"I am so goth, I was born black."


Clockwise: Ms. Sally Bonetta Forbes, Cathleen Naundorf, Untitled (check out the rest of the “gothic lolita” tag as well), Roni Zulu

While there’s still never been a black model on the cover of Gothic Beauty Magazine (in fact, having looked the past twelve years of covers up close, it’s clear that even models with brown eyes appear to be a rarity among the blue- and green-eyed cover ladies), and while most spooky fashion designers still prefer white models for their branding, a host of blogs dedicated to multicultural dark fashion are bringing greater visibility to the people that these venues ignore. Just on Tumblr, there’s Darque & Lovely, DarkSKIN (subtitled “I was so goth, I was born black), and Black Sheep Goths. On Facebook, groups such as Black/African American Goths foster lively discussion.

Of the Tumblr communities, Black Sheep focuses most specifically on people who are othered (providing a platform for “queer/fat/trans/non-binary/disabled/POC” goths), while DarkSKIN delves most deeply into different time periods (from Victorian photographs to seventies album covers to a friend’s most recently-uploaded snapshots), pop culture personalities taking a turn for the macabre (from Eartha Kitt singing “I want to be evil” to Aaliyah playing a sultry Anne Rice vampire) and media (from high-end fashion shoots to grainy self-portraits)

Many of the images come with empowering and, at times, defensive captions. It seems that even in 2012, some try to claim that the goth scene belongs to white people only. One caption on the Darque & Lovely blog, below an image of tattoo artist Roni Zulu, reads: “this is for the chicken-shit anon who said black people shouldn’t ‘do’ goth or punk. At certain points in history to be black in America was (still can be) a pretty gothic experience, to say the least.”


Clockwise: Asha Beta/Silentinfinite collaboration, Neon Leon, photo by Mert and Marcus, Actress Vonetta McGee as Princess Luva in Blacula, photo copyright Everett Collection / Rex Features

Is the goth scene unfriendly to people with dark skin? What do non-white goths think about the fetishization of paleness in the gothic subculture?

“The only time I experienced anything racial in the scene was at Death Guild [a San Francisco goth night],” says Shamika “Meeks” Baker, a San Francisco-based writer, artist and model. “A guy walked up to me, shouted ‘scuse me!’ and shoved me aside. Of couse, when I grabbed the back of his Fun Fur coat and yanked him back to demand an apology, he started screaming ‘get your black hands off of me!’ Happily, after I finished scaring him and turned around, I discovered several of my friends behind me and ready to back me up. [Other than that incident], I’ve found that the goth scene has been really welcoming and open.”

“For me, the fetishization of paleness in beauty in general is very much a class issue as opposed to straight race,” says New York-based artist/maker Numidas Prasarn. “The ‘ideal gothic beauty’ of being pale comes from this sense of otherness. When mainstream de mode is tanned beach babe, the pale contrast is taken up as the signifier of an Other that defensively puffs itself up. The problem is that it’s a microcosm that doesn’t necessary carry the sense of self-awareness to realize that it’s also othering people.”


Clockwise: Amanda Tea, Barron Claiborne, Leif Podhajsky, Unknown from Burning Man by Iñaki Vinaixa

Asha Beta, a sculptor, jewelry designer and musician currently living in Prescott, Arizona, comments on her invisibility within a community that borrows aesthetics from her cultural heritage:

The “traditional” ideal of the scene as the pale-faced, black-clad individual definitely never applied to me, but because of my instant and deep connection and attraction to the music and atmosphere of the scene I had to set that aside. I always felt that I was not perceived to be as attractive, as beautiful or even as “goth” as girls who were paler than me. I never attracted many suitors and I reconciled myself to never being able to approach the “gothic ideal of beauty” very early on, although I felt within myself that my personal way of being “goth” was very sincere and creative and very much true to what “goth” was all about. The one part of the scene that obviously made me uncomfortable was the military/Nazi/Aryan faction of it, although I understand that for many of those people it was a fetish or history obsession type of thing, and not necessarily based in racism.

