White comedian Zach Poitras has been banned from a Canadian comedy club because his dreadlocks were seen as cultural appropriation.
A few weeks ago, Poitras was asked to perform a set for the Snowflake Comedy Club at a bar called Coop les Rescoltes. After he agreed, Poitras later learned that his spot to perform was removed by some of the club members, allegedly because of his dreadlock hairstyle. The club maintains that the decision was made based off its “inclusiveness policy.”
On Jan. 11, another comedian named Francois Touz took to Facebook to expose the incident, adding the explanation that was initially given to Poitras about why he couldn’t perform. Touz even asked his fellow comedians if they wanted to support the club after learning about the situation, questioned why locs would prohibit someone from performing on the basis of being racially offensive and highlighted more of the club’s policy.
The post ignited a conversation amongst at least a hundred people online and caught the attention of Coop les Recoltes. In response, the club wrote, “The Coop harvest is a safe space, free from oppression reports. We do not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces,” the post read. “In the comments, we are blamed for affirming ourselves as an inclusive space, while we dare to exclude one person.” The organization then went on to explain why Portrais’ hair is considered cultural appropriation/ownership which is a form of “vehicle for racism”
“Cultural ownership is not a debate or an opinion; it is a form of passive oppression, a privilege to deconstruct and, above all, a manifestation of ordinary racism,” they wrote. “We are an inclusive space for marginalized people, which means that we are an exclusive space for people who reproduce systemic oppression. The application of our policy of inclusiveness in relation to cultural appropriation means that we recognize cultural ownership as a form of racism.”
Eventually, Poitras entered the conversation, while he did not fully understand the club’s issues he said this is a moment for conversations surrounding race to happen. “I do not think it is up to us white people to decide what is racist or cultural appropriation. The only good reaction is to be sensitive to their feelings about it,” he continued. “Because if we have the debate right now, it’s that there are clearly of people who have a malaise with it. Not all of them, but some. Personally, I do not agree with the opinion of these people in relation to the dreads. And that’s right. In life, we can’t agree with everyone on everything.”