Why, I Say, White People Can't Dance (And, Yes, It has to Do with Race/Culture/Rhythm, Appreciation, & Respect)

Shayna or Sheness Israel's picture


For me, saying white people can't dance has nothing to do with the typical answer that they don't have rhythm. I think the reason for it includes some parts of that, but also something more systemic or structural - race relations and learning cultural contexts.

Dancing is a language (in the way we think of, respond to and through language). Its movements are its words and its grammar is its rhythm. Don't get it twisted; rhythm and grammar are really one in the same. The dictionary defines rhythm as the procedural aspect of a beat or flow.[1] Procedural means the rules and regulations. There are rules and regulations for grammar (i.e. sentences have to have a subject and a verb: She cried.) Again dance is a language—means of expression. It probably is the most articulate form of body language. The analogy I am making here is that the body language we use when talking is also language, but it is what would be comparable to everyday speech. A dance move is comparable to a well-formed speech or lecture. Lastly, a dance performance is comparable to a paper, essay, poem, novel, book, etc.

By all of this, I mean to say that when I say white people can't dance or at least can't dance with black people, I mean that they have not only not picked up a certain set of rules and regulations associated with the body and the overall beat of (black) dance, but also—in many cases— have not picked up the overall flow—philosophy of (black) dance. (To go further understand what I mean by the flow—think of it like overall meaning or point or culture of dance. Refer to the diamond footnote on page 3 for more info.)

I think this phenomenon is linked, in part, to the Puritanical tradition and white culture's fundamental devaluing and mistrust of the knowledge gathered from and experienced through the body. This tradition comes into direct conflict with the African tradition and the traditions of the African Diaspora, where the knowledge from the body is not only valued just as much as the knowledge from the mind, but continually used, acknowledged, and sought after.

This fundamental difference of perspectives regarding the body has led to different philosophies and rules of engagement regarding dance and movement—in other words, black and white people talk differently and that leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and even disrespect.

I am aware that this essay grossly—indiscriminately—lumps all white people and all black people together without addressing the variations due to cultural perspectives, attitudes, or expressions. I understand that what I say about black and white people does not apply to all people or groups contained under that distinction. I know there are some white people, who may be black, culturally & phenotypically, as well as there are some blacks that may be white, culturally & phenotypically, as well as know there are innumerable categories that complicate and problematize what I say here. Because of the urgency of this essay and my limitations, I cannot do justice to all those stories. The hope is that everyone will step up to the plate and do justice to her story—for everyone's sake—because the world needs to know you are out there.

Dance in this essay is primarily referring to black American dance—black American culture and procedures (rules of engagement). While I talk about dance generally and my specific experience with dancing at a club, I mean to connect that conversation to American black and white race relations, generally, and my individual experiences (as a black American woman of Belizean and Southern American heritage) with white people, specifically.

This article gears towards showing a connection between the specific and the structural, the private and the political, the everyday and the yesterdays, the present and the History, stories and the metanarratives. It also gears towards giving everyone language in which to talk about dancing and race relations in America. It also gears towards airing out my frustration caused at the club that day—It is my healing (I had the hunch that it would be other people's healing as well). Once again, I apologize if this speaks too loudly for any one group or dance style.

This article is written for all people, but especially white people. By white, I am talking about white Americans and by black, I am referring black Americans. This essay intends not to forget about the white people who respect and value black culture and what it means as well as black people and what they mean.¨

It also does not intend to forget about the white people who not only respect and value all the things said in the paragraph above, but have learned to dance with, (not at), black people through acculturation (i.e. growing up with, not next to, black people), through learning about the history behind our vibration, and/or through somehow intrinsically picking up the rhythm. Thank you. You all, in the words of Jessie Jackson, keep hope alive. KEEP DOING THAT!

Now I want to let you all know why I am even writing this in the first place….

My friend Adaobi (black American woman of Nigerian heritage) texted me, last Thursday (5/10/07) saying that she is tired of doing physics and wanted to go dancing.


[Let's pause right here: the reason or shall I say need for dancing was for a release. So already it has another meaning than just simply dancing's sake or because she was bored (nothing is wrong with that by the way. I'm just making a distinction here). Adaobi wanted to dance for peace of mind. Okay, let's continue]


So, we go to Sister's, which is located in Philadelphia. Although Sister's is generally frequented by white people, Thursday nights were admission plus 8 drink tickets for $10. This coincidentally was the night that the most black people showed up.

We get up stairs to the dance floor area pumped and ready to move—release, heal, let go. Then I began to notice two groups that predominated this party: black people and white people. The dance floor's energy was not a united energy. It was choppy, disconcerted, and actually sort of hostile. Because of this, I watched and analyzed as I danced as well as got angry at the series of things that went on that night—most of that anger was felt towards and because of the white people at this party.

Now, knowing all of these interesting details, I hope I got you hooked on finishing this article. Below is a more detailed description of what happened last Thursday night. It is followed by a possible solution to this persistent problem of black and white people (not) dancing together.

