This is the second installment of the four-part series “Thriving While Black.”
After living in Austin for almost a year, Ive accepted the fact that no matter where I go to turn up, my friends and I will most likely be the only Black people in attendance. But, for some reason last weekend, I thought things would be different. BAE and I were headed to East Austin, the historical Black part of town. And, I thought surely, there would be some Black people partying in bars and clubs playing hip-hop and R&B music.
But, instead of Black people, I found a bunch of white people fist pumping to re-mixed trap music. Every Black song I ever loved had been dubbed mixed. It was heartbreaking. The “Black side of town” had been whitewashed.
BAE and I hopped from bar to bar, hoping that each new spot would redeem the night. At last, we stumbled upon a bar playing reggae. Being the Jamaican that BAE is and the reggae lover that I am, our curiosity was immediately piqued.
We enter the bar. By far, it’s our best choice. BAE and I grab a corner by the stage and start to vibe. Not long after, we notice a group of girls who have had too many shots. Although there are empty pockets of space on the dance floor, the group’s dancing starts to intrude into my personal space. Before I know it, blond hair is smacking me in the face and my “dutty wine” is being attacked by off-beat bumps.
“Excuse me miss, you keep bumping me,” I said to the party fouler.
“I’m just dancing,” she says unapologetically.
“I understand that, but can you be a little more aware of your surroundings?” I ask.
She seems offended that I’ve asked her to respect my area. I’m appalled that she agrees to give us more space, but continues to bump into me. I look at BAE, annoyed.
That night I experienced dance floor gentrification. From the beginning, I had claimed my spot on the dance floor, careful not to take up too much space in an effort to be considerate of my dancing neighbors. However, the woman who invaded my personal space didn’t care who she bumped into during her dance rampage. Out of all the places she could have moved to, the woman chose my space. When I alerted her to how her actions were affecting me, she didn’t care, so instead of making a scene, I left to diffuse the situation.
For years, Austin has been one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas. At the same time, its Black population has been dwindling at alarming rates. In the past year, that trend has reversed, but it still leaves you wondering why Black people have left Austin’s city limits. I learned the answer that night on the dance floor. Transplants (myself included) have been coming to Austin, driving up the cost of living, while simultaneously taking over spaces that were not intended for them.
Dancing while Black, feels a lot like living in America while Black. No matter how much I keep to myself or try to play nice, white people will always be there to appropriate my culture and unapologetically dance in my space.
Click here to read the series’ first installment: “Riding While Black”