Each week on Tuesday and Thursday through October 20th 540Blog will feature guest blog’s from city residents themed around gentrification. Today’s blog comes courtesy of our Founder Calvin Eaton (aka theglutenfreechef). Check out Calvin’s blog below and be sure to register to attend 540WMain’s
For many community members (myself included) the recent controversy surrounding the long standing dress codes required during weekend nights by East End bars; Murphy’s Law, Brass Bar & Lounge and others is representative of Rochester’s long-standing tale of two cities. Pushing the controversy and backlash past the simple “black vs white, “good vs bad“, “racist vs. not racist” tropes; anyone with a relative voice of reason is able to see the inherent discrimination, classism, and exclusion presented by these dress codes.
Looking beyond the evidence that bar security and staff are complicit in biased enforcement of these dress codes, the codes themselves speak to the tale of two cities that have proliferated the Rochester City Center for decades. A quick trip down Chili Ave, Monroe Ave, and even North Goodman Streets will show you that this City is divided along racial and socioeconomic lines; and has been for decades. The historical impact of exclusionary zoning, redlining, loan discrimination and other institutionally racist practices are not long gone in our present day 21st century.
Dress codes like the one that Murphy’s Law continues to stand by sends a not so subtle message that Downtown’s East End is quite literally not welcome to everyone. Despite what the owners say; these dress codes are written in a way to make sure only a certain type of patron is allowed in these public spaces and by passing these coded dress codes; bar owners can continue to exercise bias and discrimination in subtle and covert ways.
Rochester and the U.S at large has a long standing history of creating arbitrary barriers of entry for citizens who are deemed poor, low class, and more often than not black and brown. In the 1940’s and 50’s these codes and barriers to access were called Jim Crow laws and even though separate has long been established as not equal; establishments like Murphy’s Law can continue to discriminate without explicitly saying “ Black and brown folks are not welcome.
The notion that those that don’t like it should just simply stop whining and go somewhere is steeped in white privilege and misses the greater point. If safety, peace, a joyful culture is the true objective of these dress codes; these bars need to find another way to exercise this standard. What someone wears, their piercings, number of tattoos, length of their shirt, color their shirt, or any other arbitrary physical characteristic in no way determines their propensity to cause trouble, be rowdy, or break the law.
In the context of Downtown revitalization and development these dress codes perpetuate a dangerous message that tells citizens that certain people whether they be poor, off the street, or black are not wanted in these spaces.This automatically contradicts bar owners assertions that their spaces are open and welcoming to everyone. History and context shows that dress codes are one more way for establishements to judge the haves against the havenots.
They create unsettling and white washed environments devoid of diversity and color. They create an East End corridor that is open to some but not welcome to all. If City Leaders, citizens, and the community at large are truly advocating for a Downtown corridor that is accessible and inviting for all of Rochester’s citizens they will need to hold establishment owners accountable for creating a culture that excludes those that white people with money and influence deem acceptable.
Calvin Eaton aka theglutenfreechef is a freelance educator, digital content creator, and social entrepreneur. As a professional Mr. Eaton’s areas of expertise include social media and digital content creation, food blogging and recipe development, antiracism, diversity, inclusion, K-12 curriculum writing and teaching, and higher education.