Many of the aesthetics of goth culture are taken from my cultural heritage (Asian/East Indian/Middle Eastern, African/Egyptian/Voodoo/Haitian-Caribbean) so I still felt and feel strongly that my connection to it is natural and instinctive and powerful. It was achingly difficult to be a minority within the subculture I deeply loved because it’s within these that we find acceptance and understanding where the larger society rejects us. I was a loner within the scene just as I was in society. I found a personal solace and creative outlet, but I never found the community I was searching for. I am overjoyed to finally see our subcultures mirroring the multicultural quality of our world, and so glad to see the younger generations of subcultures finding and creating communities to connect with and support one another.

Meeks Baker agrees. “I love that more emerging blogs/sites focus on us dark-skinned gothy types. To be honest, I never really cared much for gothic beauty magazines because they didn’t really reflect my aesthetic, but I did still feel marginalized. To this day I am thrilled to see ethnic diversity represented in alternative culture.”

55 Responses to “"I am so goth, I was born black."”

  1. Tanya Says:

    I love you guys for posting this. (Well, I love you in general, but you know what I mean!) Especially for including Asha’s commentary that points out the incongruity that comes from a subculture steeped in appropriated imagery & iconography still excluding so many people.

    I could also go on a whole other tangent about the general sense of exclusion (side eyes and condescending comments) people can often encounter at events of a particular scene when they don’t fit some sort of standard of what that scene looks like. Oh the tangents I could go on… But that’s more about dangerous notions of “cred” and having to somehow prove that you belong in some sort of subculture, when you are just there to enjoy and revel in it.

    On a somewhat related note, I really liked this: a photographic series on metalheads in Botswana. http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/29/world/africa/botswana-heavy-metal-heads/index.html

  2. Ang Says:

    Great post Nadya! I have to say that I’m lucky that in my own town, I have had many friends who are dark-skinned and part of the goth and punk cultures. Some of them African American, some of them dark skinned Latinos, and a variety of other ethnic bckgrounds. I guess it never occurred to me that this was an issue because I don’t really follow fashion magazines of any type (whether they be mainstream or alt), but now that I think about it, what ones I have seen really don’t tend to feature darker skinned people at all.

    The point about the fetishization of pale skin to mark oneself as the “other” inadvertently othering people within the subculture was also a great aspect to point out; again, not one I had really thought about much. I thank you for having put up such an illuminating post.

  3. Анна Says:

    Yes! This is what I was looking for!

    Was one of these Tumblrs mentioned before on Coilhouse?

  4. M. Larsen Says:

    Thank you so much for researching, writing and publishing this. As both a victim and a witness to exclusion of non-whites in goth and punk scenes, I am really, really hopeful that we are finally building our subculture into one based on shared passions, common tastes, and consonant values & interests, rather than one of exclusion: Coilhouse is firmly a part of that new paradigm and I cannot thank you enough for the cultural touchstone you provide. <3

  5. Alex Says:

    THANK you for posting this. I’m an old white male goth, and it makes me sad (and nauseous) to think that anyone is being discriminated against for being not-palest-white in this scene. People of color follow a different aesthetic (or the same one applied differently) – and it’s all amazing. More of it, please – not less. And now I have other tumblrs to follow that I was ignorant of.

  6. Asha Beta Says:

    Thanks Nadya, for bringing up this issue and involving me. Thinking and talking about it has made me realize that I want to continue to be involved in the evolution of the scene. And thank you Tanya for the Botswana Metalheads link-<3 HOT HOT HOOOTTT ;)

  7. Glossolalia Black Says:

    I was the only black girl with a mohawk in my junior high school back in 1986. Black goths and punks are everywhere now, and I still get a frisson of recognition and solidarity that I ache to transmit to them psychically. Nowadays, I look mostly straight and kinda old.

    Kids, y’all look great. I love the 21st century.

  8. Dr. Curiosity Says:

    I must admit, when I first that Roni Zulu photo, my first feeling was one of concern: facial tattoos in native styles are a big deal tribally in the South Pacific. Thankfully, after doing a bit of research it sounds like he did it right and carries it with due respect. And is looking mighty dapper while he does so :-)

  9. John Says:

    Interesting piece. Nice to see so-called magazines like Gothic Beauty being shown for what they really are. I mean, mainstream fashion magazines show people of other races, so what’s their excuse? It saddens me that people within subcultures can be bigoted without even seeing it. I recall a queercore punk/metal kid telling me about how the scenes in Chicago aren’t friendly to people that are gay, transgendered, or non-caucasian. He told me that he along with others were working to make a new scene that’s more open to others. I wished him good luck, and yet felt sad that it had to come to this, instead of having a bigger, healthier scene.