Ethnography of Last Thursday Night at the Club


Description and Background

Walking up stairs to Sister's dance floor, I, cheesing and laughing, hear the booming music. The room was surrounded by mirrors on each wall, a bar was on the right and the DJ booth was diagonally from me. There were disco lights and mainly 70's disco, hip hop, and R&B playing. The sidelines were carpeted with a few stools against the mirrors. I noticed that black and white people predominated the party and actually, there were slightly more black people than white people. Black people were on the perimeter, on the carpet and near the mirror, and white people were in the middle of the dance floor.

Here, I see the weirdest thing I have ever seen at a club: The black people were dancing in the mirror. Now, I don't mean one of two, but about 15 black people in total were dancing in the mirror with themselves—completely disengaged from the dance floor and actually having a ball and cheering looking at themselves move. Behind their back was a dance floor filled with white people. It would be a stretch to say that the white people were dancing. I saw white people making out, falling on the floor, standing talking, and, I think, moving.

Now, like Adaobi and I said that night, I don't mind people having sex or falling on the dance floor, so long as they are doing it to the beat. Let me pause here and make another analogy to dance and language: Dancing to the beat means staying on topic in conversation. When people dance to a song, they are agreeing to engage with its beat—its topic. It is like going to a lecture about Spiderman. You expect everyone to be willing to talk about Spiderman if they entered the lecture hall. So that is what (black) people entering a dance hall expect. It gets annoying to talk to someone if you are focused on a topic and they are off-topic and tangential. It is even more annoying when the person doesn't refuse to stop talking. Replace talking with dancing, topic with beat, and off-topic with off-beat and read the previous sentence again.



The Abaobi and Me connection

Adaobi and I were doing exactly what we came to do. We were vibing. I had more of a hip hop expression while we were dancing (talking) and she had more of an African dance expression, but there would be many times when what we did looked eerily similar and even, we would begin doing the same movements together spontaneously.

We were smiling, jumping, stomping, waving our arms and heads, dipping, wining, and turning (on beat of course). We looked like we were celebrating something (or just really excited about what we were talking about or maybe just really excited to talk to one another). At times when I noticed that I did not look at her enough, (look engaged in conversation with her), I started to look at her and give her encouraging responses when she danced such as "Uh, oh” or "okay now.” (Think of shaking your head in affirmation when talking with someone). I did that to make sure she saw that I saw her and appreciated dancing with her. Sometimes, we would teach each other something. I would start doing a movement and she would do it with a question or hesitation in her step and then look at me for correction or confirmation, then I would do it again, then we would do it together. It took seconds for each of us to learn what each other was teaching because we had such a strong basis of communication before hand.


How Black People Responded to Us

Black people were responding to us as if they were wondering how did we find the energy to dance that way, in a space like this? Because our style was not typical even if it was also based in tradition, black people did not know how to enter our conversation. So instead, they looked at us and smiled. Some tried to do it too, I caught them in my periphery, but when I turned around, they automatically stopped, like they did not want me to see them attempting to learn our styles (language).

We could see black people smiling at us and pointing to other black people to come watch. Because our style was so different, they let us have our space to enjoy our language together, our culture together. They did not come and impose on the space, even though they liked what we did (how we sounded), because we were so into it. They wanted us to enjoy our time together. This was giving credence to the importance of giving people the space to enjoy their individuality.

Other black people created their own space regardless of what we were doing some where else while still giving us our space. We did the same to them. The powerful thing is that we all were moving and expressing ourselves to the same rhythm, the same beat—overall philosophy.


How White People Responded to Us

Adaobi and I did not want to dance in the mirror or the sidelines. We felt the dance floor was as much of our space as it was anyone else's. So we danced on the dance floor amidst the white people. The energy between us was clear. It was clear that we were in deep conversation with one another.

The white people completely seemed to disregard this. At the beginning, a couple of them came in our space range of dancing (our conversation). Bothered, Adaobi and I moved. I assumed, innocently, that they must have not noticed that we were deep in conversation. I also felt bothered because they were unaware that their presence limited us and forced us to find new space. However, I swear that white people kept doing this about 20 times that night. I thought the white people would see the pattern of my annoyance. But that was a hope in shallow well. That is when I noticed this behavior could not be a random act by the white people at this party. It must have been the result of their language, their culture, their misunderstanding and even their disregard of our language and culture. That is when I connected the event to the structural, the behavior to the culture, the symptom to the syndrome.

My awareness heightened and I began to pay attention to what was happening and what was being communicated at the club. Below is the list of all the things white people did that night that let me know that (1) white people and black people speak two different languages (when dancing) and (2) how white people and black people danced together (or next to each other) was representatives of how black people and white people interacted with (or to) one another.


The List of Things of Disrespectful Things White People Did to Adaobi and Me

Because the list is so long, feel free to skip around. Us refers to Adaobi and me. Enjoy, because I certainly did:




A) Say Excuse Me Cuz I Exist!

White people kept dancing or walking through us while we were dancing, without saying excuse me or acknowledging our presence. (The black people walked around us and even if they walked through us, they apologized for doing so and looked us in the eye).


