Mother’s Bar incident should compel boycott, activism

The recent instance of racism directed at six seniors during the class trip to Chicago last weekend is a stunning reminder of the racism that still exists in our world. Two hundred members of the senior class experienced racism firsthand, when six black students were denied entry to Mother’s Nightclub Original bar due to their “baggy jeans,” even as several white students with baggier jeans were allowed in.

After being denied entry, a black student changed jeans with a white friend, who was smaller and wore the jeans even more loosely; the white student then successfully gained access to the nightclub. This quick-thinking and foolproof experiment demonstrates that the incident had an entirely racist motivation.

The next morning, hundreds of students protested down the block from the nightclub in front of their hotel. While some criticized the short duration of the protest or its location, the Senior Class Council members who organized the protest were told they could not protest in front of the nightclub without a permit, and a permit could not be obtained overnight. Additionally, students were constrained by the necessary departure of the buses returning to St. Louis. Given the circumstances, we commend this unified and quickly-organized display of student activism.

In an e-mail to the student body, Senior Class President Fernando Cutz announced a town hall forum next Monday to discuss the incident, and also indicated the Senior Class Council’s intention to work with the NAACP and Chicago-area colleges to organize a protest. We strongly support these actions, encourage students to attend the forum and commend student leaders for taking this initiative.

Because of the blatant racism of the situation, we urge the Chicago community to not let this incident be forgotten. A sizable portion of Wash. U. students are from the Chicago area, and we encourage students and their friends to refuse to patronize Mother’s Nightclub. Furthermore, each class council should inform the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Black Consumer Business Bureau of the incident and their intention to boycott this nightclub.

Finally, we take this opportunity to formally call upon organizations such as the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to condemn Mother’s Nightclub. The business members of the Chamber of Commerce are hurt by the perception of racism in Chicago, and we compel them to denounce this recent instance of intolerance.

It was touching, on Sunday, to observe the way a community unites behind its leaders and the standards it knows to be right. In addition to the protests, many students commented on the article detailing the incident in Student Life or posted it as their Facebook status.

We find it ironic that the members of the Senior Class Council who planned the trip were among those excluded from the nightclub, demonstrating the senselessness of the racist attitudes exhibited. Hearing that well-regarded student leaders like Regis Murayi and Iboro Umani were turned away from a nightclub seems other-worldly.

But it is precisely because this incident seems other-worldly that we must not forget about it. In our world —the safe and diverse world of Wash. U.—the concept of turning someone away because of the color of their skin is blatantly wrong. This incident serves to remind us that there is a larger world outside of the insular Wash. U. community, one in which even black student leaders are subject to prejudice, one for which the operating principle is not tolerance but discrimination. We must take this event as a signal of our charge in fighting the currents of prejudice. It is our duty to recognize the undercurrents of social racism and fight against them; it is, moreover, our responsibility to fight politically against Mother’s Nightclub. We must ensure that an institution that rests judgment on the race of its would-be patrons is one that cannot continue its practices.

  • John

    Wow, that article is so fair and evenly balanced. It clearly represents both sides of the story and doesn’t in any way contstrue biased journalism. I’m sure the Mother’s bar staff would 100% agree that they are just racist pigs and denied black students entry for no reason other than the color of their skin. There couldn’t have possibly been just cause. Oh, and the fact that one of the offending students came back an hour later, in different clothes, with a different party, and was allowed entry “cleary proves” that the bar is racist, not that they just didn’t recognize that this was one of the guys they had denied entry to earlier.

