Photo by Bret Redman.

Arts & Entertainment

Deep Ellum Bars Should Ban the Wearing of Any Hateful Imagery

The one thing being overlooked in the controversy over Double Wide.

Editor’s note: We asked Joe to write this opinion piece after he criticized our article on a controversial incident at Double Wide last week.

Allow me to start this off with several clarifying statements. These statements are all responses to the gut reactions that have been shared over the past days (now weeks) concerning the Double Wide’s handling of two apparently intoxicated men who confronted a patron wearing seemingly racist patches. The two men were kicked out of the Deep Ellum bar, while the patron in the vest was allowed to stay.

  1. I am in no way affiliated with ANTIFA Dallas, the group that has, among other things, called for a boycott of the bar and accused Double Wide of condoning racism.
  2. I am not affiliated with the Double Wide. I’ve never been to Double Wide. I have a lot of friends who are friends of the owner and staff of Double Wide, and they have almost all come out in defense of the bar.
  3. I believe that the Double Wide was correct in kicking out the patrons who were confronting the man wearing the allegedly racist patches, and I also think they were correct in allowing that man to stay.
  4. I do not believe that Double Wide, or its owners and staff, condone or endorse racism or hatred of any kind. I can say this with confidence because I know that my friends who have been defending this place of business would not publicly defend them if they believed otherwise.

Now that that’s out of the way:

Last week, D Magazine posted an article entitled, “A Harbor for ‘Neo-Nazi Scum’ or One of Dallas’ Most Inclusive Bars?” The title of the article immediately struck me as excessively hyperbolic, and upon reading the article, I felt as though it had more than a slight bias in favor of Double Wide, painting the opposition to Double Wide’s actions as too small and disorganized to even remain committed to a planned protest against the bar.

Some have defended the bar by explaining what the SS patch represents in biker culture, suggesting that perhaps that patch, and any of the other seemingly racist patches, were not worn with racist intent. I can’t argue against that point, as I wasn’t there and don’t know the person who was wearing the vest, or “cut,” as it’s known in biker culture.

Unfortunately, this isn’t The Matrix, and we do not get an instant history lesson on biker culture and the appropriation of hateful imagery within that culture when we first stumble upon someone wearing imagery that has also been used with hateful intent. We are only equipped with our prior understanding of the symbolism we are viewing; which, in this case, includes the mass slaughter of millions of people by animals intent on wiping out an entire culture.

The thing that keeps getting drowned out by the people yelling for a boycott of a “Nazi bar” and the people defending their friends is the fact that many people are simply asking Double Wide to implement a “no hateful dress” policy. It probably feels as though doing so would feel like conceding to the ANTIFA protesters, which is why they’ve stopped short doing so.

Even staunch supporters of the bar concede that something could be done to ban hateful imagery on biker vests. While Double Wide can’t inspect every person coming in the door, something could be done if it is brought to the staff’s attention. The bar Reno’s Chop Shop, for example, has a ‘no colors’ policy, meaning no biker cuts. A similar policy at Double Wide could help the issue.

Personally, if I were on staff that night, I would have said, “Sorry those idiots gave you a hard time. Now please remove your cut.”

Obviously, this is an issue that brings out strong emotions on both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, in 2016, people with opposing viewpoints on a business’ actions have resorted to “review wars,” where one side of the issue gives 1 star reviews and the other side gives 5 star reviews. For a small business, 1 star reviews hurt, even if they are offset by enough 5 star reviews to not damage that business’ overall rating. Both serve to only misrepresent the actual opinion of that business by the general public.

Here are the two best courses of action I see going forward that will put this issue to bed once and for all:

  1. I am going to contact Facebook and attempt to have all reviews written about Double Wide from Sept. 22 forward removed from the page in order to more accurately reflect public perception of the bar.
  2. I am calling on Double Wide, as well as every bar in Deep Ellum, to implement the following policy:

No biker cuts, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise hateful imagery may be worn at this bar. If one of our patrons brings it to our attention that you are wearing an item that they deem offensive, we will ask you to remove that item or leave the bar. We will have the final say as to what will be deemed “offensive” so that this policy is not abused.

“Don’t confront people in public places who are minding their own business” doesn’t need to be stated, it’s just common sense.

Joe Panuska is a Dallas resident. His Instagram is @LifeAfterMagic.

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