Being Black/POC In The Deathrock/Goth Scene: Sit Down, Shut Up, and Listen.

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Photo taken at Pips 78'

This article has taken us close to two years to put together, it is special to us. Who is us? Freda (Dark Harmony), RoRo (Capn' RoRo), and myself. We are deeply involved in the idea, coming and process of this article.This article /interview is one of our most important ones thus far. The reason for the article's delay is honestly due to busy life, website transitions, and wanting to make sure it was done right.

Meet the women behind the article - we are all people of color (some people wanted us to add that fact into our article). Every single question was specially written by each of us. We hope this allows you to understand things more. This article has voices that need to be heard. So shut the fuck up and listen.

What inspired this article to be created stemmed from the recent attack’s on social media platforms against the black goth community. Many individuals make the assumption that the goth community is strictly Caucasian and created only for Caucasians. Although, the very first rock and roll artist was an African American woman -- and many cultures such as West African , Caribbean, Native , Asian and Latino /Hispanic has Shaped the fashion , musical , poetic and art aspect of this subculture. After seeing many posts online speaking of historical inaccuracies and stereotypes regarding people of color in the goth scene we want to help to remove the ongoing stigma that in order to be part of the subculture you must be white with pale skin to participate. This subculture is indeed not about race , many of us came from all walks of life , we don’t care if you’re old , young , rich , or poor . We all share the same passion and love for the music . We promote unity and want to give others the chance to finally be heard and also break the misinformation that is being accepted as facts . With the boom of social media platforms such as Instagram Facebook, snapchat and Twitter has both brought the goth scene lots of great things but also plenty of negativity. Social media represents the goth scene often as materialistic, cut throat opportunists , and “elitist” who exclude others in the community based off of how many social media followers they have , what clubs they attend and the color of their skin and this is not what the goth scene represents. Los Angeles and many other cities and countries consist of a melting pot within the goth and deathrock scene. We will continue to be a diverse family based off a common interest. “Music." These stories and experiences are important for the new generation coming into the scene. GHLA will continue to be an ally to the community by educating and promoting diversity. - Freda

The interviewees will answer some main questions and backround info.

The questions being answered as follows - 1. Being a POC within the Goth scene, what impact did social media have within your community? Do you feel underrepresented? What changes would you like to see?

2. Have you had different experiences online vs in real life where you’ve felt either unwelcome, left out or any type of exclusion due to your color? Tell us the differences you have seen. Where is the bigger problem in your eyes where discrimination is happening?

3. What is something you wish someone would have told you as a young goth? And do you have any words of encouragement or advice you wish to pass on to other POC who are new to the scene?

Main Questions

1. Honestly, I feel like there is more POC goths now than ever i know a few years ago as a babybat It was more rare to even see POC in the scene, but that's my opinion. i know that some areas there's rarely POC in the scene. There's groups on fb that I join that is for POC goths that I'm in. There's surprisingly a lot members. If you haven't joined one, i suggest you do. It's cool to stay connected with people like you that you can relate to on many things like beauty tips, music, fashion, drawings etc.

2. Online has way too many trolls lol I've heard Goth is for white people only way too many times only to be shut down by how many POC artists that has influenced Rock & Roll, Goth & Punk (Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, there's a ton more) lol I haven't heard anything negative towards me in person at like a club or concerts, nor have I ever felt unwelcome in the scene either. i'm sure there could've been but I pay no mind to that BS. XD i'm here for the music not drama lol. But I feel like most discrimination would be online from keyboard warriors.

3. Don't try to change yourself for anyone. The one negative thing i could say that was said towards me was my makeup. I was called a clown most of my school days & stopped wearing my makeup for a while from that. I deeply regret it. Get out there, get into the music, go to concerts, support local bands & clubs. There's times where i'm the only black girl in the club & i'll still have a good time tearing that dancefloor up. Unfazed.