  • chicago nitegirl

    Born and rasied in Chicago and going on the strip (State and Division), I can say that this same exact problem has happened to my male friends who are African Americans. I used to brag to people how cool the clubs were and how much fun you’ll have but when I noticed the security guys picking a selective few out the crowd due “baggy jeans” and knowing the only people who would where “comfortable jeans” were black guys, I lost interest in going to those clubs. Shenannigans was the first club I seen take action in this “no baggy jeans” rule and believe it or not, so many white guys had on baggy jeans and flip flops!!!!!! Being an African American myself I can say racial profiling still exist today and it is being shown in the downtown area of Chicago. I wasn’t surprised when I found out about the 6 black guys who got turned around because I’ve seen it happen several times but I never knew how to go about taking action to bring it to the media’s attention. After hearing and reading articles about racial profiling at Mothers nightclub, I want to do everything I can to help solve this matter! We should all be treated equally regardless of race, color, gender, ethnic background, etc!

  • kipp

    I’ve been boycotting, not just Mother’s, but the entire area for this exact same thing, for the past few years.

    It’s a lively strip. Most bars have no cover; reasonably priced beer; scores of women; bustling crowds until 5am; and are within a few steps of the greasiest, nastiest, most delicious after a long night of drinking pizza in Chicago. It can be a really good time…or, for black guys, me specifically, it can be the most disappointing and humiliating of times.

    After years of research, I can say with great confidence, that this “rule” started at Shenanigan’s, a bar a few doors down from Mother’s. I say this because when Shenanigan’s started enforcing the “No Negroes” loophole…I mean, no baggy pants rule, I could go to Mother’s and other bars with no problem. Then, over time, the places that didn’t have a problem with the skin…I’m mean, clothes…I was wearing became fewer and fewer. There are still a couple bars in the area that I never had a problem with…one as long as I had two forms of I.D.

    Every pair of jeans in my wardrobe turned out to be too baggy. Then, I tried a pair of expensive, deep-blue, perfectly fitted (slightly too tight for my comfort) jeans I received as gift. And, they worked. The next weekend, those jeans produced the same result. So, I dubbed them my “Shenanigan pants.” Time after time, these jeans worked; and every time I deviated I was denied.

    I’ve been at the door of this bar, being told that my pants were too baggy while white guys walk out the same door wearing cargos and flip-flops. It happened again with jogging suits…almost on cue. I was denied entry wearing khakis and a Bill Cosby sweater. Granted, though, the khakis were baggy, and I knew before hand that my “Shenanigan pants” would’ve done the trick. That said, this outfit would’ve gotten me into a black club with a dress code and a $20 cover…

    But, my boycott started in earnest on my birthday. I was with a fairly large group of siblings, cousins, and childhood friends–mostly, women–all looking to have a good time celebrating my birthday. I was looking forward to a great night, and to ensure that everything flowed smoothly, I wore my “Shenanigan pants,” a button up under a peacoat, and some nice casual shoes. When we got to the door, the bouncer informed me that my pants were too baggy. I was stunned. I turned to my best friend in disbelief, and asked him to tell the bouncer what I called those jeans, and he replied without a second thought, “the shenanigan pants.” THE SHENANIGAN PANTS!

    It wasn’t enough, though. When I mentioned to the bouncer that I had once been turned away in khakis, he replied that he would’ve NEVER turned anyone away in khakis. Needless to say, I was upset…slightly indignant…utterly embarassed…deeply disappointed…nearly as powerless as I’ve ever felt.

    The only other situations that compare have involved cops…but, not in this particular area. Really cool cops on that strip. I’ve only been pulled out of the bar while dancing, and patted down on the sidewalk once. I guess it helps, though…imagine if they’d arrested all the fall down drunk, unruly, bar brawl starting, general public menacing characters they encountered on a nightly basis. Why…our jails would be flooded with white people…

  • angelajgaines

    Racism: a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. When the policy was adjusted regarding baggy pants(blacks can’t come in but whites can with them on) that was a form of racism.

    Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit:When the policy was adjusted regarding baggy pants (blacks can’t come in but whites can with them on) that was a form of discrimination.

    Prejudice: unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, esp. of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group. When the policy was adjusted regarding baggy pants(blacks can’t come in but whites can with them on) that was a form of prejudice.