B) I Will Not Tap Dance for You!

I stopped dancing because I got upset at what happened in A. I moved to the mirrors and the side lines staring blankly at the dance floor, the white dance floor. A white girl sitting at the bar tapped Adaobi and me and said that we are really great dancers and have amazing energy together.


I got excited because I felt that finally a white person gets it and acknowledges it. Then she followed up by saying, "Can you do it again. Go do it again. Go, go back on the dance floor.” She said this while simultaneously pushing us on our lower backs and still saying come on dance again. When we didn't move and looked at her like she was crazy, she went back down to sit with her black partner. I said to myself that I am not your puppet, I am not dancing for you. Then I realized once more, white people don't get it. She didn't even get that we left the dance floor because we were so offended by white people.


C) Just Cuz You Know the Words Does Not Mean You Know What I'm Saying or

If Ya Don't Know Wat's Cookin', Ge' Outta Da Kitchen!

We go back on the dance floor because we got so much energy from dancing with each other, we wanted to release one mo' ‘gain. That is when things heated up for me. The white people began to try to mimic our steps—our words. Then with excitement for learning this new word the white people tried to use it with one another. Fine, whatever, so long as they stay away from me with it because once the white people took it, it was no longer mine and I no longer wanted it. This is an example of what I mean:


Seeing this white girl take the step that I was doing, messing it up, and showing it to her friend like she invented it, is like a person taking an artifact because it was "cute” or "cool” that was originally used for blessing a child and putting it on a mantel to show all their friends. It no longer serves it original purpose, it no longer means the same thing in that new context. When a person, who views the artifact as sacred, sees its new use, they may feel gravely offended and even disown that artifact because it was now defiled.


D) I Don't Belong in a Museum or You Can't Box Me In!

A group of three white people started coming close to us, again, without being invited in the space—which happens through eye contact and acknowledgement. They start doing the only black dance movements (words) that they know—yes they knew the words but not the appropriate usage.


They literally started closing Adaobi into a box, which was interesting because it looked like Adaobi was dancing her black dance encased by white people and their stares. I already left that circle when they welcomed themselves in without waiting for our reply.


Adaobi finally broke out of that and found me on the sidelines, again, watching the dance floor. She taps me and says, "I know you were heated. I am really sorry.” We stared at the dance floor again, in disbelief.




E) Doing the Electric Slide: Black People Uniting to Takeover the Dance Floor

(But the White People Almost Foil Us Once More)

This was my favorite part of the night, well at least for a while.


Some of the black girls that were primarily dancing with themselves in the mirror started doing the electric slide—which is a really popular line dancing form for black people (we do it at every family reunion). Adaobi and I see that and we begin to join in, not from where we wanted to begin but from where the girls were currently. Very quickly, all the black people that were on the sidelines or in the mirror began to join. We quickly took over the entire dance floor.


Before this, you wouldn't have known that there were that many black people in the club. So, finally I am happy. Happy that black people stood up, as a unit and demanded that people, who couldn't get with the rhythm, back the fuck up (or people, who couldn't get with the lingo, shut up). Literally, if you didn't know it, you were likely to get pushed or stomped on by someone accidentally and even purposefully.


We finally got a chance to be as black and as loud as we wanted to be. It was very clear that we were saying something. We looked like a disco-army, sharing in one unified understanding or flow. Yes, we were all in one grammar but each of our sentences looked very different from one another. I was spinning my arms as I moved. Some one else was moving their shoulders a lot. Someone else would dip low and long. Some smoother cats would glide. Adaobi had a little African style to her electric slide.


Surprising almost all of the white people did not reenter the dance floor. Well at not least for a while. Then this white girl, who I remember was one of the white people trying to mimic me and Adaobi, tried to come in. Okay, fine, I could understand if she practiced before she came in or at least knew something about the step. Nope. She jumped right in stepping on people and getting in people's way. This is when the problem began.


There were three rows of the electric slide. This black girl was trying to form a fourth row, when the white girl jumped in. Because that white girl kept stepping and falling on her, she quit trying to make the fourth row and went back to standing on the side lines near the mirror. Finally, when the white girl realized that we were moving regardless of her and without the intention of trying to include her (no black person tried to show her what to do), she left the dance floor.


I asked my friend Kathy Huynh what would she have said to that girl. I said that the girl looked like she was appreciating what we were doing. Should I say that white people should not try join in with black people's conversations? How would anyone learn? Then Kathy brilliantly replied, "I would tell her, ‘Thank you for appreciating and wanting to genuinely learn what these black people are doing, but also give them the time and space to appreciate their own culture, for themselves.'” I will leave it at that, because I couldn't have phrased it better.



F) Grrrr!: Overt and Blatant Disrespect

As Adaobi and I are dancing, this white guy does not only bump into me, but stays there pressing the crevice of his back into my shoulder and arm. I was like, "He must not notice I am here.” So I pushed him off of me and said "Hey, watch it.” He looked at me surprised. I thought that meant that he was really didn't know that he was doing that and wanted to apologize, so I stood there waiting for a reply. He says nothing, humps my thigh three times, and pinches my butt. I screamed and said, "Get the fuck off me.” Then amongst me screaming and walking away from him, he runs up and humps Adaobi's butt three times and then runs back to his crowd of white people.


