A Detroit festival has been the subject of death threats because it originally charged white people double the price that people of color paid for tickets.
This year, general admission tickets to Afrofuture Fest cost $20 for people of color and $40 for white people.
The festival, based in Detroit, initially implemented this pricing system to address financial disparities that often bar people of color from attending local events. "Often times when dope events happen in Detroit the cheapest tickets are bought and then sold by people not from the community bc they can afford them first, leaving higher price tickets as the only options left," stated one of the event's organizers on Twitter. "Black and brown people deserve access to quality events in their city and it isn't fair when events happen in their city that they don't have a chance of being apart of because people who don't look like us take advantage and also have more access to collective wealth."
Afrofuture is an organization dedicated to overcoming these disadvantages. Part of the festival's profits are set to go to Afrofuture Youth, a charity organization for children. The festival's original Eventbrite page read: "Our ticket structure was built to ensure that the most marginalized communities (people of colour) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community (black Detroit)." It continued, "We've seen too many times orgasmic events happening in Detroit and other POC populated cities and what consistently happens is people outside of the community benefiting most from affordable ticket prices because of their proximity to wealth. This cycle disproportionately displaces black and brown people from enjoying entertainment in their own communities."
Image via Eventbrite
Sure enough, the festival's decision to base their pricing on race quickly ignited protests. It all started when biracial rapper Tiny Jag pulled out of the festival (she was the only performer to do so). Soon the story was picked up by the Internet, with many expressing outrage, citing "reverse racism" and threatening legal action.
Seeing that it's technically illegal, Afrofuture's decision to charge white people more money in such an explicit and intentionally divisive fashion may have been misguided. They certainly would've been safer requesting donations from white people instead, as other performance artists have; or at the very least, they could have prioritized local citizens without being so obvious about the color divide.
The fact that they chose to price the tickets the way they did is indicative of an intentional statement—one that actually seems in line with the festival's central theme.
The Dream of Afrofuturism
Afrofuture Fest describes itself as an "immersive, intimate, and intentional space-keeping for Afro-Black Futurist, a 360 transformative dreamscape" focused on "centering Detroit's black magic performers and artisans with community… Our destination is reimagination," it continues, adding that the festival is intended to "[anchor] the accessibility needed for its community."
This focus on reimagining is a key tenet of Afrofuturism, a broad category that generally refers to any vision of the future rooted in a celebration of black culture. The term—brought to life in films like Black Panther and drawn upon by many artists, including Rihanna in a recent W magazine photoshoot—was coined by white author Mark Dery in his essay "Black to the Future." Dery writes, "Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures? Furthermore, isn't the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers — white to a man — who have engineered our collective fantasies?"
Image via FTape
Ultimately, the term "Afrofuturism" proposes a vision for how the world could be while also acknowledging the far-fetched nature of that vision, as today's world makes it quite difficult for an equal future to emerge.
If reparations are a pathway towards this new vision, then by building them into admission fares—some of which would go to support children's futures—Afrofuture Fest's organizers were taking matters into their own hands, actively fighting a system that has shown time and time again that it's not going to change things by itself.
After all, white people have been stealing relentlessly from people of color for hundreds of years, while rarely facing consequences for their actions. And though the debate for reparations has made the national stage, it doesn't seem like reparations will actually be getting paid anytime soon.
The Case for Alternate Pricings
In his landmark essay "The Case for Reparations," which he summarized for Congress this past June, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that reparations for black people are far from optional niceties: they're actually ethically and legally obligatory, as deep-rooted processes that profit off the oppression of people of color are still very much present today. Coates cites factors such as redlining—the process of systemically denying various services to inhabitants of certain areas, based on race—as reasons why reparations are necessary. Redlining has prevented people of color from taking out loans and purchasing homes, essentially blocking many of them out of the middle class, and it's just one of the many examples that Coates uses to explain how people of color are locked into cycles of poverty based on existent racist structures.
The facts speak for themselves. The average black family has one-tenth the wealth of the average white family. Black women are four times as likely to die in childbirth. Black people are disproportionately represented in prisons and were three times more likely to be killed by police than whites in 2018. The list goes on and on.
This phenomenon extends to the arts, too. Both blues and hip hop originated in black culture but were successfully appropriated and commercialized by the white-led music industry, with blues becoming rock and roll and hip hop spawning today's modern pop landscape. One particularly telling example: Elvis Presley essentially made his name by plucking songs and styles from black culture and turning them into profitable, mainstream products. His smash-hit "Hound Dog" was actually written by black blues musician Big Mama Thornton, who received only $500 in total profits from Elvis's use of the song and died broke in a halfway house.
While the history of music is too multifaceted to be distilled into a binary divide, the fact that black artists have been chronically cheated out of royalties—and that their culture continues to be appropriated by white artists—cannot be denied.
A World of Unequal Divides
In light of all this, paying back stolen funds (or charging white people more for certain services) would be a reasonable way to address this legacy of injustice. Many have argued that reparations will only deepen racial divides, but that idea imagines a world where racial divides have somehow disappeared, as if they are not insurmountable obstacles for some while others are allowed to live their whole lives without seeing them.
In reality, racial divides are woven into the fabric of our lives. They affect many aspects of existence for people of color, dictating everything from our definition of beauty to our airport security systems; and to argue against reparations is to argue for the maintenance of a system built by and for white people. "Won't reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided," writes Coates. "The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say - that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt."
Reparations, therefore, would actually help us move past racial divides into a more unified future that remains impossible in our current structure of surface-level equality. This was always Afrofuture's intention: to focus on equity over equality, tangible action over theoretical ideas. "Equality means treating everyone the same," its organizers wrote in the original statement. "Equity is insuring everyone has what they need to be successful."
In light of this mission statement, the fact that a small festival created by and for black people might take matters into their own hands doesn't seem too outlandish or sinful. A race-based pricing scale for Coachella tickets might be more legitimately controversial; but Afrofuture Fest was created for black people, and the fact that white people are so desperate to secure an equal price is indicative of a colonizer's mindset, dedicated to occupying space that is not one's own.
This is not to advocate for a world where every white person pays more for everything— it is to advocate for one that allows black spaces to remain black spaces and that allocates reparations in a controlled, balanced manner. Since this world does not exist (yet), building (small, non-mandatory) reparations into the Afrofuture Festival might be read as a tribute to that dream.
White People Win Again
After the news broke about Tiny Jag's decision to leave the festival, its organizers received death threats from white supremacists, as well as widespread media backlash. Eventually, they were forced to make the prices the same for everyone—for safety, according to one of its organizers, and not for any other reason.
Many weren't happy that the festival was forced to backpedal its attempt to prioritize black attendees. "My white mom would be PROUD to pay more because she understands the history of economic exploitation of black folk in this country to benefit whiteness & she wants a better future for black folk, including her black kids," tweeted author Ijeoma Oluo. "Also note: publicly harming a black woman's business because you imagine that her efforts at helping the black community would make your white grandma uncomfortable is what internalized white supremacy looks like."
All that being said, today, white people can get a general admission ticket to Afrofuture Fest in Detroit for $20.
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The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
We're glad they're on our side.
The world is up against a seemingly insurmountable threat, but luckily, we've got a crack team of heroes on the case.
Sure, there's already the girl with super strength, the guy who can fly, and the anthropomorphic, trash-talking animal tailor-made for merchandise. But this is a threat of intergalactic proportions, and we're going to need all the help we can get if we want to survive.
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