The drowning of ignorance

Alex Kamczyc

My friend got me an under-the-table job working at a bar in Akron, checking IDs at the door.

Most of the time I would sit and watch whatever was on the T.V. — usually sports. I was lucky if I caught a Cavs game before the final few quarters.

It was a dimly lit sports bar. The walls were green, and it was furnished with wooden tables and chairs all stained to look darker and more polished.

If smoking was allowed, I’m sure there would be a thick cloud masking its inhabitants. 

The mix of people who did find themselves drinking in this bar was sloppy. It was either old people looking for a meal and a drink, or young people hoping to waste their money and, in turn, get wasted.

There was this man — it seemed like he was always drunk — who would come up and force me into conversation. He was old and crooked, and he had white hair that looked greasy, as if he hadn’t showered the entire month.

Most of the time I would try to shrug him off, but I would humor him every now and again — we had argued about things like sports and politics.

One night we found ourselves dancing around the subject of race in America.

“I’m telling you kid, most Americans are not racist,” he said, finishing a drink that he ordered just ten minutes ago.

“You’re full of it,” I would say, trying to monitor the room.

“Nah, I’m being serious, it’s not possible to be racist in today’s society.” He wouldn’t let the point go. “Most of the time it’s in your head.”

This would go on until he got sidetracked by a girl half his age coming into the bar.

Apart from those conversations, the nights blurred together. Same thing, different day. Pay was good, so I didn’t complain. 

Until one night, when the other doorman, named Patches (I called him that because he had an eye-patch, but I never called him that to his face since he was very sensitive about his eye-patch) came up to me while I was checking IDs on the bar patio.

He was a dopey looking man, slouched shoulders, bald, pot belly; but there was something intimidating about him.

He once told me he was an ex-pro football player. I wasn’t sure how true that was, but I made extra sure not to piss him off.

“We don’t allow state IDs anymore, new bar policy,” said Patches the Doorman.

“Oh?” I asked, my face going white. Not even five minutes prior, I let in three people with state IDs.

“Yeah, there was an incident on Wednesday. We don’t accept them anymore,” he said.

“Okay, no problem,” I said.

And then he leaned in closer to my ear: “It’s okay if you let people who have state I.D.s in. Mostly, it’s just to weed out the n…”

I’m sure you can guess what he said.

I was taken aback; I didn’t think someone could be so blatantly racist in front of someone he’s only seen on weekends. I was not a normal friend of his, nor did I have any intentions to be one.

Essentially, by not accepting state IDs we could legally turn away a large number of people, specifically African-Americans, that lived in the area.

“Oh, okay,” I hesitated, unsure of how to react.

I spent the rest of the night turning away everyone, regardless of race, if they had a state ID. I thought about that old drunk man and our conversations I actively tried to avoid.

As it turns out, the bar I worked at wasn’t the only bar doing this. The one across from us did the same thing and, on top of that, had a dress code targeted toward African Americans.

At the end of the day, we kicked out the last few people that hang around until bars close to pay their tabs. 

The conversational drunk was still there, slouched over a half-finished beer. He looked at me and saw the tension in my face.

“Drink up kid,” he smiled. “It’s all in your head.”

Alex is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].