Racism in the Goth Subculture: Response to an Elder Goth

Hey Fab Bats! Today I wanted to delve into a bit of the nit-grits of the goth subculture. Racism, whether within or outside of the scene will always be an issue. But, there are ways to minimize it. An elder goth on Youtube going by Gothic Soulflower addressed the problem. I would like to add in my two cents from the perspective of a younger (albeit fictional character) point of view as well as offer detailed advice for other members of the scene. All ethnicities, races, and backgrounds are welcome to the discussion!

I suggest first giving the video a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Watched it? Let’s go!

Gothic Soulflower addresses three points: attacks bigots make, responses towards bigots, and the zero tolerance rule.


I. Attacks

Bigots will be bigots. Whether they’re hiding behind a digital profile or are straight up in your face. Here are some common attacks they make:

“Black people can’t be goth!” 

This applies to people of color in general. This argument seems to prevail most among people outside of the subculture who have preconceived notions of what goths look like via the media. Thanks to celebrities like Rihanna and Janelle Monáe who incorporate leather, studs and dark themes in some of their videos, the public has become desensitized to certain aesthetic elements of goth. However, as they do not have a full picture of the subculture, identifying as a member of it is still a personal sentence to ostracization. I’m pretty sure the weatherman has predicted that it will always be this way: goths are ready-made outcasts.

The scene overall appears to welcome marginalized people (exceptions apply to local scenes), but the same could not necessarily be said for certain communities. For those of color living in a space which misunderstands the history and mystical meaning of goth, double marginalization is formed. They are both rejected by society as a whole and their own surroundings. Goth is not exclusive to any race or ethnicity. Listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees while writing dark poetry and sipping cranberry juice in a goblet by moonlight is not just for those of porcelain pallor. In other words, yes, goths of color exist and fearlessly so.

“You’d look so cute with a different style.”

Really? Let’s remember that goth isn’t just about style. It’s about the sound and common interests formed around it. Behind Bauhaus lyrics are feelings of darkness and a sense of the strange. This translates into long velvet skirts, ripped fishnet tops and all-year-round trench coats. Dressing to conform stifles your real Self. You wouldn’t want to be someone you are not. Yet, it is expected of you to adhere to specific standards.

While this behaviour may belong to more than just bigots, the general sentiment people feel about goth is that it is inexplicable to them. No matter how you wish to define it, there is something about goth that cannot be expressed in words, but rather, in experience. It takes going to a goth club, an alternative clothing store or participating in an online community to understand the depth of it. Your style reflects You. So no, my Fab Bats, you would look no cuter adhering to other people’s standards.

“You’re just trying to be white.”

Now, in all of my fictitious years on a paper planet, I have never heard anything further from the truth for most goths of color. Yes, there are people out there who do wish to be outside of – or “leave” – their race. But, that is not all-encompassing. For goths who are isolated in both realms (not white enough for the goth community, not dark enough for the black and brown community), they live on an island. Luckily we have the Internet to find like-minds.

The notion of “acting white” has always been a problem. It goes back to avoiding ostracization by adhering to social standards, as said in the section above. Strong racial divides in our society stem from severe, collective trauma. As such, there is a division which attempts to separate the oppressed from those who have a legacy of oppressors (Note: by legacy I mean historical occurrences where non-white races were put down. This does not take away the efforts made by individuals who acknowledge and attempt to repair this). I would like to stress that not everything is black and white. Institutional racism has created it so that divides dictate our freedom of expression through any means: fashion, schooling, sports, religion, television etc…

Some goths do distance themselves from their community of color and take on “semi-white” attributes in speech and mannerism (but, that’s a whole other argument entirely). However, most goths of color simply want to be themselves and not be bothered. It takes simple research in history to find that rock n’ roll started with a black woman, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and that the European roots in goth aesthetic and lifestyle do not mean that black and brown romantics were non-existent on an entire continent. Goth does not belong to white people. If your heart and sound are there, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and age are all irrelevant. You’re just plain goth.

II. Responses

Now that we’ve talked about the negative, let’s think up some short retorts for any bigot you face.

Ignore them…but don’t forget to give “the look”

All they are really looking for is acknowledgment. You’ve heard it before, “just ignore the bully and he’ll stop bothering you”. Didn’t really work in middle school, did it? Well, whether you’re a working parent or still in grade school, ignoring with attitude is a way of showing off your fangs without biting the fool. Of course, you might be hurt by what they said and constantly repeat the comeback in your head that you thought of days after the fact…but, if you’ve got some excess sass waiting to manifest, just give them the up and down, as Gothic Soulflower rightfully suggested. There’s nothing like staring someone down with a smug smirk on your face.

“I Listen to goth music, why am I not goth?”

Gothic Soulflower has expressed in multiple videos the importance of gothic music. This applies mainly to bigots within the scene, which we haven’t discussed much. If you listen to goth music, identify with the lyrics and tone evoking the darker aspects of life (centered around death, dark allies, revenge and even being buried alive), then you have every right to call yourself goth. Maybe you own multiple copies of Dracula and recite passages in your antique Edwardian-era armchair. Or you instead prefer to relentlessly re-read Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” at your favorite café (because you know, they all end well). In either case, you adhere to the lifestyle which makes up goth as a subculture.

“Just be scary”

Goths are kind of scary to most people. Sometimes even to other goths…People who make rude comments are looking for reactions. You could use this to your advantage by giving them the creeps. Offer a sinister smile that would rival the Joker. Invite them to dinner for some roasted orphans. Or, play with their game. Respond to the classic “It’s not Halloween yet” with a genuine “Thanks!” (because you must be looking pretty damn good for someone to be saying that). Carry a bottle of hot sauce with you. Drink it straight up, it will confuse your enemies. Speaking of enemies, pull out your Death Note book and ask for their full name.

III. Zero Tolerance

Gothic Soulflower enforces a zero tolerance rule. If you see someone being bullied, step in and take them aside. Bigoted people are not worth anyone’s attention. Hopefully, some of the above tips will help you in making them back off, so don’t be shy when it comes to sticking up for a fellow goth. As Gothic Soulflower put it, “you don’t owe bigots anything […] own your gothiness, and don’t tell anyone you don’t belong here”. As she says, you can’t obliterate bigotry, but it’s all about keeping it down to a minimum.


Any tips for fellow Fab Bats? What are your personal experiences?

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