Farewell to Hell

When we left the club and got to the bus stop, I just started kicking and punching this poster on the bus stop of a large white man's face while also screaming. I turned to Adaobi, apologizing for my screaming, thinking she must think I am crazy. She replied with a saddened face, "No, Shayna, don't worry, I understand. Trust me, I understand.”


I kicked and punched to poster, because I felt helpless. I thought that there was nothing I could do to stop what happened at the club—what happens almost every time black and white people dance together—interact. The only thing I could come up with, is writing this article, hoping it would change some (white) person's perspective, hoping that white and black people could interact in a space without being offended by each other, and hoping it would help me heal from my hurt that night. Hoping—it seems like that is the only thing I ever do next to speaking up about my feelings. It hasn't changed much thus far. And to tell you the truth, I'm getting tired of hoping and discussing. I am tired of putting my self out there—(on the dance floor)


Maybe that is the same reason why all those other black people were on the sidelines and in the mirror. They were tired of trying to interact with white people who did not even have the slightest interest in knowing where they were coming from, what they are saying, or respecting and appreciating what they value. It speaks so much for our society today, yesterday, and, sadly and most likely, tomorrow.

(End of Ethnography)











Creating a Solution: Eliminating Racism

Through Learning to Dance

Here is my theory: White people should learn or at least try to learn how to dance black while simultaneously either valuing it as much as they value their dance or at least respecting it as much as they respect their dance. Remember now, I am using dance as a synonym for language and as a synonym for culture. Keep this in mind and it may be easier to replace dance with culture and vice versa in this passage.

The reason that it is critical for white people to learn the dance of black culture is so that white people can be not only aware of black people's perspective, be sensitive to it, and value it as good and valid, but so they can work to eliminate the privilege given to whiteness—meaning those characteristics and people in America that is termed as white. (Having privilege here means having special value. So white in America has special value at the expense of black)

That means dismantling the privilege given to knowledge that is predominantly mind-originated and working for a valuing of knowledge that is holistic meaning knowledge that incorporates the body as well as the mind. That means dismantling the privilege given to aspects of American society that have been structured and conditioned primarily and predominantly by white people—i.e. our school system (colleges and universities too), the standard in which we evaluate performance and intelligence, etc.

This work aids the process of eliminating racism which is having prejudice (ex. white is always better) and the power to enact it (ex. A white person stopping a black person from getting X job because that black person is not white, culturally or phenotypically). Racism is also believing in the inherent superiority of a particular race. The implication of believing in the inherent superiority of a particular race is that all those that do not fall into that category become less than or somehow deficient or down right bad.

Now, what that means is that white (culture or features) have become sacred in American society—hence the statement, "White is always right.” So, for some people, it may seem horrific or like a tragedy to speak of dismantling what they have held so very sacred. Let me specify here. I do not mean that white gets devalued when I say white privilege should be dismantled. No, on the contrary, white people should value their whiteness (whatever that means for people), just not at the expense of another. Shoot, I value my blackness (I know what that means for me. Email me about it if you want to know). I can't stand when white people say, "I hate being white” or "I hate white people” or "I only like black people." NOOOOOO! Don't eliminate privilege by self-hatred, white people. Eliminate privilege through either working to give everyone privilege (value) or conversely, giving no one privilege (value) over another.

One may ask why blacks don't just learn to dance with white people instead of white people learning to dance with blacks. Well, to whoever you are thinking this, what I have to say is that black people have been shucking and jiving with white people for years. It's time for whites to give up some privilege, for peace's sake.

For our survival, black people had to know the white person's rhythm (culture). Look at English Ebonics[2] and "standard" English. To write my papers in college, I had to use and learn the grammar of "standard" English when I usually speak in the English form of Ebonics. I would always tell my professors, why can't I just talk to you or debate with you rather than write a paper? Or why can't I write a poem or do a dance instead of writing an essay? This is not saying that writing is not important, for it is, but why can't I couple it with another form of expression or even another dialect of English? (I believe this has to do with valuing and devaluing. Or "following tradition""”meaning following "white is right." People don't like to admit this to themselves.)

This is also represents a battle inside myself to stay sane because I have come to value certain aspects of white culture, but also know that those aspects are rooted in a disregard, disrespect, and a devaluing of black culture, something that I have internalized and made sacred inside myself. So often, this battle, at times, makes me want to throw away or destroy anything that is white inside myself or any symbols of whiteness around me or conversely, throw away or destroy anything that is black inside (outside) myself. Dubois talks about this in his reference to the "double consciousness" of black folks. He says

His [the Negro's] double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,"”an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.[3]

Since I can't escape white culture in this society, the only way to reconcile this terror inside of me is to help alter white culture to value black culture"”to value me. That is what this article intends to do.

