Tom and I with our friends Mehrdad and Atal in front of our apartment building in Louisville, Kentucky, 1977
There was a bar in a seamy section of the city (which happened to be where we were living at the time) that we used to pass all the time that had a sign in the window that read, "No Colors".
We were pretty appalled the first time we saw it and shocked that even a low-down-places bar in Louisville, Kentucky could get away with such a sign.
Back then there was some racial tension going on in Louisville as children were being bused to schools across town to promote racial integration. We figured the author of the "No Colors" sign must have been a cousin of the owner of the little discount store in our neighborhood who had a "No Froced Bussing" sign in his window. But "No Colors" was worse, even though we couldn't figure out why any person of any skin shade would want to set foot in such a seedy-looking place.
We also wondered who exactly the sign was meant for: just African Americans, or would our friends, Tom's fellow graduate students, two young Iranian men named Meerdad and Atal, be foribdden entrance, too? At that time at the University of Louisville there were a number of Middle Eastern students and, sadly, they sometimes felt the sting of cultural prejudice mixed with racial over-tones.
Anyway, as Mehrdad and Atal came over to our house once in a while for dinner or to hang out we always hoped they didn't notice the sign in our neighborhood bar.
Then one day there was an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal about the "No Colors" bar. A white reporter had seen the sign in the bar and decided to do an investigative story on it.
So one evening he went into the bar with a black colleague.
No head turned as the two men entered the bar and took a seat at the most conspicuous table in the room. A friendly waitress came over and took their orders. They shot a round of pool. No reaction from anyone.
Finally the reporter asked the waitress about the "No Colors" sign in the window.
"Oh, that?" she asked. Then she explained that on the weekends they had a lot of motorcyclists passing through, and when they came into the bar flashing their gang colors, well, that's when the fights started. So to keep peace among the biker gangs the boss made the "No Colors" rule.
Which I guess only goes to show, you can't judge a bar by its no colors. 8)