    The problem is there was no alternative offerred to the students, and if the students became upset and reacted in a negative way then I can see why the bouncer continued to refuse entry.(negative behavior should never be rewarded). I think their should be some sort of meeting between both parties so this issue can be resolved peacefully.

    Kinda reminds me of the situation between the Harvard Professor months ago and the police officer( not totally but you know what I mean)

    Who knows how this thing could’ve turned out if the students just politely asked to retrieve the other 194 students so they could leave peacefully and find another establishment to patron. Or even ask to speak to a manager and told the manager of their intentions.
    There is always a way to demand respect politely as well as respectfully.
    Every side should admit where they were wrong and settle this!

  • James_Juma

    I can relate to the experience that these young men went through. Not once, not twice, but three times! This happened at the Wally and Bernies bar/club in Manchester NH. And yes, the ‘baggy’ jeans policy was used against me and a couple of my friends. Countless other people wearing even ‘baggier’ jeans were admitted without question.
    We stood aside and asked the bouncer why he was being selective, but he just looked the away and ignored us. A police officer came over and asked us to leave, stating that the club had a right to deny anyone admission for ‘any reason they deemed necessary’. I’m glad this issue has gained national attention, and hope that measures will be taken to curb this practice.

  • Still Anonomyous

    Wash U Senior:

    You don’t know how many non-Wash U affiliated African Americans were admitted or denied entrance into the bar, and you also don’t know how many white individuals were turned away. (Or any other ethnicity, for that matter).

    As far as whether the students were antagonizing the manager or not, I am attaching a link to an article which was recently released, in which the manager tells quite a different story. According to him (and this was all caught on tape from the security videos at the entrance to the nightclub), the black students became angry with him and surrounded him, shouting.

    I am not ignorant; I am realistic. We would love to live in a world where racial profiling and racism does not take place. No, we don’t like that Muslims are much more likely to commit acts of terrorism toward the United States than are any other ethnicity because of what Radical Islam teaches, or that a certain profile fits the typical child molester- white, middle-aged, lives alone, probably abused in the past. But that doesn’t mean that it is racism. Yes, the security guards at the airport are more likely to search certain bags, but that doesn’t mean they believe that the person whose bag they are searching is inferior to them on the basis of their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Yes, some do. Some people are racist. But most of them are doing their jobs.

    Racism and any other kind of discrimination is a belief that someone of a certain gender, religion, sexual orientation, or skin color is inferior to you. Racial profiling is having an understanding, as much as you don’t like it, that some people are more likely to commit certain crimes. Not because we believe they are inferior to us or because we hate them. It is difficult to confuse the two because there are racial profilers who are racist, but they are not one in the same nor do they necessarily happen hand-in-hand.

    They were alone when they first approached the bar. People were called out after they were initially denied entrance into the bar; everything escalated from there.

    Here is the link I promised. I hope you read this and find some understanding of the other side of the story.

  • WashU Senior

    @ Still anonymous:

    I know how many black students were turned away from my group: 100% of them.

    And we do have an idea as to what the intent of the bar was. They were told they couldn’t come in even if they changed clothes. They were also told that they didn’t “seem trustworthy.”

    Also, considering they weren’t alone (how do you think the white student went back with them to switch jeans?), we do have eyewitness account of what happened. These students were not antagonizing the bouncer in any way.

    And yes, racial profiling is racism. I don’t know how ignorant you have to be to not see that. Making a judgement about how dangerous or not dangerous someone is based on their race/religion/gender is racism. Altering a routine procedure for only members of certain races and not others, is racist.

  • Alum in Chicago


    To be clear, I do not have an infallible way of telling gang members from non-gang members. But I will tell you what criterion I DO NOT start with: young black men hanging out together.

    Yes, that bar owner had to make a snap judgment, but from the accounts I have heard from friends who were there (admittedly I was not there, nor was StudLife), these young men were dressed appropriately and acting appropriately. Also, knowing two of them myself, I find it highly unlikely they were acting aggressively or “ganglike” in any manner. So what signals was the bouncer using to assess these men as a risk to the safety of the club, considering the “baggy jeans” premise doesn’t seem to hold much water (as evidenced by the little experiment performed)?