Eden Lost's interview was constructed differently than the rest

Have you ever faced discrimination and/or felt unwelcome in the goth scene? Yes, many times unfortunately!  I've experienced it from other goths band checking me, giving me dirty looks, and even flat out saying that shouldn't I be listening to rap! Once at a Revolting Cocks show in Los Angeles, the singer even harassed a black man in the audience about rap music. It was totally unnecessary. That was back in the early 2000s. I find people to be a little more accepting now- or maybe I'm better at ignoring them. Do you feel like you are underrepresented? Yes, I think that there is still an idea of gothic being directly correlated to race. For example, goths being shocked that black people like myself like this type of music. Or other blacks saying that alternative music is "white people music" I'm starting to see more and more models of color being used in music videos and gothic clothing sites! This is awesome and I hope it continues.

Main Questions

1. I feel like social media seems to have reinforced the stereotypical ideals portrayed by the media. Pale skin apparently being the main requirement. For a long time all I have ever seen on social media are images of white women with pale skin and straight hair. I definitely feel underrepresented. I am however aware of the fact that many dark skinned black goths feel the exclusion a lot more than I do. It is only recently that I have come across a lot more images of goths of colour on social media. I feel a responsibility to share those images as much as I can, to either break the stereotypes that we're expected to conform to, or to encourage people of colour who would like to express themselves within alternative subcultures. I would love to see more dark skin representation. It is hypocritical to embrace the beauty of darkness for aesthetics while shunning or ignoring dark beauty in a more literal sense.

2. What has made me feel unwelcome online has been based more on the immediate doubt of the validity of my interests. I feel it has a lot to do with my race. The expectation for me to prove my knowledge on goth has become rather tiresome. In real life, I think it tends to be more about my look. The fact that I don't appear to be "goth enough". The fact that I don't fit into the media stereotype plays a major role. I'm expected to go out of my way to prove how goth I am by latching onto every cliché possible. I think the underlying issue is the fact that we as goths of colour are seen as people trying on a costume for fun. That we're seen as trying to act white. That all of it is for attention. The first assumption is that we're trying to look like any POC celebrity who was recently seen wearing black lipstick to follow a trend. If there was more black goth representation in the media, I think it would be less of an issue. Many think goths of colour never existed until the age of social media, possibly that it's just a trend or phase inspired by instagram.

3. I wish someone would have told me that I don't need to look a certain way. That there is nothing wrong with my skin or hair. That my opinion of myself should matter more than that of others. That I don't need to conform to expectations even within alternative scenes. I would like to tell POC that are new to the scene that you are good enough as you are. You are valid. Your interests and who you are inside matters so much more than achieving a certain look. Your skin and hair are unique and beautiful, and nobody has the right to shame you for not being white for any reason.

Main Questions

1. Social media hasn't had much of an effect on my local community, but it has made it easier to locate other Goths of color nationwide. I no longer feel underrepresented because of that, and there are so many Goths of color on IG now. I would like more products presented to us that are POC-owned, and more POC Elder Goth influencers.

2. Navigating predominately white spaces in this climate is challenging enough, but if I present myself as myself (Goth), I am more accepted in those spaces. I have experienced minimal discrimination from the Goth community, as the majority of them don't get down with racism. I have received many jeers from the Black community for not fitting into their box of what a Black woman should be, act like, or look like. None of it makes a difference to me at this point in life, because I will continue to live my truth, and none of those fuckers pay my bills.

3. I wish someone had told me when I was younger that I was Goth, and not just 'weird.' I was raised this way, but the term 'Goth' never came up in conversation until I was a teenager. My interests have broadened a little over the years, but I still remain Trad Goth.

One piece of advice I have for new POC Goths is: Music FIRST. The music is the foundation of the subculture. Learn what you can about the subculture before throwing the Goth label on yourself, because there are too many black-clad metalheads utilizing it as a misnomer, and it's taxing for us to keep rolling our eyes at it. Call yourself Alt or Alternative if that's the case. Also, the subculture is racially and ethnically inclusive, so don't let anyone tell you it's only for the pasty folk.We rock this shit!