  10. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Love on ya, Lev. And Meeks, and Nyx, and Numi. And everyone commenting. And all of the Tumblr goth POC bloggers who make my heart go squish every time a new post goes up.

    Fuck. Yes. Love.

    Nadya, even though it’s been many years since you first told me about what happened, I still think about your astonishingly depressing story about working with Gothic Beauty at least once a week. That really stuck with me. Would you mind, perhaps, recounting it here in comments? You discussed it in the Whitechapel thread a few years ago, if I recall correctly…

  11. Flavorwire » What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office Says:

    […] soldiers on a hilarious backyard mission. We saw Mr. Wizard being a jerkface all over again. We had an honest discussion about African Americans in goth culture. We discovered a 1971 anatomy book that uses “pornographic” photos of women as […]

  12. bookwench Says:

    Thank you so much for this! I like goth, but the emphasis on pale skin has always felt a little weird to me. I’ve always imagined a balance of skin tones in my goth daydreams, to sort of counterweight the scene, but never said or wrote anything. (Shoulda coulda woulda.) It’s a relief to see someone pointing to the beauty of other shades.

  13. dicyfer Says:

    I feel like I’ve been waiting for this article without even knowing it.

    While I may be a comparative newcomer to the Goth scene, I love it to death and have always appreciated how inclusive it’s felt to me. Goth clubs have always felt like the most accepting environment. The only way someone would be ridiculed is if they didn’t seem to put any effort into their outfits (shallow, I suppose, but nothing’s perfect and in this case I feel like it’s not so bad because so much of the scene is united by fashion.) I always appreciate seeing people of color and other non-white ethnicities, their aesthetic is always so striking and they often just seem to own the room.

    That being said, however, I realize that there is discrimination even within the Goth scene, I’m just lucky enough to have never really encountered it, I suppose. I’m sad to hear that someone had such a terrible experience at Death Guild. I’ve only been there once, and while I’m sure that’s not enough to get a good feel for the atmosphere, it was a great experience. One of the things I particularly liked about it was it’s diversity. I’m mostly in the LA scene, and there, everyone and all the music can start to just blend together. At Death Guild there were so many different aesthetics and a great spectrum of music. I hate that a place like that can still harbor such blatant racism and hatred.

    It’s nice to see people actively acknowledging this and working to fix it. Goth for me has always been about accepting those who have always felt outside the norm. Anyone who calls themselves Goth should be ashamed to inflict such exclusion on others.

    As a side note I’ve been following iamsogothiwasbornblack for a year now and it’s utterly fantastic. Thanks for the other blog recs! I’ll definitely check them out.

  14. “I am so goth, I was born black.” « Says:

    […]  Nadya Lev in COILHOUSE […]

  15. Nadya Says:

    Guys, thanks so much for all the encouraging comments on this. I am glad to see all the stories and see so many familiar faces in the comments section. <3

    Анна, I don't think so, but we have covered Asha Beta (who was quoted in this post and appears in the images) before: http://coilhouse.net/2012/03/to-the-center-within-photographs-by-the-silent-infinite-asha-beta/

    I spent my teenage and early college years in Philly, which has one of the most racially diverse goth/industrial scenes in America. It was incredible, and I’m so grateful for that experience. I loved that environment, and was surprised later in life when I realized that the scene was not as diverse as I thought. That realization came to me when I became a photographer and started working with gothic magazines.

    I went back through my email history with Gothic Beauty from 2004. I got my dates and photos slightly mixed up in my Whitechapel comment, so here’s the more detailed story: I originally submitted a proposal to work with Asha Beta with a note saying “One thing I’ve noticed in GB is that the models are primarily white, and I’m not the only one that’s noticed that.” Those pictures did make it into the magazine, but not the cover. Then, I submitted an image of an Israeli model of Egyptian-Turkish descent. I noted her origins and wrote, “[this model] is a great example of how truly international today’s goth scene is! Please consider it for 16’s cover.” The editor’s response was, “[this model’s] images are cool but I’d give [other very white model I submitted pictures of] a shot at cover for #16. Is that possible?” I decided to let them print that cover, but continued my efforts to get them to include more diverse imagery in subsequent issues. I submitted a mendhi-inspired image image for the next issue’s cover, and that’s the one that was rejected for being “too cultural.” I’m not sure I’d make this kind of photo today because it appropriates some things a little too brashly, but I was still angry that they’d rejected it, because it represented different cultural influences in gothic fashion more directly than anything they’d ever published prior to that, and they rejected in specifically on those grounds.

