The AfroFuture Fest Detroit-based music festival came under scrutiny when its organizers announced that it would charge $10 tickets to people of color and $20 and up to ‘non-POC’ people. The ticket prices have since been changed to reflect one price for all.
One of the event’s organizers, Francesca Lamarre, said that the initial pricing structure was put in place “to ensure people of color have a chance to experience joy and pleasure within the same spaces as their white counterparts” and to allow “white people to show themselves as allies and use their wealth and privilege to increase equity, joy, and pleasure for black life in Detroit,” according to reporting by Detroit Metro Times.
The group received backlash. One rapper who was scheduled to perform, Tiny Jag, pulled out of the concert because of the race-based pricing.
“I was immediately enraged just because I am biracial,” she said to Detroit Metro Times.
Additionally, Eventbrite, the website from which people could purchase tickets for AfroFuture, threatened to take down the event’s ticket page.
In a statement to CNN, Eventbrite outlined its policy to not “permit events that require attendees to pay different prices based on their protected characteristics such as race or ethnicity.”
“In this case, we have notified the creator of the event about this violation and requested that they alter their event accordingly,” the statement continued. “We have offered them the opportunity to do this on their own accord; should they not wish to comply we will unpublish the event completely from our site.”
Race-based pricing came to light last year after Nigerian chef Tunde Wey, said he had given white people the option to pay $12 or $30 at his New Orleans lunch spot, Saartj. At the time Wey said the pricing model was to highlight the gap in racial and wealth disparity in America. He said the higher cost paid by white people would be redistributed to people of color and called the move a “social experiment.”
The reviews site Yelp currently reports Saartj as closed.
But, the question remains—is race-based pricing constitutional? Tiffany Ellis, a Detroit-based civil rights lawyer told The New York Times, that such a pricing structure as AfroFuture was offering could result in lawsuits.
“We have constitutional rights as an individual, and the 14th Amendment provides that we cannot be discriminated against because all people are created equal,” she told NYT, although she said that private businesses have a little more leeway in choosing whom to do business with.
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