So now I am saying white people have to learn to dance with us, if they want to unlearn racism and reconcile its effects. I realize that I have gone as far as I can go with trying to dismantle racism. White people, it is your turn. It can only be finished if you let it be finished.

Furthermore, it is important for white people to know and value the dance of black people's culture (or of any person of color's culture) because white people in this country have been bred to be mono-cultural and bred to devalue other ways of being that are not like theirs. This has the consequence of further obscuring reality"”or realities that are strongly felt and lived by others. So, in a sense my particular double consciousness is both a blessing and a curse. However, it does not have to be a curse. It is only a curse because one of the consciousnesses that I have come to value degrades and tries to eliminate the other consciousness that I have strongly internalized as my basic self. It is a blessing to have more than one way of looking at the world. For example, I learned in a neurobiology class that the nervous system has at least six ways to receive the same information: hearing, touch, taste, smell, sight, and proprioceptors. As my professor said, "It helps us get things less wrong as well as adds more depth to what we perceive."

In other words, our body purposely has multiple perspectives that come into conflict with one another in order to get the sharpest notion of what actually is going on. This is reason enough to unlearn racism. Racism prevents people from a depth and sharpness in their perception. Conflicting realties are not inherently bad. People make different ways of seeing bad. Our nervous system seeks different perspectives, knowing that difference can not only be helpful, but also good.


To relate this again to dancing: That is not telling every white person to go find a black person and ask them to teach you their culture. That is ridiculous. What I am saying to white people is, be aware that (black) dancing has a grammar"”rules of engagement. Try to find out what they are in a respectful manner that has in mind that not every black person, all or any of the time, is interested in teaching white people their grammar. Keep in mind that there are some things that cannot be spoon-fed and require the arduous task of experience and learning by oneself. Also keep in mind, like my friend Kathy said, give black people the time, space, and respect to appreciate, enjoy, marvel in, get relieved by their own culture, by themselves.

Also, more importantly, keep in mind that black people learn your grammar by spending time with white people and in white and white-originated institutions. That is not saying that white people should flood black communities and black institutions (that has all sort of problems like gentrification, and violating the importance of respecting organizations and spaces for affinity groups).

What it is saying is that something will be lost if you just learned black culture through books, movies, television, music videos on BET and MTV, jazz C.D.'s, other forms of recorded black music, artifacts, and whatnot. Basing one's view of a people solely on any one of these can be problematic on so many levels, especially since the media grossly misrepresents or complete stereotypes of what they choose to portray of black culture.

What I am saying is to also GO TO THE PRIMARY SOURCE"”black people. That first means putting a face to all that you love of black culture and loving that face as well"”loving meaning valuing. This does not make everything accurate or peaceful, but like I once said, you would be skeptical of someone's ability to speak Spanish if they told you they never met a native-Spanish speaker, never been to a Spanish-speaking country, and solely learned Spanish and what they know about Spanish culture from reading a book.


All and All

If white people begin to work to actively dismantle the privilege given to whiteness and give value to blackness, if this occurs, one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers gettin' down wit their bad selves. If this occurs, I believe white people and black people can finally dance together, well at least figuratively.


That's my story and I am sticking to it. Peaceeeeeee. No, seriously, peace.

[1] http://www.infoplease.com/ipd/A0627018.html

¨ I admit some people, even some black people, don't know or haven't thought of what black culture and black people mean in America literally. That is fine because I am willing to bet that those acculturated into black culture know what it means intuitively"”in other words, they know it through its feeling or feeling in general. Recognizing what black people mean includes valuing them as human-beings"”living, rational, irrational, and moral beings. But what I truly mean is valuing their contributions as a people to not only American society, but also American identity and culture.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebonics

[3] W.E.B. Du Bois (1868"“1963). 1903. The Souls of Black Folk: "Of Our Spiritual Strivings." Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.; [Cambridge]: University Press John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.,


Big White Guy's picture

Racist Nonsense

I decided to read this article with an open minded attitude, thinking it could be very interesting. Slowly I came to realize that for black women, dancing is sacred, and that you have a huge chip on your shoulder about white people.

Enjoy your life! ;-)

Serendip Visitor's picture


the reason whites cant dance is YES because they have NO RHYTHM BECUZ they lack MELANIN. Period. Point! Blank. MEL Mela Melanin

jean's picture

You are obviously over educated but don't have a clue

I have never read anything more ridiculous in all my life. I am white and dance just as well if not better than people of other ethnicities.

Serendip Visitor's picture

This is an exceptionally silly comment

This is an exceptionally silly comment from an obvious intellectual bantamweight.

Saying that White people can't dance is like saying that they can't sing, which would be an utterance too foolish to even qualify as ridiculous.

Is there anything more graceful, more elegant, more mesmerizing, more enchantingly sublime than ballet? What about ballet on ice (figure skating)? Are you going to compare hip hop's inelegant sexual gyrating to such beauty?

I'll go further into the territory of controversialism and state that Black people's music such as r&b and hip hop, for instance, which many like to refer to as 'soulful' is, in fact, carnal 'soulish' music that springs from the unregenerate unconscious mind and does nothing to connect the heart with the Transcendental. Real 'soul' music would be classical Indian music, Handel's Messiah, Andean pan flute music, German lieder, Church hymns, etc. The fact that r&b and hip hop are so popular today is clear evidence that we are in an era of spiritual, moral, and artistic decay.

