As often as possible, I like to feature guest articles written by people far more qualified in a topic than I. During a discussion on our Facebook page about feminism and the Goth scene, Jacqueline Eccleston mentioned her experiences as being a Goth and black in America.
I worry that the Goth scene is far from an equal utopia, so I asked Jacqueline if she’d like to share her experiences as a non-white minority in an alternative subculture, and she has kindly agreed to do so. My thanks again to Jacqueline for this guest article.
My mother is a horror queen. She and I used to watch Hammer Horror films when I was very young, and we loved watching old re-runs of Vampira and Dark Shadows together. I was reading at age three and I grew into stealing her horror novels and poetry books by Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde.
When I was 15 years old, I came across a band called “Joy Division.” I’d been listening to bands like Bad Brains, Dokken and The Ramones for ages. I then stumbled across Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend, and Ausgang, and it was a snowball effect. I began emulating the look of death rockers, and my foray into the Goth world began.
Hundreds of years later, I am still alive in the Goth scene, and loving every minute of it. Being a non-white minority (namely black) in the gothic community is at times difficult. I’ve always thought that there should be more acceptance in the subculture of minorities who do NOT fit the pale white aesthetic. There are still problems with diversity within goth and many other alternative subcultures.
The percentage of minorities in alternative subcultures is still very small. The pale waif like aesthetic is seemingly the norm for the gothic sub-culture, and while that may seem trivial to some, to a person who does not fit that demographic, it can be very disheartening.
While this would be also true for white people, the level of racial abuse towards us minorities can be exceedingly dangerous. This is not taking away from the safety of white people, however. The fact remains that in a situation where there is bashing involved, the racial aspect makes for a terribly volatile scene.
Minorities have had a very long history of being excluded and being forced out of things. The fact remains that even if minorities were “allowed” to join communities, there would still be dissension there. I will admit that there are some sympathizers that have stood with us in solidarity, but those people are few and far between.
I’ve had Nazi salutes thrown at me in goth concerts and clubs. I’ve been rejected by men because I’m black, goth and different. I have had personal experiences of men telling me that I’m not dateable, because my skin is not alabaster – does that mean that I have to be rejected?
I remember speaking to an associate of mine who told me that “Real goth girls have skin like porcelain.
I mentioned before that the general consensus is, ‘pale white skin does a goth make’. I think that is unfair and very biased. There are a quite a few black goths that work hard on their appearance. Just recently, after many years of being locked out, the publication “Gothic Beauty” has started featuring minority models on the front cover.
Progress? In a way. It could also be a ploy to pacify non-white members of the goth community. Should minorities have to explain their reasons for wanting to join the gothic community? Should they have to apologize for who they are? I never did. I kept on pushing the envelope until I forced my way in.
There should be more acceptance in the gothic subculture of minorities who do not fit the pale white aesthetic. There should be room for people who are different in this community because everyone in it is looking for some form of acceptance.
Goths are typically discriminated against, and discriminating against others in turn makes them hypocrites. This is a problem because we are fighting to be ourselves. Most minority goths want to be accepted in a community where individuality is key, especially those who have been discriminated against since birth. There should be more tolerance from those who demand acceptance about how they look in a place where people come looking for a safe haven.
I wanted to make sure I that was seen in the gothic community by my detractors. I wasn’t about to be chased away from something I loved. I went to all of the events that I could. I attended the concerts, I watched the movies, I wore the clothes, and I made my presence known. I introduced myself and made a few cautious acquaintances. I stood up and spoke at the “Dracula’s Ball” about the injustice of minorities being treated like freaks in a realm where all of “normal” society views anything different as wrong.
I would like to point out that there is a huge difference in the locations of the scenes. There are lots more diversity in placed like New York and New Orleans. I am only speaking about Philadelphia because it is where I have the most knowledge. The scene here in Philadelphia is dying out. The “goth nights” have been declining steadily over the years. The ones that are fighting to hold on are on nights where adult goths who have lives cannot attend.
There is one common theme, however. We are all freaks to someone, somewhere.
I attended the out of state gothic balls, and the fund raising events for the needy. I started a gothic band and sang in it. People began to recognize me and my cohorts. I felt a connection with the scene, the literature, the clothing, and the mysterious persona surrounding it. It was who I am. Those feelings weren’t so easy to explain to other people, black or white.
I recall when I first entered the community and how other blacks couldn’t fathom why I wanted to be around those “weirdos” and to be depressed all the time. It wasn’t conceivable for them to understand. I was laughed at, and told that I “didn’t want to be black,” and other things. I didn’t care though. Gradually I became an elder and cemented my place in the community and started to wonder about solutions.
There are things that need to be done in order to make sure that minorities are not seen as detrimental to the subculture. It would be a great thing for nonwhites to be accepted in the gothic community. In a world where we are all shunned for being different, in the goth subculture it would wonderful for minorities to be accepted. The same way LGBT are accepted, it would show camaraderie and support for those who have nowhere else to turn. It would show that we are all the same underneath.
In order for nonwhite members of the gothic community to be accepted, I feel that greater awareness of the existence of non-white goths is likely to lead to greater tolerance and integration. There could be increased media output on the part of goths of color and more use of nonwhite gothic models in publications.
There are online Facebook groups that are growing steadily, one of which I am an administrator of. My group “Goth Traditionalists” has a ratio where 3/5 of the moderators are non-white. I also started a group called “Black Goth Elders” for people over the age of 30 who needed a platform as well. While people may argue that it could be considered “separatist,” I feel that it is needed if only to highlight the vast chasm between whites and nonwhite members of the gothic community.
We can’t force acceptance, but if we make our presence known, and if they know we’re not disappearing any time soon, we may just make some progress.