This is a topic that everyone has always seemed to look over and never really pay attention to. When you see pictures of alternative people in magazines, on the internet, or on T.V., you all see that they are white people most of the time. There is rarely enough representation of goths of color. Something that has always been a big unofficial characteristic of being a Goth is pale skin. All over blogging sites such as Tumblr, many of these people are praised for their pale skin. It is normal for many people to ask them how they got their skin as white as all these people fawn over them. Tutorials about skin whitening are all over Youtube. The rising of “pale/glow” blogs has not helped this either. When confronted with these issues, many Goths are quick to say that “it’s all about contrast! It’s all about looking dead!” Well, where does that leave the Goth people that are not white? As a biracial person that is heavily into the alternative community, I want to see more people like me. Where are the Black goths, the Asian goths, or the Latino goths? People should to realize that the Goth subculture was never only for white people. I asked a few Goths of color about their personal accounts in the alternative world.
What has been your experience as a Goth POC? Have you ever felt excluded or were told you did not belong?
Name: Lelia Age: 28
“My other Goth friends and I would talk about how much we hated being so dark-skinned because all of the Goth related things we had ever seen featured white people and we questioned whether we would be allowed to identify as Goth or Punk. That deathly pale skin aesthetic that’s so revered in the Goth community is tough on brown people and those of us who, when pale, look a sicklier yellow-green and a lot less like porcelain.”
Name: Irene Age: 21
“I’ve always had a love for religion and the occult, goth aesthetic, metal music and punk ideology. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a Latina and I say it proudly. But back then it was kind of hard to feel pretty when all the Goth guys liked a thin, frail-looking fairy with snow-white skin or some succubus with a face so white she made bond paper look tan. And since I never saw any other gothic Latina women in media or in my city, I felt like I didn’t fit in. Yeah, the predominant beauty aesthetic in the Goth community is pale skin, long black hair and no flaws, but that doesn’t mean that I am not beautiful. That doesn’t mean that I am anything less.”
Name: Alex Age: 20
“I spent years trying to lighten my skin with makeup and straightening my hair and wearing contacts because glasses weren’t “goth” enough. I’m 20 now and love myself and how I look in the dark colors. But I often get fetishized by men for being a color and fulfilling their Goth fetish.”
Name: Gabi Age: 20
“The key to me being happy was just realizing that I will never be the stereotypical goth girl with flawless pale skin and perfect make-up, that can wear the expensive brands and just have everything. Am I still ridiculed for being a Hispanic Goth, yes, especially by other Hispanics who are very traditional or even just don’t like the style because its disrespectful to them. The only one that I’ve seen on T.V is Flaca from Orange is the new black and she is just perfect as a character because she still speaks Spanish and isn’t white washed. Being Goth is always pegged as a white girls rebellion, but it’s not. It’s a sub culture that has its own music and fashion. It should be open to all races and genders without stereotypical ridicule.”
Name: Obsidian Age: 22
“I feel like beauty is unattainable for me from here, from non-whiteness. At least not in the mainstream/conventional sense, you know? It’s like getting dressed and trying to feel good about it, but at the back of my head, there it is- this would look better if you were paler like a white person, if you were lankier like a white person, if your eyes were bigger or brighter or fingers more slender. It goes on and it’s awful. There’s so much particular value placed on the paleness in it. It’s inescapable. Days when I see other POC out with any level of a Gothy look and it’s so validating. Sometimes I try to be that person for others too. Sometimes I feel good enough and have enough energy to want to just go all out and show people that not all goths are pale. It feels empowering those days. Like, here is an aesthetic that was developed with a huge racist element, and I love it, and I’m pulling it off, and I’m killin’ it.”
Name: Salem Age: 19
“There is some kind of sense of not belonging because I’m black and especially with the basic stuff (pale skin bullshit, European obsession, appropriation, etc.) which kind of led me to make my own kind of Goth. [On Goths making skin whitening tutorials and being praised for their pale skin and claiming it’s all about contrast and looking dead] I really think it’s bullshit and unfair. People with dark skin don’t turn white when they’re dead. And sometimes I think I’m just being bitter but it kind also goes with white people (especially in the Goth subculture) almost literally drawing on features that POC are considered ugly for (cheekbones, lips, dark eyebrows).”
Name: Victoria Age: 22
“I embraced the witchy Goth fashion heavily, and I’ve been told I wear it well. There’s still the 20% of asshole people/”friends” I deal with daily, like “no don’t shave your eyebrows that only works for pale women, don’t wear that, it look only works if you’re skinny and pale (shorts, short skirts, garter socks and thigh highs)”, and because I’m not pale, my black makeup doesn’t contrast as much even if I wear the same amount so therefor, somehow, I’m not goth.”
Name: Syverenn Age: 26
“I’ve had many exclusionary and racist experiences mostly centered on the never “looking pale” sort of thing. I’ve just learned to associate with those against it and point out when people are harassing me or others. It’s not a new part or my reality, just one when I was younger thought wouldn’t exist in the subculture, but it’s everywhere not just in being Goth. Confidence is everything even if you don’t feel it.”
Name: Nocturne Age: 36
“When I first got fully involved, I immediately got questions as to what I “was” & was told that I couldn’t be Goth because I am black. The discrimination came from the Goth community, the non-goth community and the black community as well.”
Name: Murphy Age: 31
“The couple of posts that I have seen on Goth folks “favoring white skin,” they normally say that’s just part of the “goth aesthetic” or something along the lines of “I just think being pale is more beautiful, there’s nothing racist about it!” This is kind of tough for me. I just want more people to realize that a cornerstone of Goth should NOT be skin color.”
If you are a POC Goth and need inspiration, here are some blogs that cover Goths of different races.
Support POC Goths, disabled Goths, LGTBQ Goths, religious Goths and everyone else in the community.