Blurred Lines: The Downtown Athens Experience

By Khari Pressley

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There’s more to DT Athens than meets the eye.

At first glance you see the college equivalent of a playground. Drinks flowing, girls dancing and music playing. Almost paradise. But upon closer examination, you begin to see shades of discrimination and racism that are all too familiar to the Southern United States.

I like going DT just like most of UGA’s student population, but I’m not gonna ignore the fact that there are blatant examples of discrimination in “America’s Second Best College Town”. Plenty of bars DT devise ways to keep a certain type of people out of bars, whether it be locals, broke people or black people. Most of you know of the “dress codes” at certain bars that seem specifically aimed at black people. Yeah, it sucks, and it kinda makes you mad to think about how discrimination can be so blatant without any repercussion.

But it’s really not that simple. Bars, just like any other business, have a certain demographic that they cater their business towards. In this case, it just happens to be white UGA students. It’s obvious. There are no faces like mine bartending or checking IDs. I can’t count on going into my favorite bar on any particular night and hearing Migos or Future. There aren’t any dance floors for me to catch twerk on. And why should there be? I don’t know the exact number, but I’m pretty positive that black people make up less than 10% of UGA’s population. Why should bars cater to us? There’s far more money in the +70% white population. That’s why it’s so hard to pin their tactics down as racism or discrimination, but you know it when you see it.

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I’ve been denied from bars for wearing a basketball jersey, having a visible tattoo, even wearing a hat backwards, crazy. But I’ve also been into plenty of bars while out of “dress code”, so were they really being racist, or were they protecting their business?When you go DT as much as I do, you learn how to “cheat the system” so to speak. You walk in with a couple girls to give them a bigger incentive to let you in. If you’re with a big group, you split up and put a few white people in between you and your friends. Sure, that stuff works, but I shouldn’t have to do that at all.

I should be able to go to any bar DT that I please without any trouble. It’s my money, after all. But MAYBE I can. MAYBE DT isn’t racist at all. MAYBE we just use that as an excuse. MAYBE I’m over thinking this whole thing and DT really is a throwback to the Jim Crow South. You can’t really know for sure unless you’re on the inside.

So what do we do about it? I say we keep going DT. Make these bars realize that we can play a large role in their economic success. Maybe they’ll start catering to us more. Don’t disrespect the dress codes. Don’t change who you are, but wear something nice. Spend some money. Be someone they would want in their bars. If you get denied, stay positive and try someplace else. Letting someone else have control over your happiness is weak. Don’t let anyone get in the way of you having fun DT. That’s why you go, right? Be above the BS.

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