An LGBTI social event in Cape Town that is only open to people of colour has responded to accusations of racism and exclusion.
The Queers on Smash “Black Queer Social” is set to take place on April 30. Activities will include “rants, conversations, selfie hour, ratchetry, live music and poetry.”
While previous Queers on Smash parties have been open to all, Mambaonline has received complaints that this month’s event is limited to people of colour.
An outraged Tommy Patterson, one of the organisers of Cape Town Pride, said in an e-mail to Mambaonline that this is a “blatant attack on our community’s diversity and human rights.”
February’s Cape Town Pride faced a boycott by some activists, including the black lesbian group Free Gender, who accused it of continuing “to exclude lesbians and black LGBTI in decision making when planning for the festival.”
One individual has now claimed that the Queer on Smash social’s door policy represents a double standard. “Where is Funeka Soldaat [from Free Gender] and the media regarding diversity now?” he asked.
OBie Mavuso, the founder of Queers on Smash, confirmed to Mambaonline that the event “is indeed only open for people of colour.” The filmmaker and musician argued in an e-mail that “we need more and more black spaces.”
Mavuso explained that the intention is not “not to exclude people” but that “we need to escape from day to day racial oppression and just be, and non-black people will never know our struggles.”
“In order for us (people [of] colour) to fix our world, we need to unite and have discussions, not to chat about non-black people but about how we can move as one and fix things OURselves.
“This is not about us being racist but about us taking steps to heal and unfortunately non-black people will try to paint it as a very negative initiative when it is not,” said Mavuso.
It is not clear under what conditions it would be legal to exclude any particular racial group from a public event. In the past it has been successfully argued that some groups may restrict access to certain spaces.
In 2006, the Commission for Gender Equality ruled that a gay men’s-only guest house in Cape Town could continue to operate with its disputed admission policy.
The commission said that the guest house served a legitimate interest in creating a “comfortable environment for gay men where they can express themselves freely.”
It went on to state that, “accommodation of this nature is necessary in our democratic society to protect or advance legitimate interests of the aforementioned groups.”
It has been widely accepted within the LGBTI community that social spaces for lesbian women are often not open to men. The concept of “safe spaces”, which allows oppressed or vulnerable groups to limit who has access to their events, has also become increasingly adopted within social justice circles and on university campuses.
What do you think? Are racially limiting spaces acceptable and, if so, under what circumstances?