A man has mockingly dressed up as a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) at Melbourne gay bar The Laird, reportedly saying “it’s not KKK, it’s gay gay gay”.
The incident occurred during Trivial Hirsute, a weekly trivia night that this week celebrated its sixth birthday.
At one point in the night, the teams participating in the trivia were asked to complete a ‘dress-up’ challenge, in which they had to utilise wrapping paper and sticky tape to dress a teammate up for points.
This led to one team dressing up a teammate as a mock member of the KKK.
Trivia host Dean Arcuri told the Star Observer that immediately following the challenge, an upset attendee approached him to lambast the team for racism.
“It all happened very quickly,” he said.
“We went on break immediately after the challenge and [the attendee] came with me out the back and talked to me about how it made him feel.
“I then went out and spoke to the team about casual racism and about realising your own privilege in a space – about saying things ‘for a laugh’ without realising how it affects others.
“The team was shocked, and said it wasn’t their intent to offend. They said their intent was to make fun of white people.
“So we talked about how to avoid creating spaces where people felt unwelcome in the future.”
On Twitter, one attendee shared an image of the person dressed up as a KKK member.
“Gotta love Australian racism,” he captioned the image.
“Apparently joking about the lynching of African Americans is okay if you call it the ‘gay gay gay’ at trivia.
“Not super comfortable to be the only black person here while a room full of white men laugh at a KKK outfit.”
Gotta love Australian racism. Apparently joking about the lynching of African Americans is okay if you call it the “gay gay gay” at trivia. pic.twitter.com/cZ7oHcjL1n
— Kev (@CaptainFelch) June 5, 2019
Not super comfortable to be the only black person here while a room full of white men laugh at a KKK outfit.
— Kev (@CaptainFelch) June 5, 2019
Arcuri said that while he and the team at The Laird were disappointed with what had happened, he hoped it could spark a broader and important conversation.
“When situations like this occur it’s important that they’re acknowledged, but I’m hoping what can come out of this is better understanding and a more conscious community,” he said.
In a statement from The Laird, co-owners Brett Lasham and Mark Carney said the venue was dedicated to being a safe space for all same-sex attracted cis and trans men.
“Moving forward, we will be more vigilant about scenarios such as this that can lead to creating an uncomfortable environment for anyone so that all can feel safe and respected when coming to The Laird,” they said.
Last year, during the Better Together Conference in Melbourne, a group of queer and trans people of colour (POC) agreed that education was a fundamental step towards eliminating racism within the LGBTI community, but that white Australia needed to be receptive first.
Indigenous youth advocate and high school student, Aretha Brown, said that sharing personal stories was critical.
“Education is key at the end of the day, but you can only say it so many times,” she told the Star Observer.
“It’s tricky preaching these kinds of things because you can have the most amazing teachers and resources, but unless people care it’s hard to get things moving.
“So we have to plant the seeds in people’s heads that our issues matter, and get people to care, which comes down to getting people of colour involved.”
Brown added that white Australia, including those that identify as LGBTI, may be wary of confronting racism in the country.
“It’s a lot to take on, because there’s so much history, and it can be scary,” she said.
“But all it takes is baby steps, and once people start caring, the rest will flow.”
Fellow Indigenous youth advocate, Casey Conway, said the experiences of people of colour in the LGBTI community was markedly different to those of white people in the same community.
“I don’t think many white people are receptive to that conversation, but it’s a new one,” he told the Star Observer.
“And while it might be a struggle at the moment, hopefully moving forward things will change.”
Related reading: ‘We’ll tell you what’s racism’