My cape’s dirty with my own sweat and blood and I don’t feel like washing it

The racism Fable experienced at Tavern on the Square deserves exposure. But how he himself behaves and benefits from a culture of patriarchy, misogynoir and colorism should also come to the light.

I’ve stayed quiet about the Tavern on the Square incident with Marcel “Fable” Price and his friends being openly discriminated against by a bouncer. People have asked me my thoughts about the incident and wondered whether I will say something publicly regarding it. Black Lives Matter: Kalamazoo has voiced their support of Fable and his friends adding to the pressure to put on my cape and to swoop in and play my role as anti-racist crusader but, well…shit is complicated.

Well, my feelings regarding incident itself are pretty cut and dry: what happened to Fable and his friends was fucking racist. It was gross and horrible. The employee in the video deserves being fired and the heat the bar is catching is well-deserved and honestly fun to watch. More racists should be exposed and experience loss of revenue or a hit to their financial or social status and livelihood because it’s the rightful consequences for their behavior (something that white supremacy often protects them from) and anyways, that’s what people of color commonly experience every day in the white man’s world for just existing. However, this situation isn’t unique and shouldn’t surprise anyone.

As many friends online have also noted, local clubs and bars having racist, anti-Black, exclusionary dress codes, bouncers, employees and practices is not a new thing. This racism in the bar and club scene is the reason I stopped going to Rumor’s, a place where in one summer I both witnessed and experienced targeted racial and sexual harassment against queer Black folks, and why I am wary with other bars in the area. I had a friend racially harassed by an employee at Mulligan’s. We’ve all read reports and heard stories of bars having codes against “hood” or “urban” styles of dress. So, why are we only getting up in arms when an alternative-looking, well-known light skinned Black man is experiencing racism? Do we think that a darker, lesser known, more “hood” Black person should expect this anti-Blackness for having a style outside of parameters of respectability (for dressing Black working class, for speaking a certain way), that they deserve being excluded? Do we only think racism is the overt kind in which someone is vocally saying “No Black People”? This shit just doesn’t add up, at least not to anything consistent, decent or justice-minded.

Along with side-eyeing this bullshit selective rage, a lot of what has been weighing on my mind is the reality of who Fable is as a person. It’s true that the racism he experiences is common and plentiful and he wishes greatly to address and challenge it. However, story after story and personal interaction after interaction over the years also tells me how horrible he is to women of color as well, and how unwilling he is to own up to that.

I’m friends with a woman who he sexually assaulted. I have heard many stories of his behavior towards women in general: his disrespect, sexual abuse, cheating and general antagonism. I’ve witnessed the misogynoir of his poems and his poetry scene in person. I was once the only Black women in a space where he told a “funny” poem about not liking “hood-ass” Black girls and preferring “skinny, no-ass, can’t dance alternative white girls with their ears stretched” (and funny enough, my ears are stretched, my face has been littered with all kinds of piercings over the years and my style is very alternative). I’ve experienced him not respecting my “no” when I told him I don’t drink and smoke, spending a whole night with him pushing alcohol and weed on me until my friend who he was casually dating at the time (and the only reason I was out in his presence) got annoyed with him herself. I’ve seen the way his community spaces center and excuse other abusive, bigoted, misogynist and chauvinistic men and behaviors but pats itself on the back nonetheless because it gives access to white queer women.

However, none of this has impacted Fable’s livelihood. These are all open secrets many know and either choose to not do shit about or to refuse to believe or take issue with. I’ve told countless person after person and that hasn’t changed how people openly support him and his community and protect him from criticism. I’ve been told he’s “changed” and that I should have his back, that calling him or other abusers out is “bashing”. He’s merely told people I’m difficult to work with and I’m “spreading rumors” about his behavior. I can’t imagine what the women he’s sexually abused have gone through. Very few people have spoke out or shared a post my friend made calling him out yet again but many have talked about his experience at the bar and spread the word on that.

Women of color are expected to stand in solidarity with and protect men of color, especially Black men, when they experience racism, and to keep quiet about the ways they hurt us lest we “divide the community”. We are told to excuse their ignorance, misogyny and abuse to instead focus on their talent and their goodness and our collective Brownness in a world that does not want us, yet they don’t protect or care about me or Black women much more marginalized than I in that same way and often are bigoted and violent toward us in their own way. We are told that calling out men of color for their misogyny towards women of color and their homophobia and transphobia is just bitterness and anger, that our feminism is “white woman shit”. We are the ones ostracized and seen as difficult or extreme for not wanting to put up with the ways our womanhood and those of other Black women are exploited, erased and abused while they benefit from our emotional and social labor.

This is part of the larger issue with men, chauvinism and misogynoir in the arts scene at large here. There’s plenty of space for white women and there’s more and more for men of color, but women of color, specifically Black women, are left in the margins because men of color do not fight or advocate for us, only themselves.

So us? We either put up with it or we hide. We stop going to their parties, their poetry nights, their social gatherings and avoid seeing them or their friends while out. Behind closed doors we talk about our experiences with so-and-so and our bad feelings about what’s-his-name and the way the people around him didn’t believe us and instead told everyone we were angry and crazy. Fable and his misogynoir makes me sick and uncomfortable and sad and fucking angry as hell, and that’s not heard or validated or respected.

He won’t remember this, but I first interacted with Fable when I was maybe 17 or 18 years old. My friend and I were out on some late night at 76 coffee house when it was still Morningstar 76. He sauntered up sure and forward and asked us if he could perform some of his spoken word poetry for us. A bit taken aback at being more told than asked, we half-heartedly agreed.

His poetry was damn good, albeit a bit chauvinistic and corny. I was initially turned off by the way he approached our table because were were young girls and how he was seemingly directing himself in particular to my friend, a young white girl. I also remember the white barista who very quickly and clearly told him to quiet down and clear out. A dive of a 24 hour alternative coffeehouse in the hip part of town, Morningstar saw its fair share of loud and obnoxious weirdos and miscreants hopped up on god knows what, so the way he immediately focused on the mixed Black guy with the big hair was blatant to me even then. My dislike of Fable’s attitude was superseded by the racist way the barista referred to him. It’s sad that this first interaction with him, where I struggled with wanting to defend my womahood yet protect his Blackness and his art, would essentially be the tone of every single other one I’d have from them on. I refuse to defend him but I am still expected to at my expense. Fuck that.

We deserve space, respect and safety at the hands of people and in places and events that claim to care about communities of color. We have a right to vocally name, expose and address discrimination, abuses and abusers and to make demands for the kind of justice or reparations we want. Incidents shouldn’t be belittled and dismissed as “beef” or “drama”. We deserve to be trusted and heard for our experiences and our realities at various intersections of identity and oppression. Victims and survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and racialized misogyny and homophobia/transphobia should be centered when situations arise and believed. Inclusive and women of color and QTPOC-centered systems of safety and accountability must be put into place. The people who harm us should be the ones to be embarrassed and humiliated, not us. They should be exposed and just like Tavern on the Square, experience loss of social, cultural and financial revenue because as it stands, they are so thoroughly protected from that. Anyone who isn’t jive to that can either be handled by those with privilege until they get it or told to stay home in the meanwhile, but they should not be prioritized any longer. We are not fucking crazy or extreme or wrong for wanting these things.

Until then, I’m not caping for shit.

Update: Fable (and the community) has responded, and I wrote a response to the community’s reaction here.

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Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: Dominicanamalisima@gmail.com

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Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: Dominicanamalisima@gmail.com