Main Questions

1. Social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand it seems to amplify elitism in gothic culture. On the other hand, it gives more people from various backgrounds the opportunity to speak up, connect with each other, and to literally be seen. I’ve felt both frustration and inspiration from social media in this respect. The goth community has always been diverse, and social media has the opportunity to connect us all.

I absolutely feel underrepresented in any media pertaining to gothic culture. I hope to see that change in the future. Specifically, I hope to see more significantly diverse-looking folks emerge (and get hired) as gothic artists, models, musicians, writers, performers, etc on a larger, more visible scale. This would include black folks, brown folks, plus size and queer people, and people with disabilities. Representation matters. When I was younger, my insecurities were fed by messages (both verbal and visual) that I would never be considered “beautiful” in gothic culture because of my skin color. This is a common theme I’ve heard from other black and brown folks as I’ve gotten older, and some went to the harmful lengths of skin bleaching to attempt to appear closer to the archaic archetype. A lack of representation in the media is not just false, it is harmful. I also hope to hear questions like these asked more often. I hope these questions generate more discussion around unnecessary gate-keeping and how it often impacts POC and other marginalized communities more than others.

2. The short answer is yes, absolutely. I have experienced countless situations in which it was made clear to me that I was unwelcome in the online gothic community, only to meet people who became fantastic friends in person. I have also experienced the opposite, in which individuals preach how inclusive the scene is only to be met with eye rolls and more overt exclusive behavior in person. I believe these experiences are common for most of us brown folks in the goth scene.

It is worth mentioning that things have changed since the first time I discovered the community aspect of gothic culture about 11 years ago in Tallahassee, FL. At that time, I was told that I was welcome, but when I joined conversations I felt invisible. Not only did I not feel included, I felt specifically excluded. I do not know with certainty whether those specific interactions were because of the color of my skin, but it was made clear that I was an outsider. Friendships formed over time and about a year later I had integrated into the community. I still refer to the Tallahassee community as my first goth family. When I moved to Denver in 2012, I had a very different experience. Compared to Tallahassee, Denver is massive. I had gone from a tiny community where we all knew too much about each other, to a community where there were multiple club nights. Two people could attend the same night for months and never interact with each other. I used social media to learn about the goth scene in Denver and attempted to make connections, but I often felt as if people were not interested in welcoming me to their online community. However, folks in Denver were very kind when I met them in person. There were certainly individuals who said inappropriate things over the years, but people were largely supportive of folks from all backgrounds in the real world community. At the time of writing this, I have only been in Richmond for a couple of weeks. The only gothic club in town requires a membership because it is also a fetish club. My membership request is still pending, but I am hoping that I will be able to join the community here soon as well. In general, I have seen more support for POC in the goth scene in recent years than I ever have. People are growing more mindful and inclusive, and less tolerant of racism, however discrimination still occurs every day.

On a larger scale, I think that discrimination is still rampant in the gothic community, especially online. It does not take much digging to find the most atrocious comments under a trending post that involves a brown person doing something traditionally “white." Discrimination is a desperate attempt to shift a perceived loss of power. Perhaps we as a community need to think about whether the power that is being lost is real or perceived, and if it is real, is it in the name of inclusiveness in the gothic community? ...And by we, I mostly mean the white folks of the community, and even more specifically, those with the most power in the scene. Yes, more visible black and brown folks in the gothic community would involve hiring us, booking our acts, collaborating with us, etc. I do not think that we will ever eradicate discrimination, but I do think that there are ways to improve how we treat people as a community, and it needs to be a group effort with support from the most visible and powerful of us. If the gothic community is truly for everyone to enjoy, then we should include everyone at the table when we plan events, spin new music, book shows, etc. Black and brown people, LGBTQIA+ folx, disabled folks, and anyone who has not traditionally had a voice at the table should be included. There is room for all of us to enjoy our favorite things about gothic culture…together.

