mine). In response to this, the club owner directed the bouncers to only let individuals with a Harvard or Yale ID in to the club. At this point [Kwame Owusu-Kesse (Harvard ’06, HBS ’12, HKS ’12)] and I argued that no alumnus would have his or her expired college ID with them and reiterated that the reason we did the party on a pre-sold basis with strict admittance based solely on the guest list was to guarantee that the only attendees were Harvard and Yale alumni, grad students and their close friends and to ensure that no “bad seeds” could contaminate our party. However, given that this was the club’s opening weekend, the owner was particularly sensitive to anything going wrong.
At approximately 10:45, after we won the argument concerning the amazing quality of our crowd and the strictness of our guest list, management began letting people in but then became worried that as our crowd waited in line it could attract the attention of “local gang bangers” passing by who would try to gain entrance to our party. Furthermore, they feared that if these individuals were turned away for not being on the guest list they could hypothetically cause problems with the bouncers outside of the club and draw negative attention to the establishment. Despite the fact that our Friday night party went off without a hitch and had no problems when we turned people away from the door for not being on our list, management decided to shut the party down as to avoid the hypothetical chance of attracting the “wrong crowd” (again their words not mine). In spite of our attempts to reason with them, we were left in a position where despite agreeing with our logic, the decision had been made and we were left powerless.
Please be assured that we are working with event-brite to refund every person who purchased a ticket for tonight’s event as soon as possible. To those who gained entrance and wasted their money on cabs and drinks at the bar I am extremely sorry. As anyone who knows us understands, the only reason we created Triumph was to foster an environment where educated individuals (black and non-black) can congregate knowing that they are amongst like-minded persons. As a Harvard Business School student I am annoyed by the financial loss we will record as a result of the club’s rash decision. As a Harvard college alum I am angry that my college roommate flew in from Los Angeles and my teammate from San Francisco and were denied the opportunity to reconnect with old friends on our homecoming weekend. However, as a black man, these emotions are trumped by an arduous feeling of sadness that regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, Law, Medical, Business and PhD students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color. I am further dismayed that after having spent the last few hours with the club owner, I do not believe him to be a racist; which only adds to my consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country.
Yeah, I’m also suffering from a severe case of “consternation” from these events. I’m reminded of something my father once told me (which I’m sure black fathers have been telling to their sons for a generation): “If they hate me ’cause I’m weak, maybe one day I’ll be strong. If they hate me ’cause I’m poor, maybe one day I’ll be rich. But if they hate me ’cause I’m black then they can go f*** themselves because there ain’t s*** I can do about it.” If young black people from Harvard and Yale can’t get a fair shake while standing in line, even the veneer of racial equality in this country is laughable.
Can you imagine a club owner shutting down his own club because “there are so many white women outside they might attract unsavory white men”? That statement has probably never been uttered in the history of the world.
The owner of Cure Lounge did not return my phone call requesting comment. I’m actually happy about that, because if he had picked up the phone I’m not at all sure what I would have said (we can assume that I wouldn’t have agreed with his values before accepting his opinions). But I’m sure he’ll pop his head out in the next few days apologizing for the “unfortunate circumstances beyond his control” from this past Friday. It’ll be a non-apology kind of apology. And when minorities boycott the Cure Lounge — which is EXACTLY what should happen; you shouldn’t even have to organize a boycott, people should just naturally stay away from this new place where they are apparently only welcome in small numbers — the owner will probably be happy.
I think there is a “teachable moment” here for young black and brown students at Harvard and Yale and any other prestigious institution (no teaching for the club owner, he can take a big helping of my father’s advice). If you are going to HLS or YLS or some similar institution and think for a moment that doing well and achieving things will somehow buy you out of the twisted racial logic that exists in this country, think again. I know many of you out there already know this. But every now and again you run into somebody who thinks that doing all the right things will make you “equal” in the eyes of whatever white person can make your life hell in an instant — that law professor, managing partner, rich client you’re trying to land, or police officer. But no matter how many prestigious institutions you line up on your résumé or how many letters you put behind your name, in this society you will still be viewed as black “first” and everything else “second.” You can’t cover yourself in enough ivy to change that.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not a white man I know that I’d trade places with. I like being me, and I couldn’t be me without this part of my identity (though the “brother with bad credit” thing does get a little old after a while).
But it’s good that I like being black and can deal with the hate, because there really isn’t anything that I could do to change it. I mean, a load of Harvard and Yale students were just denied services that they already paid for solely because of the color of their skin, and they don’t even have great grounds for a lawsuit. That’s the America we live in.