    Laaaaame.

  16. HessWords Says:

    Important topic that I wish had been addressed earlier and more often. As someone who displays, in a male example, a very Aryan aesthetic within the goth/industrial community (large, blond hair, blue eyes, nordic), and can certainly be described as exploiting that aesthetic and emphasizing it, this topic has always fascinated me.

    The industrial scene has primarily been one focused on outcasts, whether by choice or by incident. My main experiences in the scene have been in Pittsburgh and now Los Angeles, and in both cases the sense I have always gotten is that strangeness is sexy, and within a culture that is largely white and more often than not (now) middle class, being non-white is more often than not integrated into the inherent visual performance as an attribute, not an impediment.

    I don’t think we should ascribe much significance to the uniformity of magazine covers. If goth/industrial culture has any relevance at all in this decade, do we imagine that even a modicum of it might be found within a fan magazine? If anything has been maintained from the origins of the culture, it’s an undeniable acceptance of the oddity, the exception, and the spectacular. When I emphasize my aryan-ness , I see that as completely on the same plane as anyone else that might emphasize their African-ness, Asian-ness, what have you.

    Simplifying goth-industrial culture into one monolithic endeavor pursued only by middle class white girls with purple extensions, corsets, and frankenstein boots dancing to VNV Nation isn’t doing anyone any favors. Unfortunately, this is a subculture that is already far out the door of its significance, so the hope that we could have a real expansion of mores is at best sad and distant.

    Welcome to all the strange kids.

    Except the fatties.

    We still need to get rid of the fatties.

  17. "So Goth, I was Born Black" | TerrAlibi Says:

    […] I was really glad to see this cross my Tumblr dashboard with that phrase: a Coilhouse article mentioning three Tumblrs (and on FB page) with PoC bein’ Gothy. It also has a few experiences and thoughts from PoC who are in the […]

  18. Angeliska Says:

    Thank you for writing this, Nadya! This is a subject I’ve wondered about a lot over the years… Here’s also a link to the Afropunk site which has some online resources for goths of color: http://www.afropunk.com/group/gothsofcolour

  19. John Says:

    HessWord when you said:

    “Simplifying goth-industrial culture into one monolithic endeavor pursued only by middle class white girls with purple extensions, corsets, and frankenstein boots dancing to VNV Nation isn’t doing anyone any favors. Unfortunately, this is a subculture that is already far out the door of its significance, so the hope that we could have a real expansion of mores is at best sad and distant. ”

    is the reason why I moved away from industrial and goth. What once drew me was the weirdness, the heaviness in ideas and sound, and the sense that fellow mutants were quite welcome. I think internet stores and fashion rags that exploit a certain look are in the same arena as malls. It’s all very disposable.

  20. Michael Johnson Says:

    I appreciate the remit of this piece was probably ‘USA only’ – but if you’d glanced at UK-related stuff you might have discovered the current cover of Dominion magazine.

    It would’ve been interesting to see how you factored this in:

    http://www.sulphermusic.co.uk/wp-content/gallery/dominion/dominion_cover.jpg

    (Link goes to a band website because that’s the only place I can find a relatively big image. Best place to contact Dominion Magazine itself is on Farcebook, because the mag’s site is painfully slow to load at present: https://www.facebook.com/dominionmag )

  21. martin Says:

    re: credit of the ‘unknown’ photo in the second set

    It’s Vonetta McGee, who passsed away a while ago.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/jul/20/vonetta-mcgee-obituary

    “Photo: c.Everett Collection / Rex Features”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/7901325/Lives-Remembered.html

  22. Natasha Violetta Says:

    So much food for thought here!
    On another note, while I am technically the ‘typical’ aesthetic for the culture (pale, green-eyed, Slav/Nordic/German) I have felt much hostility and rejected emanating from the industrial-goth culture in particular. There seem to be far too many elitists types who seem to believe their shit smells like burnt roses and incense. It feels as if everyone is constantly trying to put-goth one another, when frankly, because I am the norm, I feel rather plain. I personally find ‘non-white’ individuals to make for more interesting goths because their unique cultural background makes them even more exotic.. It’s a form of ‘strangeness’ that the pasty-assed portion of the genre cannot even hope to evoke.

