Please stop going to The Brown Jug. That’s right, I’m talking to you. I’m tired of waiting in line behind a group of pink-shirted, collar-popping, spiky-haired dudes only to watch them take all the good tables and then leave for Rick’s at about 1:20 a.m.
It hasn’t always been this way. When I turned 21 years old last March, I was escorted to the Jug to celebrate. I was in alcoholic heaven. Somehow, it seemed like I knew everyone in the bar. The tables were plentiful, the music was great and the drinks were cheaper than I could have imagined.
Sometime last semester, though, this began to change. I started to notice a new contingent of Rick’s pre-gamers and a longer line. But one thing about the crowd didn’t change: Almost everyone was white.
Watching the dynamic of my favorite bar change made me realize how homogenous it had been in the first place. I told myself that this was a coincidence. The Jug and Charley’s are the two bars nearest to my house, so it’s no surprise I go there. I don’t know anyone at Touchdown Cafe. Mitch’s is filled with grad students and has a weird office vibe. And I say the same thing about Rick’s that everyone else does: I hate it, but I always get dragged there anyway.
Those are excuses. I was just lying to myself. The reason that I find myself at the same bars is because that’s where I feel most comfortable.
In an awkward paradox, this makes me really uncomfortable. I like to think that I care about diversity. I’ve always sought out new experiences outside my normal comfort zone. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore, one of the most racially integrated places in the country and I think I understand the world a little better for it. And frankly, I just like other people. It’s the way I am.
One of the biggest reasons I came to the University was its reputation for being diverse. But diversity isn’t easy. Everyone says they want it, but nobody is willing to work for it. It’s easy to sign up for a committee, go to a meeting or complain about the ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in Michigan, but diversity is more than just sitting next to someone in class who looks different from you.
Segregation on this campus exists everywhere, but nowhere does it manifest itself as strongly as it does on the bar scene. Bars aren’t just segregated along racial lines, but along social and age lines too. Everyone knows the stereotypes: Scorekeepers is filled with students from the Greek system with a strong contingent from the New York/New Jersey area.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a friend. Apparently, some asshole posted a racist rant on Craigslist about how black people were invading Scorekeepers. Having gone there just a few days ago, I can assure you that this is not the case. I’ll spare you the text of the disgusting tirade, but it showed me how deep the segregation spirit runs.
The poster on the website was racist, pure and simple. How many of you have even heard about this? Where’s the campus outrage? Maybe people heard about it, but then something really scary happened: They understood where the poster was coming from. I’m not saying they agreed with all the racial slurs, but maybe people – all types of people – thought: I wouldn’t want my bar invaded with people who aren’t like me, either. That scares me.
I have no idea how to fix something like this. Perhaps we the people who value diversity could convince some local establishment to throw an “Everyone get the hell together” party every Friday as a comfortable place for those looking to get outside of their own social trappings. Alas, that would still be a safe haven.
Here’s what I can do – go to a different bar. It may not be easy, and I’ll probably have to bring a friend. But I’m going to try it out before I graduate. I’m going to go somewhere that isn’t my scene.
There’s something else I can do, too. All this brings me back to what I wrote at the beginning of this column about the pink-shirted kids with spiky hair who started coming to the Jug. You know what? Ignore that. Come to the Jug, please. You can probably find me there tonight. I don’t care who you are, just come and have a good time. And maybe, just maybe, we can take a baby step closer to that great intangible – diversity.
David Mekelburg was a Daily fall/winter associate news editor in 2007. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org@umich.edu.