3. To my younger self… You never need to apologize for existing. Your existence is valid, important, and absolutely beautiful. Your voice is your own and no one else’s. Create beautiful, terrible, hilarious, and compelling things. Keep creating. Keep going. Thrive. When they tell you that you are different, remember that it makes you strong. The darkness never crushes you.

Also, when you finally watch it, just pretend that Halloween III isn’t called Halloween. It will make you less angry.

To other beautiful brown goths… Everything I just wrote to my past self! Be seen. Be unapologetically you. Not everyone will like it, but it doesn’t matter as long as you continue to be true to who you are. If it isn’t being done in a way that suits your needs or interests, make it so. Do it first if it doesn’t exist. Make room for others to enjoy the community with you. You are beautiful exactly the way you are. Your hair, your skin, your smile, your tears, all of you. Keep shining because we need to show everyone just how many ways to paint Goth.

Main Questions1. I try not to pay attention to social media, but in this day and age it plays a vital role in organizing, communication and outreach. As a Native Angelino it I feel like the visual landscape of the goth scene is much different than what I see online. At meet ups and shows, it is definitely an eclectic bunch, I mean there are people from all walks of life getting together and they are not all pale faced. ​Online, it appears as though the focus is on the lighter skin tones. What I mean by that is that I often see the pasty white makeup look, even on people of color, appearing in everything from music videos and event flyers to Pintrest boards and Instagram feeds. I’m all for a bit of makeup—the Egyptians did it, as did the Mayans—but when I see the pale face, goth look, I think it looks bland, and unimaginative. Moreover, when I see a person of color do the pale face look, I think it is a bit off, especially when the makeup stops abruptly above the neck, yikes! ​What I would like to see is for people to expand beyond the old guard goth look. Flip open a history book, an art book, maybe even an art history book and let the pale face goth look rest in peace. New millennium, new look. I love Europe, the history, the people and the music that come from across the pond, but we get a lot more sunshine here on the west coast, why shouldn’t the makeup reflect that history? 

2. Ha! Well, these days I guess I am a bit more mellow. In my younger days, I wore spiked cuffs, collars, loads of patches, and dyed my hair every color of the rainbow; it may have attracted more attention. These days I feel that I’m a bit more mellow, but I’m still fairly brown and that isn’t going to change any time soon. That said, I haven’t experienced any rage or flame wars online—at least not any that I care to remember—quite possibly because I rarely use an image of my face online for my profile pics. IRL (in real life) however, the story is a little different, from police stops to people yelling at me in a passing car, I’ve dealt with all sort of situations. Honestly, I feel like I some situations where handled better than others. ​Personally, I get a sense that the discrimination problem is systemic, and really part of a larger issue of xenophobia. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and attending loads of shows, and one thing that didn’t fly was racism, that sort of nonsense was always kicked to the curb. I figure it is harder to be a racist in a city like Los Angeles, you have to interact with people of all sorts of cultural, religious, spiritual, economic and political backgrounds. Sure, you can distance yourself by living in a gated community, but unless you’re ordering everything online and having it shipped to you, then you’re going to run into a person of color. 

3. A message to younger me? Well Love yourself, always. Venues change, bands split, digital will overtake print media sometime in the new millennium, but the love you carry for yourself will always be a constant—cherish it and let it grow. ​A few words of advice to younger peeps-o-colour in the goth scene: Don’t wait for a change to happen, make it happen. If you feel that your local scene doesn’t accurately represent you, then speak up, provide constructive feedback, and ask if/where/and how you can help, chances are you’re not the only one. Moreover, there are so many ways to strengthen your community, from organizing a meet up or setting up your own photoshoot, to zine making, and more. Shows and dance nights are one-part goth culture, but it is also great to have a few friends to go have a drink and a bite to eat with too.