Fiona's picture

I am Irish and people say I can dance and I am white

A black man asked where I was from and of course I said I am Irish he said to me ur joking cause I can dance he was totally shocked I was Irish and white and can dance so u r very wrong white people can dance

Laura Riva's picture

Unity in Black, White, and other Ethnic Group in Dance

I understand what you experienced in feeling the negative energy of the dance floor. However, I think you are doing a disservice to the white population who is attempting to engage in and learn the language of dance, as experienced by another culture.

Should groups of other ethnicities not try to mimic Ballet, Irish dance or other styles because these are predominantly another language? I'm not sure what the style of dance is that you do, but a club dance is a club dance. If you are actually using a form of organized dance heritaged in Black culture, please identify it - because I think I am missing what dance it is you are actually doing.

I dance (and teach) a multitude of styles imbued strongly with other cultures - a perfect example is Brazilian Zouk. I'm white - as white as it gets. However, in most organized dance scenes (Zouk, Salsa, Kizomba, Swing, Blues, etc.) there is an understanding that there will always be a generation of "newcomers" to the dance. That these people are seeking to experience something beyond their own sphere of existence. Brazilian heritage or not, newcomers are encouraged to try, to learn, and to become part of the scene -they are adopted. Same with Salsa. Same with Swing, and almost any other dance form. That support fosters growth and understanding of all parties.

By categorizing specific movements as for Blacks only, or only for those who grew up with Blacks, it prevents people who are of a mature age from deepening and increasing their understanding of something they may really love and enjoy.

I don't think the girl telling you to dance was in the right. That was rude, regardless of who/what the dance was. However, by shaming those people who attempted to teach and show each other the steps (even with no background), you are shaming the very people who saw, who liked, and who are emulating something they thought was great/cool/etc. They are trying to understand it, within their limited resources, and without infringing upon you.

Humans have always learned through imitation. People from backgrounds that pride on movement (accurate points that you very clearly pointed out) have a head-start when it comes to understanding the language of movement. However, this shouldn't bar those who have not had early exposure from trying to learn something about another culture and method of communication.

I personally had no experience with dance until University, when I found Salsa. I fell in love with it, and even as a beginner tried to get my friends into it. I didn't have rhythm, I didn't have flow, and I certainly didn't look good. But, if I hadn't gone to the club and looked foolish learning, I'd never have improved. I'd never have learned the language. By not allowing people to try (and sometimes fail), it's basically saying either be fluent or don't speak at all. Let people of all cultures have their baby steps. Encourage the understanding - don't bash it.

Andy's picture

This is absolutely true

"I think this phenomenon is linked, in part, to the Puritanical tradition and white culture's fundamental devaluing and mistrust of the knowledge gathered from and experienced through the body."

I wasn't really aware of this in the way you articulated it until now, but being white, I can absolutely confirm this is true. White people can't dance because we're conditioned not to. It almost seems like a secret, because I have only witness it happen in the company of exclusively white people, but being made fun for dancing is a systematic thing. I can't remember how many times growing up when I would start dancing to music with predominately white friends, only to have everyone stop and stare at me like I was the stupidest person alive. Once that happens to you enough, your love of dancing dies pretty quickly, and stays dead until you get shitfaced or do drugs. It wasn't as if I didn't know what I was doing, either; it's just that white people don't dance with each other by themselves. We only mosh until adulthood, and I don't even want to know what the sociological explanation for that is...

I can also indirectly confirm that quite a few white people literally don't know dance "language" exists. It's borderline absurd to read it written out so explicitly here, but I've danced at bars or clubs with other white people who were visibly confused when I would try dancing with them.

If anyone who isn't white ever wondered why white people at a club are so stiff or can't hold a beat to save our lives, it's because we're faking it. Being terrified and making obligatory body movements at the same time can make it hard to pay attention to the music.

Great article. This is maybe the first or second Google result for "why can't white people dance", just in case you weren't aware, so I guess a lot of other white people are curious too. Bryn Mawr's webmasters need to get their shit together regarding the racist morons leaving comments.

...and also with regards to not subjecting their students to racial abuse for writing excellent papers, I guess? Seriously, what the fuck.

Serendip Visitor's picture


You make an interesting point and have many details added but black people and white people can dance together because the skin color does not matter but the love to dance and be there and work as a team together in dance is the important part.

Serendip Visitor's picture

thank you!!!!!!! the dance is

thank you!!!!!!! the dance is a language argument is brilliant.

White and African's picture

Just got back from a club

I am african and white and I suck at dancing. Is it the end of the world no!
If I go to a club and try to dance, and I am rejected many times because of my lack of skills should I kill myself as an invalid? or don't you think that the people who know the language so much are just being arrogant, and really ignorant of the real nature of people. If I meet someone in Paris, and he doesn't know a word of french, I won't walk away. I make the extra effort to get his message, because what makes us is not the language we use but the meaning we bring. And too bad, people like you make me hate dancing, because you only like your comfort zone, people who can bring you a message that you understand right away.

