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Black Comedians in SF Feel Alone as Blacks Leave City

In San Francisco, where the black population has plunged from roughly 15% of the population in 1970 to less than 6% today, one bar features a series of black comedians playing before a mostly-white audience, reports Bay Area public radio station KQED.

The comedians at Beauty Bar have a variety of perspectives on the city’s transition. Kaseem Bentley mocked white commuters on BART by claiming they hold “a jar of water full of bacteria” and complained about the Marina District, saying, “Union Street; fro-yo; no blacks allowed.” Karinda Dobbins, “Have you guys seen any black people today? You’re welcome,” and also told KQED, ““There are probably more black comics than there are black people in San Francisco…You can have three black people in the show. But you won’t have three black people in the audience,” Richard Toomer and Carla Clay.

Dobbins’ humor is laced with anger; in a video of her performing at the Purple Onion, she urged whites to use the n-word as long as the room they occupied had at least 10 blacks in it. Then she added, “And if you get out of there with all your teeth and extremities, then welcome to the motherland.”

Dobbins is not alone in her anger; Bentley said of his white audience, “They’re just used to things that make them happy. Then ‘Joe Negro’ comes up and talks about race. And they’re like, ‘Can you do something about Wolverine?’ My life is about survival, and they want to talk about Calvin and Hobbes.”

Kamau Bell, another black comedian who was honored by the ACLU, once joked that performing for white audiences felt “less like a show and more like court testimony.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, 9% of San Francisco’s police force is black.

 

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