Main Questions

1. Social media has been helpful with connecting with other goths/ punks of color and helps you feel a lot less alone. Over the years I have made a lot of friends.  Of course you also have your influx of trolls. Edgelord racists are a lot braver now that they can hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard. A lot of us have been under represented but now that's changing which I love seeing P. O. C.  In alternative lifestyles are slowly becoming a norm.  You can't ignore us anymore. I would like to see far less of the edgelords posting hate to us though.  Sadly that may never change.... 2. It's really weird... When i lived in Los Angeles I dealtore with people being shitty to me,  and making me feel unwelcome,  which probably could have due to the fact that,  let's be honest,  the Los Angeles goth/ deathrock scene can be very clique-ish.  I use to do flyers in front of bar sinister for another club and some of the shitty attitudes in had to deal with was ridiculous.  Not everyone was like that of course but a pretty big majority was.  Then i move to Indianapolis,  where i expect to get shit for being a P. O. C.  In the goth / deathrock scene,  but I haven't run into any of that.  People at shows and in the scenes out here have been pretty cool to me.  3. What I wished I would of heard and what I want to tell people that are new in the scene: don't put up with shit just to keep "friends". Don't make excuses for shitty people,  don't keep toxic people in your life,  . It's better to have a couple good friends then a bunch of shitty popular ones.  Smash people's expectations of you.  Stand out.  Be proud of yourself while not being terrible to yourself.  Don't be an asshole , you are better then that.  

Main Questions

1. I don't personally label myself as goth, but I enjoy the music, the people and everything that goes with it. Plus, drawing goth characters makes me feel involved. When I first started getting into goth there weren't many social media platforms. I mainly found my way through Blogger, forums and people outside of the Internet who were in the scene in the 80s/90s. My Mom's friend gave me the old CDs she collected over the years, and I spent a lot of time searching for sounds on Limewire. What truly made me aware of the lack of representation for black goths came from people outside of alternative subcultures. Most of them hadn't seen many black girls doing their thing. I'd like to be part of a change that makes us feel normalized rather than separated from the goth scene as a whole. This would be through both imagery and sound. It would make a difference to include some black musicians in a playlist instead of as a separate element or designated segment. More new bands would want to form too.

2. In my opinion, the real issue comes from outside of the subculture. I'm lucky to be navigating between two major cities where there are a lot of goth events. Thanks to this I've never had issues in real life or online with the people involved. However, even though it's becoming increasingly acceptable to dress "differently", there are still things I can't share with my friends like music or goth nights at clubs because there's this misconception that it's weird and scary. We need to step outside of the goth subculture and look at the bigger picture. Most of the time, you're not being judged for your alternative tastes, but for being an imposter. When you're black, if you don't conform to the community, people often see it is as threatening because of our history involving assimilation.

Though I didn't grow up in the United States, I can tell you from a French and American perspective that the way alternative black people are looked at in black communities varies a lot. Still, in both there is this notion that by engaging in something that is typically perceived as white, you are betraying your people. It's a survival mechanism, and it has nothing to do with black people being inherently single-minded. We operate under a system that survives off of violence and punishment, so preserving our culture is important. Unfortunately, most don't know that black people were some of the main founders of subcultures we still enjoy today. Goth is just an example that can be used to illustrate a much more complex and larger problem within our society.

3. One of the reasons why I created my character Dana, who is a confident, big sister "fat bat", was so I could have one of those role models. Everything she says in the comics are things I would have wanted to hear had it not been for her 2D existence. My first piece of advice would be to give goth music a chance. It will help you understand yourself and explore your identity. A lot of younger goths now are rejecting the musical aspect of the subculture without understanding its vast spectrum of sounds. Music in general is what ties cultures together. Gothic rock made me feel more surrounded and secure because I shared a connection with a whole group of people at a time when I was too socially anxious to go out. One final thing: just because you are ostracized by your community doesn't mean you should turn on them. There are people who, because of the hate they receive, go against their own culture. Even if you found your core self in a subculture, you should always remain connected to where you came from.

Meet Dana below

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