I'm gonna be a better dancer one day, and maybe you will enjoy dancing with me... but then maybe I won't want to.

Serendip Visitor's picture

What a load of rubbish

This article was not worth the precious time I invested in reading it.

sealxblu's picture

So basically you are just

So basically you are just really racist against white people? You feel that you have the exclusionary right to the dance floor and whites should go away. I have heard a few times, even from whites, that whites cant dance, and never understood it because I have seen plenty of whites dancing. I have seen whites dance to the music, I call it rhythmic shaking, to be honest, whereas real dancing is more like line dancing, or at least serious movement, not shaking around. I have seen whites do exactly what you claim only blacks can do. I think its more that you hate white people and want to keep them out of your world. This is further evidence of your hostility towards a white poster. I really had no idea how racist blacks were until the past few weeks after the Zimmerman trial. Blacks are really freaking racist. There even was a survey done asking blacks who they felt was more racist: most answered that blacks were more racist than whites. That is really telling if you ask me.

Maybe if you actually tried to include the other people and show them how to do it instead of being racist and possessive, there wouldnt be so much hostility. The only point where I agree with you is where that guy came up to you. To some extent, thats an expectation at clubs, but still it was unnecessarily aggressive.

But really grow up, you are just stereotyping your skin color.

White dancer's picture

Totally true

I'm English, white and everything you say is spot on. I think the problem is that white culture doesn't appreciate music. A dance floor is just somewhere to pick up women. I bet the guys that kept dancing through you were doing it on purpose because the girl they were with thought you danced well and they were jealous.

When I was younger and started going to clubs I hated dancing ( No one can dance in England). Women huddle together around a handbag, drunk and staggering. The guys were worse beer in hand, drink spilling everywhere.

Years later I learned to dance, it's great. I totally get what you say about conversation, people don't realise how complex that interaction is. What amazes me though is that even within a group of white people that learn to dance very few of them listen to the music, they just don't feel the rhythms.

Kate's picture

Poorly written and argued,

Poorly written and argued, this essay is full of non-sequiturs, ad hominem attacks, generalisations, and other fallacies. I certainly hope the author did no t submit this as a class assignment. I am white, a dancer (ballet, ballroom, tango, folk dancing, etc.), and have seen plenty of blacks without rhythm and grace. Whilst I agree that dancing is a language, it is by no means a universal language, and you mix subjective experiences with more objective attempts to explain the connection between culture, dance and language. Your personal experiences are certainly valid, but they do not have universal value, and your contempt for whites, the maligned other, is obvious!

As a previous poster noted, your improvised gyrations would indeed be very much out of place in a Viennese ballroom or an Edinburgh ceilidh. As far as the poster who said that she/he has nothing to learn from any white person is concerned, let's just say that your arrogance and ignorance are showing. You clearly did not pay attention in English class either, as your grammar is absolutely atrocious.

Serendip Visitor's picture

couldn't be more wrnog

white people invented rhythm. sorry.

Serendip Visitor's picture

This interesting essay.

White people, all people, dance and sing and make music. Bring your improvisational, undisciplined gyrations to a ballroom and you will get the same disrespect you are showing here.
If you want to generalize, yes, white people are more reserved, cautious, contemplative, even practical and disciplined. Is it a different way of interacting with the world? Sure, I'll buy into your premise that we are different than you. We aren't lesser for it, only different. Maybe if you tried to understand what we're doing at the same time as you're asking us to value yours, you might notice that you're in our culture, using our tools, living our way of life. You're the anomaly.

Sunflower777's picture

not that complex

If you think its because of racial/cultural rudeness than how come white people aren't bumping into me and falling all over me in zumba or salsa class?

Because they're not drunk.

I think the difference here has more to do about alcohol than anything else. I am a white person and when I am at a club I am equally annoyed by other people bumping into me or crossing into my space when I am trying to dance. I cannot recall whether these people have been consistently white, black, middle eastern..whatever but what they did all have in common is that they were drunk or acting strangely (perhaps due to some mind altering substance).

I am white and I go to clubs to dance, not get drunk, but that's not the case for all people.
Drunk people or the kind of people who's goal for the weekend was to get wasted and act stupid are not going to respect others' space and are not in a state of mind to participate in artistic expressions through body movement.

The only racial link I really see is:
if white people are more reserved and restrained
when it comes to expressing themselves through dance
--> they are more inclined ingest alcohol to get past these inhibitions so they can dance
----> people who have ingested alcohol act clumsy, rude and disrespectful

I am sure if the author went to a different setting that focused on dancing (like dance class, dance social) vs. a place focused on getting trashed and hooking up (bar, club) they would encounter a completely different dynamic.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Wow, racist much?

Completely offended. Have you ever stopped to think that the reason white people "can't dance" is because of people like you who have told us all our lives that we can't? I mean, why even try if I supposedly can't do it?

