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  • Seymour Gris: Racism at Berlin clubs?


Seymour Gris: Racism at Berlin clubs?

What does Ausländer really mean in the Berlin club scene? Some people are saying that it's much uglier than we think. Is it really a criterion for the sacred door or a code word for keeping out "undesirables"?

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Photo by Sam Saunders (samsaundersleeds; Flickr CC)

A spectre is haunting Berlin clubland – the spectre of racism. The latest case of a door policy based on ethnic selection is described in this article in the taz. Two 34-year-old black men from Sierra Leone were queuing to get into Matrix Club in Friedrichshain and the bouncer singled them out and asked to produce their ID cards. The men and a friend were asked to leave the club premises. When they asked why, the doorman said, “We don’t usually let Ausländer in.” Of course Ausländer means blacks, Arabs, Turks. Not white Europeans or North Americans.

An anonymous member of the Matrix staff said everyone, regardless of their skin colour, was allowed to party at the club and that the only reason to turn clubbers away was either their inappropriate clothing or drunken behaviour.

Hmm. Lutz Leichsenring of the Club Commission admits there is a racism problem and that there’s a fine line between a “favourably structured crowd and racism” i.e. don’t let in too many dark-skinned men – especially if they’re frauenlos and drunk. “Certain ethnic groups are known to get aggressive when they drink and they ruin the atmosphere, everyone knows it,” said one club employee who didn’t want his name mentioned.

In the past readers have contacted EXBERLINER to complain about racist door policies at places as diverse as Conny Upper’s former hipster cave Rio and, more recently, Mitte’s flop of the year, Dice Club.  Last year our music editor was punched in the face with a broken bottle by a man later described by the bouncer as belonging to an “undesirable” ethnic group.

The prevailing attitude couldn’t have been put any blunter than what one commentator wrote on the taz site: “Gute Tür = wenig bis überhaupt keine Ausländer bzw. Türken und Araber, die ohnehin immer in Gruppen auftauchen. (Good door = few or no foreigners i.e. Turks and Arabs at all, which always show up in big groups anyhow.)”

Clubs themselves all deny such policies, of course. Jörg from the huge FritzClub told me “We’re aware of this issue. Not an issue for us. The main thing is how people are behaving in the queue outside the club. If they’re aggressive or obviously drunk, they don’t get in, regardless of their ethnic background. Plus we have a quite multicultural staff. “

While the world of Berlin clubbing is supposedly light years away from the Sarrazin world view, it’s not difficult to imagine cooler-than-thou clubs turning away anyone who even faintly resembles an “immigrant”. Too many of the wrong sort of foreigners ruins a club’s image, just as too many men, too many old people, too many tourists, too many yuppies, too many pub-crawling English yobs, too many whatever. The difference: race-based rejection is just outright disgusting and unacceptable.

Someone is doing something about it, the Antidiskriminierungsnetzwerk (ADNB) Berlin, an anti-racist group that carries out random “door tests” at various venues to see if they let in foreign-looking punters. Clubs that fail the test could end up getting taken to court.

What do you think? Experienced racism at Berlin clubs? Leave a comment!