I’m white, and I’m going to CIAA

By: Derek Bastien

Wait… are you being racist?

You might be thinking “Yo, Derek, I can’t tell…if that’s a racist comment or not, man.” Believe it or not, the intention is quite the opposite and in response to a recent article published by the Charlotte Agenda that sparked a lot of discussion on the topic. 

A lot of people don’t like CIAA, avoid uptown during the event, or have a lot of bad things to say about it such as: 1) there’s historically a lot more violence that week, 2) there’s crazy traffic, 3) there are huge unruly crowds, 4) I am going to feel out of place or not be interested in the nightlife, etc.

Other people defend it, saying 1) Hello, it brings $55 million to Charlotte, 2) it’s a celebration of healthy competition, school spirit, and athletics, 3) and honestly, you’re just racist if you’re against it or specifically avoid uptown during the event. The detractors are saying it’s mayhem, and the supporters are saying detractors are ignorant, racist, and don’t fully understand what they are criticizing.  

Before you criticize…

Here’s the thing. I see both sides of the conversation. But here’s the other thing. A lot of the criticism of CIAA comes from people who 1) have never been to CIAA, 2) don’t know anything about CIAA, and 3) might actually be legitimately racist. In good conscience, I can’t really comment on the event since the 1st two buckets apply to me.

Listen, I am one of those people who has avoided uptown during CIAA for the last two years I have lived here. You can call me a racist and criticize me for that. I might even deserve some of it. In my defense, I didn’t really know anyone who went anyways, and I constantly heard bad press about it, so I didn’t feel compelled to try and find people to go with or go by myself. But, I also wasn’t criticizing the event or saying Charlotte shouldn’t renew the contract.

The hot question: Are you actually racist for avoiding uptown during CIAA?

Being a racist if you don’t support or go to CIAA has been a very hot topic recently. One of my favorite comments that I have seen non-stop that defends fleeing uptown during CIAA is along the lines of, “I’m not racist. The event just brings a ton of tourists and there’s insane traffic, nightlife is more expensive, and it’s insanely crowded. Cities with really big events like the Superbowl always have the residents leaving elsewhere to avoid the mayhem. It has nothing to do with being racist or black people. Stop being so accusatory.”

For some people, especially the low-key introverts, I can totally see that. However, as a whole, I think that argument is invalid. The St. Patty’s Day Pub Crawl that Charlotte hosts, supposedly the largest pub crawl in the world, does not see uptown denizens fleeing the city. In fact, the uptown folks are inviting all of their friends to get MORE people together to join the insane mayhem. So…is that really different?

I can understand saying you don’t go to CIAA because you might feel out of place or not really relate to the culture, because that’s possibly why I haven’t gone in the past. But don’t say you avoid CIAA because you don’t like crowds and then go day drink all day at the massive St. Patty’s Day Pub Crawl a couple weeks later.

“But really though…I’m not racist.”

So then, I had an internal dialogue with myself. ‘Pft, I’m not racist, I just don’t go because [insert stereotypical reasons already listed]…blah blah blah.’ And then I thought, ‘Wait…am I really being racist, though?’ It made me think back to my absolute favorite film of all time, which is Crash. It’s a seriously beautiful masterpiece and I highly recommend it if you have not seen it. And without giving anything away, I felt as though the film ends with the suggestion that at the core, we’re ALL racist. Yes, that everyone, regardless of race, is not completely understanding or fair to people of other backgrounds whether due to ignorance, fear, pride, whatever. And you know what? I completely agree. Ultimately, I believe that everyone, regardless of background, can afford to be more open-minded.

Maybe, all of us can be more open-minded and learn something.

And so, with all of this chatter making me feel like I might be racist, I thought, “I want to actually go to CIAA and learn more about it.” Because, you know what? Maybe I am being a little racist for avoiding the event. Maybe I can learn something and teach other people about it from an outsider’s perspective. Maybe, just maybe, I can help us all be more open minded while also suggesting solutions to any issues I might observe.

I’m a pretty goofy white kid and this will be a new experience for me, but I look forward to completely immersing myself in the event and the culture. When I commit, I go all in, so you’ll see me at the concerts, you’ll see me at the actual basketball games, you’ll see me dancing. In the spirit of learning and adding to the discussion, I want to do that. And I’m going to write an article about the experience, so be sure to look out for it next week.

Ladies and gentleman, I’m white, and I’m going to CIAA this weekend to learn and have fun.

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-Derek Bastien | derek@eatworkplayclt.com

Chief Business Development Officer of EWP, freestyle rapper, expert jokester, and professional partier