    I will admit that I do not know this bouncer or what was going on in his head. I will admit that I have no clue how many other people of ANY race were turned away that night. But you must admit that, on the surface, something doesn’t pass the sniff test:

    1) Six men were picked out of hundreds of others who had been admitted that night and were told they couldn’t come in because their jeans were “too baggy,” even though those same jeans on a smaller white student were just fine.

    2) When they offered to go change into different clothes, they were told they still would not be admitted, even though they would then be even moreso adhereing to the “no baggy jeans” policy.

    3) From accounts of people who know them (including myself), these are not the type of students who normally act any differently than their peers.

    4) The bar has, in the past, been accused (whether rightfully or not) of similar actions.

    I agree that StudLife could have done a better job reporting on this issue, but I also believe that the student body that is reacting to this is generally using the “looks like a duck, quacks like a duck” thinking. Maybe that is an imperfect logic, but if these were my close friends or classmates I would be just as outraged by the events of that night.

  • “Still Anonymous” summed up things pretty well. I have avowedly denied knowledge of the bouncer’s intent — he may have white sheets hanging in his closet, for all I know. What I have tried to illustrate is that there has been a rush to judgment with Studlife that makes a mockery of journalistic standards and intellectual integrity. The article covering this incident pretty much read the same as the editorial, if you notice — that should be a red flag. No “alleged reports of racial profiling.” No standard journalistic hedging of any variety. Just a rush to judgment.

    Your own ignorance is on display if you don’t think profiling is separable from genuine prejudice. A racist is someone who thinks one race is inferior to another, whether that particular member of that race is young or old, in a suit or jeans around their knees, male or female. They discriminate against people qua race, just like a sexist discriminates qua sex. But just because a woman feels more nervous when she encounters a man on a dark street than a woman doesn’t make her a sexist, though she IS engaging in sexual profiling.

  • Still Anonomyous

    To Disappointed:

    How do YOU know the intent of the bar? Are you on staff? Are YOU the bouncer who turned these young men away? Are you the MANAGER of the bar? YOU stop pretending you know the intent of the bar, because unless you are some sort of psychic or the thought police, the truth is that you don’t.

    1) They turned six students away THAT YOU KNOW OF. You have no idea how many people were turned away from that bar, black, white, or otherwise.

    2) We cannot immediately assume that the only two possibilities were that either their pants were too baggy OR that they were black. What if there was a third possibility that we don’t know, like one of them got mad and said something to anger the bouncer. Until we have surveillance video tapes, we can’t know for sure, since NOBODY else from the Wash U community was present alongside those six young men in order to witness their behavior. We are going solely off of a hearsay situation.

    3) Of course the bar has turned people away. But did it occur to you that maybe on the review websites that ONLY the African Americans who were turned away were the ones who bothered to post that the bar was racist? And lets examine more closely the older reviews of the bar: 1 of 12 says not to go there because of discrimination. One. The rest say that the bouncers kicked them out when we went to smoke, the club sucked, etc. No mention of the ethnicity of these posters, no mention of discrimination based on race. (This is regarding older posts, not the Wash U posts).

    4) The bouncers don’t have ESP. Ergo, when they first saw them, they didn’t KNOW that the guys were from Wash U.

    5) It IS a far cry from racism. Profiling and racism aren’t the same thing. OF COURSE when you go to the airport, Muslims dressed in traditional garb are more likely to have their bags searched. Why? Think about it. It follows that in a big city like Chicago where there has been so much gang-related street violence that we have to be ultra careful. It isn’t racism. It’s safety precautions. The bar doesn’t know our students personally, it was their first encounter with them.

    You have no idea how many white people were turned away that night. You have no idea how many black students were turned away that night. You have no idea how many Hispanics, Indians, or Asians were turned away that night. The truth is that you just don’t know.