  23. Jack Dark Says:

    As a white guy, I’ve got far more in common with a black goth than a white pretty football fan.

  24. Patricia Says:

    As a mixed race woman entering the Melbourne goth scene 14 years ago I did feel like I wasn’t quite fitting in. However I really liked the aesthetic style and music so I tried again a few years later. I found my people. I was never treated any differently to anyoneelse. All the models in our fashion shows are white and I’ve mentally felt excluded from that as a result. Ours is a predominantly AngloSaxon scene with a small peppering of other ethnicities like myself.

    I have a friend who has a background that would give him a beautiful olive skin if he went out in ths sun so he avoids it even if it means wearing long sleeves on a hot day! I tried paler foundation once but it looked ridiculous. I work with what I’ve got which is beautiful in a different way. I know I can never do the typical gothic paleness, and this does make me feel like I am less goth which is silly of me I know.

    Goth is a mindset, a selection of tastes, so skin colour should be irrelevant.

  25. Exotic Guy Says:

    @Natasha Violetta

    Valuing non-white people for being “exotic” is pretty messed up. You might want to re-examine what you’re implying there.

  26. Kai Says:

    Awesome post!

    My companion in goth clubbing for the last 10 years or so has been my friend Gavin, a black man (I am white). Being that goth is a subculture in which men dance (hooray!), Gavin fucking OWNS the dance floor. Once, a break-dance crew (mainly composed of black dudes) wandered in during the goth club and they and Gav had sort of an awesome good-natured dance-off, hip-hop (you can break-dance to gothic music quite easily) vs. goth. It was amazing.

    I guess I have no real point, besides the appreciation of the acceptance of this culture that (mostly) welcomes all colors and creeds. And dance styles.

  27. Sterlingspider Says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m primarily Puerto Rican but I read as anything from Pacific Islander to Indian and even in NYC I was pretty much resigned to being one of the token brown faces at the club.

    In 2011 I went to a sort of pre-event industrial show in Brooklyn which was attached to the Triton festival, I have been doing the goth thing in the NYC area since 2000 ish and I have NEVER seen so many Black, Hispanic, or Asian faces at a goth club in my life. It was one of the most unexpectedly comforting feelings I have ever had in my life.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being the person ROCKING head to toe white (or hot pink, or lime green) at the goth club, but even in a culture which supposedly embraces otherness sometimes being a total “other” gets old.

  28. Sterlingspider Says:

    Whoops!
    Correction, that was the 2010 Triton Festival “Triton Pre-Party (Return of Cybertron)”

  29. iamxanderharris Says:

    I have always had a problem with “Goth” defined as a subculture. I would prefer that the term be used as an association with certain music, architecture, or art. I think in places like Texas and Southern California, the racial issue isn’t as prevalent due to the involvement of Hispanics in those regions goth community. In my opinion, other places in the country have events that look like a leather bound Klan rally more than something that I would consider “goth”. Is it shitty of me to say that? I don’t think so. The deal with Goth/Industrial subculture is that this article highlights one of the problems that I have found with the scene. For too long, Industrial and Goth culture has flirted with fascist/Nazi imagery and ideals. I find it disgusting and I think it’s time that the movement transcend from those ideals or perish in the process. I find it unattractive to say the least that Death in June uses the Totenkopf as their logo. Using that kind of imagery, even in a “shock the parents” manner is irresponsible and gross. Even in a fetish environment, the use of SS officer hats, arm bands, and other Teutonic ephemera makes me completely turned off. That kind of behavior is not shocking, it’s stupid. It’s one of the reasons why I actually don’t get harsh in regards to Steam Punk. At least they don’t look like idiotic Nazis, flirting with fascist ideologies for the sake of not having much else to say.

    We should also talk about how incredibly expensive it is to dress-for-acceptance in the Goth/Industrial scene. I feel like Goth has become a haven for petulant, entitled, well-to-do marionettes who think they are hiding their disdain for the rest of us under the guise of a subculture. I find that Goth has become a hang out for those of the “1%” who would like to flirt with “danger” until they “grow up”.

    I’m very pleased that this article was written. Goth needs to evolve or it will disappear under the consequences of some of it’s irresponsible past.

