A Detroit music festival is facing backlash for racially segregated ticket prices, resulting in the resignation of at least one African-American artist slated to perform. Although festival organizers have justified the race-based prices by asserting that black Detroit residents generally have less opportunity to afford entertainment than white people who may wish to attend the event, charging people of colour less than white people to attend the event is not only racist to white people, but incredibly insulting to those receiving the discount.
AfroFuture Fest’s Eventbrite page clearly explains the intent behind the pricing discrepancy, proclaiming a proclivity toward equity rather than equality.
“Equality means treating everyone the same. Equity is insuring [sic] everyone has what they need to be successful,” the site explains, adding that the racially segregated ticket structure was “built to insure [sic] that the most marginalized communities (people of color) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community (Black Detroit).”
Notably, ticket prices range from $10 to $40 USD, creating an insulting discount of a mere $10-20 for attendees who happen to not be white.
Event organizers insist that “affording joy and pleasure is unfortunately still a privilege in our society for POC,” adding that too many times they have seen “orgasmic events” happening in the area where “people outside of the community” benefit from affordable ticket prices “because of their proximity to wealth,” and that this “disproportionately displaces black and brown people from enjoying entertainment in their own communities.”
These statements imply a belief that all black people in the Detroit area can use an extra $10 more than all white people in the Detroit area. Not only is this implication implicitly false, it is demeaning and insulting to black people in the area by suggesting that any white person in the city has an automatic advantage due to “proximity to wealth,” despite the impoverished reality that most residents of Detroit, black or white, share and face together.
The festival touts itself as an “immersive, intimate, and intentional space keeping for afro-black futurist,” and a “360 transformative dreamscape” for black artists within the Detroit community, “energy sourcing from the Wakanda that is Detroit.”
The event description mentions that today’s African-Americans are “now seven generations past the Transatlantic slave trade,” and that “Black spirits are in synergetic healing.” Apparently the way to do this is by perpetuating racial division, using pricing as a tool of division rather than harnessing the power of music to unify.
The irony of such an attitude is ripe. As Americans find themselves seven generations past the slave trade, organizations ranging from AfroFuture Fest to Harvard university are seeking to revert back to the old ways of racial segregation. American’s consider the years of segregation and Jim Crow to be a shameful mark on our history. Will we feel any differently if we give the non-whites the better water fountains this time? Those who are intellectually honest understand that business conducted and privileges afforded on the basis of race is inherently wrong.
Detroit-based rapper Tiny Jag pulled out of the festival all together after she was sent what would become a viral screenshot of the event’s ticket prices, noting half-priced tickets for POC attendees.
“I was immediately enraged just because I am biracial,” the artist said in a statement to The Detroit Metro Times. “I have family members that would have, under those circumstances, been subjected to something that I would not ever want them to be in … especially not because of anything that I have going on.”
“A lot of the songs that I perform are from my first project called Polly—that is my grandmother’s name,” she added. “How do you want me to come to a performance and perform these songs off a mixtape that is titled after this white woman that you would have charged double to get in here? Like, it’s just outrageous from so many different angles.”
The artist used the opportunity to bravely speak out against the increasingly popular concept of reparations for African-Americans, calling the notion “non-progressive” and “not solution-focused.”
“It seems almost like it has spite, and unfortunately with spite comes hate, and that’s just not obviously going to be a good direction for us to go if we’re looking for positive change.”
Tiny Jag’s stance is a brave one, in an era when Black Americans who oppose the demonization of white people are often demonized themselves by their Black American peers. She has already received backlash online.
“Tiny Jag has gotta have a white mom! This is the behavior of white mom biracials,” one Twitter user wrote in response to her interview with Metro Times. The same user later accused her of “c—nish behavior.”
Beyond bravery, Tiny Jag has also shown the way forward for other artists who face the intolerance of intersectionality. If more artists stood up to the bullies who use identity politics to divide communities and simply said no, we would have a much healthier cultural context.