  • Disappointed


    Were you there? If not please stop pretending you know the intent of the bar.

    1) They turned away 6 students only. I think it was no coincidence that all these students were black.

    2) They turned them away on the basis of “baggy pants” however, when a white student that was rather short put on the same jeans (so that they were incredibly baggy) the student was not turned away.

    3) Do a small bit of research and you’ll find the bar has turned several groups of people away, and I’d say it is no coincidence that these are all groups of minorities.

    4) Why would he be worried that the WashU group that had arranged a group rate to have our senior class hang out and have some fun contained a gang? This is incredibly unreasonable.

    5) “But even profiling, if the bouncer were guilty of it (and for all I know, he was), is a far cry from racism”

    Racial profiling is racism. if you don’t realize that you’re ignorant.

    Applying a policy to black students only is racism. How you would twist that to not consider it racism, I’m not sure.

  • Alum,

    Your position is incoherent. Again, it requires a belief in a very odd kind of racist — someone who is not racist against all folks of a certain race, but only small, male groups of them. Perhaps you know of people who are racist only against small, male groups of a certain race — for me, it doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    Feel free to fulminate in your self-righteousness, but keeping gangs out of semi-public places in a real problem for malls, clubs and suchlike. I suspect it’s a problem you don’t have to deal with. Or perhaps you know of a way to infallibly tell gang members from non-gang members, but us mortals are left devising very imperfect rules that can only be applied with a certain degree of fallible personal judgment — rules such as Union Station’s decision to prohibit bandanas and other gang insignia.

    If this rule is applied with a certain amount of personal judgment — if they assume that the middle-aged hick with the red bandana wearing overalls and toting along his two tots is probably not a gang member –yes, you open yourself up to the charge of “profiling.” But even profiling, if the bouncer were guilty of it (and for all I know, he was), is a far cry from racism, just as relaxing when you see that the person following you late at night is an old lady is a far cry from being an ageist and a sexist. And even profiling has not been proven, in my estimation, to any reasonable person’s satisfaction.

  • Alum in Chicago

    Ian – tell me why all of the other groups of young men who came in sets of 5-6 were not “very easily mistaken for a gang?” Why is it that a group of 6 black men should be considered suspicious just because they are hanging out together?

    And your argument of “It’s not racist if there were other black people in the bar” is like saying “I can’t be racist because I have a black friend.” Just because the bar doesn’t have a “No Blacks Allowed” policy written on the door doesn’t mean that the actions of the bouncer were not racist.

    And, again, gang violence is not really a threat in that part of town. Sure, gangs COULD be anywhere, but from the many times I’ve been down to the Gold Coast there I have not seen a single person who I would consider a gang member, nor have I EVER felt intimidated or threatened.

    Then again…maybe I should just assume that groups of six black men hanging out together “could be gangs.”

  • anonymous

    this article is racist. seriously: “how ironic that well-behaved black people were turned away. racism. is. so. senseless.” what does this imply, studlife? that it’s not ironic when people who better fit a certain stereotype are subject to racism? nobody should be discriminated against, whether he or she is a “student leader” or not.

  • “The other black people in the bar at the time (very few) came in with large groups of white students. These six came in together.”

    This little quote establishes two things: a. the policy was evidently not designed to keep black folks out, therefore it is not racist; b. the group of young men could have been very easily mistaken for a gang.

    Congratulations, Studlife, for your rush to judgment based on a few strands of evidence. Don’t feel like you have to ask elementary questions such as, “Were other black people allowed in the club?” It’s not as if that would invalidate your conclusion or anything. (Apparently what we had were very picky racists, who were only racist against small packs of young men traveling alone, and not those a part of a larger group. Hmm. I’m sure this has nothing to do with Chicago’s large problem with gang violence, which recently claimed the life of an honor roll student walking back from school.)