  30. Rehmy Says:

    I am so happy you wrote this article as a woman of color. Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  31. Tanya Says:

    It heartens me to see so many people also talking about the notions of cred, as well as class in subculture. Could be a really interesting and detailed topic for a separate discussion.

    As for the conversation on referring to POC as “exotic,” I’m just going to leave this bit of lovely satire right here. http://exoticwhitegirls.tumblr.com/

  32. Nadya Says:

    Guys, I just want to say that I am so excited to see this discussion. I am so glad that this article provoked so much insightful commentary, here and on BoingBoing. This was a pleasure to research, and the comments mean a lot to me. Thank you for participating! <3

  33. Maggie Says:

    I love all these pictures – they are absolutely beautiful, and they don’t look even *remotely* less goth because they aren’t pictures of white people.

    I am white, and I do try to stay pale, and while it’s true I burn easily and yeah the sun will give you wrinkles, but I’ll admit I buy my sunblock at CostCo because I like being pale. I think it looks better *ON ME*. But what I have come to really love about goth over the years is the huge range of styles it encompasses. What really seems important is high contrast and/or striking use of color – the aesthetic is hands down DRAMATIC. And that being the case, there are quite a few things that I think look exceptionally stunning on darker skinned individuals – metallic makeup? bright metal jewelry (silver as opposed to gunmetal or black), pale contacts?
    All that said I’m not going to stop wearing silver and copper eyeshadow myself, or take out my nose stud because it would look even more amazing if I was black. I hate, HATE, to think that any non-white person into goth in anyway shape or form felt like they couldn’t do it because one particular look wasn’t available to them. And I hate even more anybody who would say or even THINK that goth was for white people only. No, no, NO. GTFO.

    I don’t read and have never read Gothic Beauty or any other gothy magazine aside from flipping through it occasionally when I worked at a bookstore. I guess they must have enough readers to keep going as a business, but I can’t think of a single time I heard it come up in conversation or noticed that a friend had a stack of them on their coffee table. I just don’t know how relevant they are. Still lame of them to be so uninterested in having a nonwhite cover model. Now I guess whenever they do they’ll get shit for having a ‘token’ POC, which they’ll deserve for ignoring the problem.

    I get some of the discomfort with the Nazi-like paraphernalia, I don’t like a lot of that either. If people are using it in fetish play specifically though, I think that’s an entirely different subject. There’s some crossover between fetishists and every goth scene I’m aware of but they’re not one and the same, and someones fetish about being punished by a Nazi or punishing a Nazi is their own kink, not something that reflects on anybody else around them. When somebody just wears that kind of thing though…yeah, creepy. I always wonder if they thought it would be OK because ‘everybody knows *I’m* not a racist’, or if they intended it to be subversive – maybe they’re queer or Jewish or have some other ‘undesirable’ trait so by wearing some Nazi thing they’re just giving a giant ‘fuck you’ to actual Nazis. But, note to all of the above, in case you’re somebody who does that – people who don’t know you don’t know that you’re not a racist, or that you’re Jewish or what have you, sooo it might not be the clear message you were thinking! And yeah they could be a racist asshole and that just pisses me off because *I* am not comfortable in a place where *they* are comfortable displaying that. It makes me feel unwelcome and sad.

    And I know this if off subject, but the goth 1% thing…seriously? I am in LA and goth/industrial nights tend to be some of the cheapest options. And by that I mean $5-$10 at the door, on Fridays and Saturdays. No drink minimums. No VIP rooms where all the real fun is happening. $3-4 drinks. Unless you’re going to a fetish event with a fetish dress code, they’re also *really* easy to dress for. Black jeans, black shirt, black boots – you can put together an entire outfit at Target for god’s sake. If anybody gives you shit for not being in head to toe latex they’re an asshole and also rare enough that I’ve never met one in 15 years of clubbing in several different cities.

  34. Pintu Says:

    “Dr. Curiosity Says:
    September 18th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I must admit, when I first that Roni Zulu photo, my first feeling was one of concern: facial tattoos in native styles are a big deal tribally in the South Pacific. Thankfully, after doing a bit of research it sounds like he did it right and carries it with due respect. And is looking mighty dapper while he does so :-)”

    We are all glad you approve of his life choices. I am glad you did all that research for us.

