A Nightclub Forbidden
By Hakeem Babalola
summer night, Daniel Prebor and Prince had gone to Café
de Rio at Petofi Híd to enjoy themselves. At the gate,
two muscular men - apparently bouncers - stopped them.
The two were refused entry while other party goers got a
warm welcome. Daniel and Prince demanded to know the
reason for being fenced. One of the bouncers offered an
explanation that deeply shocked the two men.
instruction from the owner not to let you in," said the
bouncer. "Two days ago, police came here looking for
three black men in connection with drugs, so we have
been instructed not to let blacks in. Now go away."
On the same
night, Krizta, my Hungarian friend and I went to the
same Café de Rio. I was also refused entry while Krizta
was greeted with a smile. She could go inside but not
with me. She declined, as she was terribly shocked. I
guessed she had never seen such unfair treatment of a
person or group on the basis of prejudice - in her life.
She was so much disturbed that Daniel, Prince, and I had
to calm her down. "But they can’t do something like
this," she kept saying.
Daniel, Prince, and Krizta, I was not struck with fear
of any kind. Why should I? After all, I had previously
exposed a similar club named Hully Gully (now closed
down) for refusing entry to Africans under the pretense
of a private club. In those days Africans had to pretend
to be American or British before they were allowed entry
into Hully Gully.
So I was
not even angry with the bouncers; they were simply doing
their jobs. Besides, I was in no mood for their
brainless gabble. But I made desperate attempt to speak
with the owner. The issue at stake was so sensitive and
thus required more than mere muscle power, hence my
desperation to speak with someone with less muscle.
to reach the owner proved abortive. Meanwhile we passed
the night at Zöld Pardon - the Club at the other side.
As much as I tried, I couldn't get it from my mind,
especially when I had been allowed in at the same Café
de Rio a week before.
overwhelmed by the intensity of such discrimination,
Krizta took it upon herself to make sure something was
being done. She sent a protest letter to the media;
contacted National Ethnic Minority Ombudsman; and other
Human Rights Organisations. She seemed to be offended
more than three of us put together. "Her reaction and
that of people like her," said Prince, "is what keeps us
going in this country."
In order to
re-test the entry policy, I went to café do Rio again.
Alas, the situation was the same. Although as
intimidating as the bouncers looked, at no time did they
result to physical abuse. They were just not in the mood
to see dark faces. They were even generous enough to
give me their boss telephone number. It was genuine but
each time I called the boss, he "banged" his mobile
phone. He was such a difficult man, and even threatened
to deal with me should I persist in my "stupid" story.
So I had no choice than to believe the bouncers.
Now let us
examine the reason stated by the security guards for
refusing entry to "blacks". The excuse sounds so
implausible at first that I wonder if the security
guards could be telling the truth. Just because law
enforcement agents were looking for three black men,
then they must be looking for all black men in Hungary!
We need to tell this man that his irrational decision is
offensive to "blacks" all over the world. Or does he
think insulting "blacks" is so mundane that no one would
raise an eye brow?
I am not
sure whether the owner of Café de Rio would likewise
instruct the bouncers to fend off all white people, had
the police were looking for three white men in
connection with drugs. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
I wouldn’t mind if anyone had been refused entry on the
suspicious of causing trouble. I sense the owner of Café
de Rio must have been waiting for an opportunity like
this in order to carry out such bigotry message. Thank
God people like him are not at the helm of affairs;
otherwise all of us blessed with dark skin would be
languishing in jail by now.
should enlighten him that racial prejudice is always a
delicate issue; it calls for sound judgement rather than
hypothetical reasoning. He must also be told in plain
language that his presumption was not only wrong but
un-called for. In case of ignorance, we should as well
educate this man about the fact that same race does not
necessarily connote one people. Therefore, his
supposition that all "blacks" are criminal is
worries me, and I am disappointed," groaned Prince who
has lived in Hungary for twenty years. "It’s simply
discrimination. Enough is enough." Eriksson, a Swede who
spoke to me after witnessing the situation, puts it very
succinctly: "You mean they refused you entry because of
your colour. They can’t do that in Sweden. The place
will close down if you can prove it."
Hungarian constitution specifically outlaws any form of
discrimination in private enterprises open to the
public. Yet discrimination against minorities at some
nightclubs is not a new complaint heard at City Hall.
"But I can’t imagine a situation like this," said Balasz
Endrenyi, an officer at the Mayor Office. "It’s
unbelievable that such thing is happening." The founder
of Mahatman Gandi Human Right’s Movement, Jibril Deen,
was not surprised to hear such discrimination. "Of
course that’s their usual song," he said. "Our disco is
a private club."
Katalin Korda, a secretary at the National Ethnics
Minority Ombudsman was taken aback when she heard the
story. "It’s astonishing," she said, "to refuse someone
because of his or her skin colour. It’s an insult."
Unfortunately, the National Ethnics Minority Ombudsman
has no official power to open investigation against
private persons, according to its lawyer, Katalin
people such discrimination is both hypocrisy and
immaturity. "The whole thing is a child’s play,"
explained Daniel who is a naturalised Hungarian.
"Imagine they don’t want blacks in their Café but they
play black music. Isn’t it hypocrisy?"
* * *
Author’s note: The first incident
happened in the summer of 2003 and nothing has changed
since then. Budapest Sun, one of the three
English newspapers refused to publish this article
despite my earlier contribution to the paper.
currently teaching English Communication in Budapest,
Hungary. He loves writing, a vehicle by which he rides
to relieve himself of certain emotions. His articles
have appeared in Nigerian newspapers including
respectively. He is also a contributor to several online
magazines like Nigeriavillagesquare.com,
Chatafrikarticles.com, voiceofnigerians and a
host of others. Hakeem is a member of Association of
* * *
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* * *
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update 13 April 2012