  • dear still anonymous

    I am tired of saying the rest of the Wash U students did not care. No one knew that this was happening at the time that it was. The people involved did not go and make an announcement and make people aware of the situation. I was in the bar when this happened, and had I been informed I would have left. When I found out the next morning about it, I was extremely mad and started to take action.

    Also. I am tired of these comments on these articles saying the bar has a right to enforce its dresscode. OF COURSE IT DOES. If restaurants have a jacket and tie policy, they can enforce it. BUT ESTABLISHMENTS CANNOT ENFORCE DRESS CODE IN A DISCRIMINATORY MATTER. Enforce it for everyone, or do not enforce it at all. I am also confident that these boys were not even violating dress code to being with. Stop saying we cannot attribute this to racism because they were protecting the bar. No. They were using a dress code policy in a racist matter by only “enforcing” it for these six boys. The other black people in the bar at the time (very few) came in with large groups of white students. These six came in together.

  • Gina

    The students may want to explore legal action. The Illinois Department of Human Rights investigates charges of discrimination in places of public accommodation. Additionally, this type of discrimination is prohibited by federal law. The United States Attorney General has authority in these types of cases.

  • Still Anonomyous

    “We find it ironic that the members of the Senior Class Council who planned the trip were among those excluded from the nightclub, demonstrating the senselessness of the racist attitudes exhibited. Hearing that well-regarded student leaders like Regis Murayi and Iboro Umani were turned away from a nightclub seems other-worldly.”

    Why does it make any difference, at all, whatsoever, if two of the young men were members of the student council? You are weakening your argument by pointing out this fact, essentially saying that of the six of them, at least *those* two should have gotten in because they were *members of the student council*. It’s ridiculous.

    I would like to further point out that the details of the night say far more about Washington University students than about racial discrimination.

    1) Why were the six black men separate from the group to begin with? Why weren’t there any white people with them? I highly doubt that it purely a coincidence; there were two hundred students on that trip, and the rest of them, which, according to the facts, were all of other ethnicicies, were already in the bar. Why did these six young men choose to stay separate from the rest of the group?

    2) As Jeremy points out, nobody left the bar in protest. For as angry as everyone is now, nobody cared the night it actually happened. The Wash U students were only concerned about one thing, and that was having fun that night. It’s all well and good for everyone to be so angry, outraged, and indignant now, but that anger is misplaced. Perhaps the reason some of you are so angry about this is because you are projecting the anger you feel at yourselves onto the establishment because you feel guilty that you didn’t just walk out of the bar when you should have.

    3) Does it make it any less right or wrong that two of the members were on the student council? What about the four that weren’t? I thought the issue was that they were black, not black and on the student council. What does that say about us that we are making such a big deal about the fact that two of them were on the student council? That only black men in some kind of office matter?

  • Jeremy

    This incident was terrible. That protest though sounds pathetic. The students should have immediately exited the club upon hearing that their fellow Black students were denied entrance. They should have exited the club shouting that the club was racist making a big scene. 200 students noisily leaving all at once, that would have been a protest, that would have hurt business.

    The reason for not leaving: they had an all you can drink special and so not drinking their beer would have done the club a favor. LAME excuse, very lame. I can’t believe the other 200 WU students would sit around getting hammered after that, and I suppose getting as drunk as possible to “hurt” the club owner. The 15 minute protest before leaving the next day was an ineffectual afterthought. Pathetic.

  • Dear Student Life Staff,

    I’m writing to congratulate you for your exemplary article ‘Mother’s Bar incident should compel boycott, activism.” It is both well written, and helps to grow a culture of activism amongst students tat Washington University.

    Whereas many campus media outlets skip the sensitive subject of racism, your editorial does an excellent job of inspiring students to take action against existing racism. More student journalists around the country should follow your lead.

    I am very impressed with this editorial for Student Life, and I’d like to talk to the writer about internship opportunities with the National Student News Service. Check out our website (, sign up for our news feed,
    and call me/shoot me an email.

    All the best,
    Angie Marie Woody
    Intern, National Student News Service