  35. snipey Says:

    Nice article. Where I live, I’ve never encountered this sort of problem. The community I am part of is pretty much open and supportive of anything that does no harm to anyone else, and I wouldn’t want to be in any other sort of community. If I found myself surrounded by image obsessed elitists I’d know I was somewhere missing the spirit. But, I also realise that not everyone has access to nice communities like this, and where as its easy to imagine problems happening elsewhere for that reason, I’d think that those were problems with the people and their influence on the culture in that area, rather than the culture itself.

    Also, black lipstick looks soo much better on darker skin than it does on cave creature skin like mine, where it looks a bit rediculous, actually makes me jelous!

  36. Nadya Says:

    I have a moment to respond to a couple of comments more fully.

    Michael, that Dominion cover is gorgeous. I hadn’t seen it, and it would’ve been good to include it in the piece! I didn’t specifically set out to make this story so American-focused, but it turned out that way. In the course of writing it I did came across some European goth mags that made interesting choices for their covers. Here they are:

    Gothic (DE) put a very heavy man on one of their earlier covers. Not sure if this is a musician or just a clubgoer: http://www.gothic-magazine.de/images/magazines/GOTHIC_MAGAZINE/cover/thumbs/GM_35_cover_thumb.jpg

    Fiend (AU) put the lovely Amelia Arsenic on a cover:
    http://charliekinross.com.au/files/gimgs/5_fiend-cover-larger.jpg

    Curious if anyone has more examples!

    I also wanted to give a shout-out for Zellain at Morbid Fashion for including a lot of diversity on her blog, and for having an amazing blog in general. <3

    A couple of people wondered why I haven’t mentioned Light Asylum or O. Children in this article. I should have mentioned them (and I’m pretty sure I had an earlier draft that talks about O. Children), but I’m actually working on another article that focuses on these kinds of issues in music more specifically, so’ll be talking about that there.

  37. John Butler Says:

    Have none of you folks heard of Spoek Mathambo?

    http://vimeo.com/19522002

  38. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    I love Spoek Mathambo! Have been meaning to blog him for aeons. :)

  39. “I Am So Goth, I Was Born Black” | Technoccult Says:

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  41. Friday Links 9/21/12 « Tutus And Tiny Hats Says:

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  42. Darque Says:

    I’m blown away right now. Thanks so much for including my blog in this awesome article and for giving me more blogs to read! VERY very cool to be in such good company.

    ~Darque

  43. Geeking Out | Geekquality Says:

    […] post and discussion about racial diversity and feelings of exclusion in the goth scene, as well as the shifting trends, thanks to some awesome Tumblr blogs. (One or two pics featured are […]

  44. Tarik Says:

    I think this is a great topic. I was always a stranger in a strange land. Born into a world that had seen me as an anomaly. I still am one of the few people in Houston’s goth culture that is black. So people like me are a subculture within a subculture. Though I must say it is the most liberating of choices. It does take strength and individuality to go against the grain of what is expected of you and step into the fray of possible opposition. It is more important to be yourself. I thank all of you that embody that strength.

  45. » black-silk:“The ‘ideal gothic beauty’ of being pale comes from… Says:

    […] http://coilhouse.net/2012/09/i-am-so-goth-i-was-born-black/ […]

  46. Félix Says:

    Wow! Thanks for including Black Sheep Goths in your article! We’re really glad to see more discussions about people of color in the goth community. Being a brown-skinned Latina, I never really could identify with a lot of the beauty ideals I saw promoted within the community, and I felt a little alienated. So I started Black Sheep Goths with Nnyno to see if we could help out other goths who felt the same way! I hope discussions like these continue and we can see to it that more people of color and the like feel included in the scene!

  47. jane Says:

    I came in during the 90’s Goth renaissance and it was very racist then and still his racist now. I went underground and simply enjoyed the music and aesthetic on my own because I got tired of the sideways stares and unfriendliness from the scenesters. Still a big fan of the music and aesthetic but I decided I didn’t want to be a part of a community that was so racist.

  48. The Art of Darkness » Blog Archive » Charlie and the Chocolate Link Dump Says:

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  49. Lunar Blue Says:

    Maybe I have the opposite of many people.
    I have been chastised by other non white goths for not being “goth” enough.
    First off, my hair is in locs, and they are very wild and thick. I don’t’ straighten my hair. I also an not a fan of wearing corset or dressing up to the nine and wearing elaborate makeup. For this, I have been ridiculed, and definitely more by other non white goths. This was in the Philly/Delaware/Baltimore area, so maybe it’s not widespread. But for me, this has been my experiences. For me, it felt as if I wasn’t being extreme enough to make a difference.

