Featured image – @berthauxx
The idea to write this article came to me when I was flicking through our explore page on Instagram, and came across @bbeetlejuiced‘s account. It was like stepping inside a time machine back to my yr8 days. I always get a warm feeling in my heart every time I come across a POC involved in the alternative community. It’s something I wish I had seen when I used to be a Goth, as honestly back in 2014, I was starting to believe I was the only black Goth out there. And the way I was treated both in public and by people I once called friends, they thought likewise. Without diving too much into the politics, representation does matter, even more importantly in the alt world. I would idolise the plethora of white Goths every time I Google searched, paling out my skin and praying my hair would one day be as straight as theirs. And by saying this, there is nothing wrong with white Goths, but we should be seeing Black, Asian and other POC faces among them too. Despite my father being Asian, I’m not sure whether representation is still a problem for Asians in the alternative community? Goth has and is quite prevalent in Japanese Harajuku culture, and it’s more common to find Asians among White alternatives than is it Black individuals.
First and foremost, I think it’s about breaking away from detrimental stereotypes. Unfortunately, when you hear the statement “black woman“, you will often hear the descriptors: “twerking“, “aggressive“, “ghetto“, “mama“, “fierce“, “angry” and “sassy” in the same breathe. I’m a Black woman, and I’m not any of that. The Black community is still heavily sexualised and fetishised; it’s something that affects our daily, dating and professional lives.
Still think the alternative community doesn’t have a ‘race’ problem? Okay let me ask you this question – have you ever seen a Black person portrayed as a fairy in a fairy-tale storyline? That’s what I thought. It’s our oppressors’ agenda in the entertainment and creative industry sectors to keep us ‘in-our-place‘ and generically cast us. I’m super into medieval and periodic fantasy, anything dragons and dungeons more or less. Why do you never see a black person riding their horse, raven-feather cloak flowing behind them and baroque crown firmly placed on their head? There’s an alternative POC I follow, and I remember her making a statement about never seeing a Black vampire protagonist (don’t argue that Laurent from Twilight is, he was barely in it for 2 seconds). It’s so true! ‘Beautiful Creatures‘ is one of my all-time favourite films – I adore Ridley. She’s an evil bastard, yes, but she’s so breath-takingly striking, enchanting and powerful in a way that makes you almost admire her. I understand that it’s set in the deep South, and directors want to keep everything ‘historically correct‘, but her character could have so easily been played by a Black actor.
Ironically, in school the main perpetrators of my bullying were other black girls. I was constantly being reminded I was a ‘coconut’/’oreo‘, “wanted to be White“, and wasn’t “claimed” by them. It’s degrading, it’s disgusting, and it’s devastating that when we should be coming together as an ethnic group, we instead are tearing one another down. Being Black is not limited to one ideal, and some members of the Afro-Caribbean community need to understand this. Just because someone doesn’t listen to Grime, Soca or speak in a particular vernacular, doesn’t make them any less Black. It’s okay if you’re not into that stuff, and it’s okay if you are. I wish the people who contributed to some of my darkest days understood this. AfroPunk once posted something up, and someone commented saying “the Black community doesn’t even hate on alt POCs, it’s them who disassociate themselves from the Black community.” Sadly there is some truth to it. Most Black alternatives do not, but a handful do.
The predominantly White alternative community wasn’t any more supportive either. There was a ‘backfield group’ in school. The members ranged from having interests in: Emo, Grunge, Lolita, Indie, LGBTQ+, Feminism and anything deemed non-mainstream. Once I had fully fledged into my Goth self, I honest-to-God thought I would be accepted among them with open arms. I wasn’t. They were not the main source of my bullying, but their blatant ostracisation hurt just as much. In retrospect, I think at the time I saw their behaviour as more damaging than the direct bullying. Subcultures are established on the principle of outsiders who are into the same things uniting together to create their own spaces, scenes and opportunities. What I needed was support from people who looked like me – I never received it. My bullies observed my isolation and rejection from other pupils, and used it as fuel to add to the fire. Even to this day, I still do not get along with the alternative community. I’m too mainstream for them, and I’m too alternative for the mainstream. It’s a no-win situation. It’s hard to believe that some of the best friends and supporters I’ve had are so straight-laced, normal and conservative. Society is still a mystery to me.
“My experience as an alt POC has changed with the times. I moved here at a young 6 years olds from South America. I was uncomfortable in this new culture at first and found comfort in alternative music. At 9 years old I got into my first alt band which was Linkin Park. Even still being alternative today in 2018, I have people try and make me feel bad about being different. Luckily, I’ve always had supportive family and friends that accepted me and my interest of darker art, music and fashion. I believe the alternative community is extremely diverse and thanks to mainstream media it being more popular which has its pros and cons. My end goal is to show other people of color that it’s okay to be different. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you came from thanks to those who dared to be different before you.“
“My experiences being a woman of color in the Goth community has been fairly positive! So far, people within the scene have been kind and very accepting of me, but of course there’s people outside of the scene that say ignorant comments such as “You’re acting white” simply for finding joy in Gothic fashion and music and yes, it does bother me but I usually just tell them to “fuck off” and carry on with my day.“
“I would say I got into alternative fashion the way a lot of people do. I was a typical Emo kid and I guess it never went away. I always admired the carefree attitude and confidence that alternative people has, and try to portray it when I go out all dressed-up. As an alternative POC, I definitely get a lot of stares, but I get a lot of compliments too. I want to be the person that inspires other people to be their true authentic selves just like how alternative POC have inspired me.“
“I never let anyone stop me. My smile may be brighter than my clothes, but at heart I’m an outstanding person. I really became into becoming a Goth after being bullied in middle school for being a less confident version of who I am, and what my style looks like today. Being a POC Goth is difficult, because the average Goth expectations are to be pale, but I’m not and I have to embrace my melanin. I’ve gotten so much love for standing outside the norm.“
“Normal is an illusion, what is normal for the spider is chaos to the fly.“
“To me, Goth is something you’re born with and it just takes time for that to awaken inside of you. I discovered Goth in 6th grade, but I never really knew what it was about. It wasn’t until 10th grade that I found Goth music and really started doing my research. Being a POC in a culture that revolves around black hair and pale skin was so hard in the beginning. Aside from the racism from other Goths, I’d constantly hear that I was trying to “act white” or people thought I had a problem with my ‘blackness’. At this point, I’m so comfortable within myself that no one can ever make me feel bad for the color of my skin, and at the end of the day, I’ve gotten so much more recognition because I am a POC.“
As you can see, all of the lovelies above are a massive inspiration, and has me asking – “why weren’t there creatives alike visible at the time when I needed them to be?” But it doesn’t matter anymore, because they’re here now. I hope any of my sisters and brothers out there who are struggling to truly be your authentic selves for whatever reason, finally find the peace and clarity me and many others have. I won’t be naive to say you won’t face any problems. You might or you might not. Unfortunately there is still a sense of competitiveness among alt POCs, and the community thrives on tokenism. In reality, there is enough space for us all, and when you claim your place, do not let anyone take it away from you. You deserve to be where you are, and do what you do. And if your ‘blackness‘ is too much for them to handle, then they’re going to have to leave. ‘Cause we’re not going anywhere.
Words by charis crawford corri
Disclaimer- this article is an opinion piece. My thoughts, opinions and experiences are my own, and may not be applicable to other people’s experiences. All images used within this article are the intellectual property of the owners. Ragged Culture Publishing Ltd. does not own copyright to the images in this article. All rights reserved.