    I do understand the underlying racism. It almost seems that one has to be an “over the top” example, extreme goth for people to make the connection that someone nonwhite is goth.

    hope this makes sense.

  50. Shata Says:

    A lot of those pictures don’t really qualify as goth. And as for why there aren’t a lot of blacks representing the goth scene, that’s just because there aren’t a lot of blacks IN the goth scene. It’s not a common interest in non white/Asians. What are you gonna do, force em? Like, “there must be more colored goths, NOW! The inequality is driving me mad!” yeah, good luck with that.

  51. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Oof. Shata, just an FYI… I fear you have missed the point/points of this article entirely (as well as the gist of Coilhouse more generally). Nonetheless, good luck right back atchyer.

  52. Raymon Says:

    I’m an Asian goth (well, half asian), and I have never had a problem with goths about my skin colour or heritage. Normal people, yes, plenty of problems, but not goths.

    It might help that I live in the UK where there is a reasonably decent level of cultural mixing that encourages contact between different peoples and reduces the sense of ‘other’ that you get in more socially divided nations.

    Also, if it had been a problem, my band wouldn’t have been as successful as it was (not very, but we did well enough) and I wouldn’t be asked to DJ regularly at goth clubs.

  53. Sketch Rat Says:

    “We should also talk about how incredibly expensive it is to dress-for-acceptance in the Goth/Industrial scene. I feel like Goth has become a haven for petulant, entitled, well-to-do marionettes who think they are hiding their disdain for the rest of us under the guise of a subculture. I find that Goth has become a hang out for those of the “1%” who would like to flirt with “danger” until they “grow up”.”

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. This right here summed up pretty much everything here.

    As a woman of color who got into “goth” first in middle school as a misinformed baby bat, the only issues I got were from non-goths. I was made fun of for my skin color, a honey-caramel. Not quite dark enough. Not quite light enough. As I grew up and went to goth stores events in NYC etc, I was accepted VERY readily, and attracted almost exclusively white goth and punk guys, interestingly enough. No problems from the actual people. Again, the only issues I got were from non-goths who either knew about the subculture and various related underground subcultures, or people who hung around and were simply racist or fetishized women of color as nymphomaniacs or pieces of meat to try out.

    I don’t mind the Nazi-esque imagery, or the emphasis on Aryan-ness as long as it doesn’t begin to become actual fascism. In fact, I am violently attracted to a German goth with a Nazi-esque look, as long as he doesn’t actually follow Nazism. As for Gothic Beauty Magazine, it could be a little stereotypical. I’m not into witch stuff and I’d see some of that in the back where they review books. Race is not as big an issue as belief or religion within the goth community. There is MUCH more hate towards having an individual choice in religion, and a pressure to shock the squares or embrace stereotypes as petty immature revenge for being rejected by ignorant fundamentalists.

    I think Jesus would have been the first to talk to the lonely goth kid reading on the staircase during lunch time at school :)

    Anyway, I think goths/punks/etc of all colors can be beautiful. What actually matters is a common interest in fashion, music, architecture, literature etc. Although I have somewhat grown out of strict goth-ness (I used to ignorantly whine about the baby-bats who were just like me in middle school too) and now dress more like an alien on acid, but I’ll always have a thing for goth, and I’ll always gladly go to an industrial/EBM club, or 80s night, with The Cure, or Siouxsie or Skinny Puppy playing ;)

  54. Margrethe Says:

    Came across the link, just wanted to applaud all those who support the Goth community, regardless of how much melanin naturally occurs.

    I actually had a discussion the other day with a dear friend, who said she couldn’t consider herself Goth because she tans too easily (she has beautiful olive skin, thick ultra-dark brown hair and sparkling brown eyes.) I told her she can be Goth if she wanted to, and foo to anyone who says different. Then proceeded to tell her about the lovely Lolita I met at Disneyland who sported a beautiful violet dress to complement her dark complexion.

    And for extra giggles, I provide this (book) character information. Please view the illustration: http://seananmcguire.com/fgwaheela.php

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