Serendip Visitor3577's picture

The characterization of white

The characterization of white and black people's impromptu adaptation of the dance seems to invoke a double standard or, at the least, a lot of confirmation bias. Both look at it with wonder and, though clumsily at first, approximate it, but somehow white people just don't "get it." What's there to get?

I don't think white people and black people really have innately different attitudes toward being in tune with their bodies. The puritanical explanation seems contrived. Black dancing just proliferates among black people because other races categorize it as "too black" and generally stay away from it. This is true of the dancing typical to every race.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Dancing isn't about color

I actually really enjoyed your article... I AM WHITE, but that is only the color of my skin. White is not a culture or the definition of my being nor is black yours. White is Asian, European, Hispanic, Latino, middle eastern. I think if you stayed away from the white/black controversy you would have written a pretty good essay on dance alone... Your right there are some people who should just sit out sometimes especially when they are too drunk! And you ar absolutely correct dancing is an art but even art has many forms of expression and black or white isnt one of them. it is based on the individual. through reading your essay you seem to be very passionate about dancer but like every great artist you need to learn to be more open minded maybe those "white" people can teach you a thing or two!However this is why most clubs have specific dance nights like Latino night for example... If you do not want to dance with "white" people you are excluding everyone who does not have black skin. Something you should ask yourself and the people following your essay " how do you feel about those white colored people who take up a large portion of South Africa?" My point is it doesn't matter where you come from or the color of your skin to define or determine what one can or cannot do... You would be surprised. Other wise good essay and thanks for sharing your point of view... It has been very interesting and entertaining to say the least.

T.B.'s picture

Wow, the sheer ignorance of

Wow, the sheer ignorance of many of the commenters is totally overwhelming. The author was not trying to make the subject one of race; but one of culture. Yes Black people and White people are not only different colors, but they also have different cultural values and perspectives. It is also very obvious that Blacks and Whites in America have been coexisting in this country with two totally separate cultural identities. Dance is a part of every culture; and it is used by every culture in a different way. To some cultures, it is a form of communication. To others it only serves its purpose in rituals or ceremonies. No where in her article did she say that White people couldn't dance; she just said that they weren't in tune culturally with Black people. People just wanted to express their own personal hatred in these comments without even trying to understand what she was trying to explain. She was just discussing her own perspective on the situation. To get so worked up over this article is just pathetic. If you don't have anything constructive to say, then you have accomplished nothing but spreading more negativity.

Ian Aston's picture

White people dancing?

I doubt that these names will mean anything to YOU, but try Fred Astaire, Isadora Duncan, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, . .. all white people who dance. And that is all I'll say here .

T.B.'s picture

That just shows that you

That just shows that you didn't read or understand the essay at all.

Elouise's picture


DANCE IF YOU WANT TO DANCE. People acting a certain way on the dance floor has more to do with how many pints they've had, not what race they are.

Pom's picture

I was looking all over the

I was looking all over the internet for something on this topic. Okay I'm asian not black but at prom it felt like as soon as I was in my zone white girls would just back into me out of nowhere, and i got kicked pretty badly by a girl in heels. Some of my white friends got the gist that I just wanted to move so even though we weren't dancing in the same way (or in the same language) we could at least respect eachothers flow, but others were sort of...taking up all the space on the floor, whilst not even dancing. They were just shoving me. I mean, no disrespect to white people, but I didn't notice any black people acting this way.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Are you for real?

Do you know the first thing about dance? It takes years of training to do most of the things, including getting the rhythm down. Race has nothing to do with anything in the dance world except for different styles of dance.

young latino's picture

That is a lie.

That's a lie. I think white people do not have much flavor in their blood. They do not know how to move when dancing. Though some of them do have some. By white people I refer to not italians, greek, french, etc. I refer to white americans and you could say people from England. I have meet many white people and they just do not get any kind of music or dances. I am latino and I am 13 years old. I never took dancing classes in my whole life and none of my family has teached me how to dance. I just felt it in my vains and felt how my body turned on when hearing to not just latin music, but many other kind of music. It is in my blood. My hips as a latino just moved when hearing latin music. I can perfectly dance cumbia, bachata, merengue, flamenco, etc. I go dance every time they put latin music and I do it well. I have tried to teach white people and they just do not get it. They seem like sticks and do not let go of their bodies. It does not take years to master a dance. It takes culture, flavor, passion, love and a good pair of hips. I like white people, but it seems like they just do not get what dancing is about. I am very smart and I have gain many awards for my smartness and ability to study and understand things. I am not racist, but for the love of your mom. White americans wake up and realize you try to copy other cultures instead of actually building your own. You have no culture and white americans have proved it to me and the whole world.

Serendip Visitor's picture

You are right

Whites are predators. They take over, copy, then destroy. Thousand plus years of history to prove it. They cannot stand their own reality, and will argue with you about truth, about what everyone else sees and knows, until Jesus comes back. This article was great;a metaphor for all interactions with whites. We get it, easily. They won't and can''t. Simple as that. It's truth.

Whiteperson's picture

Too much genetics

I learned something from this article, and I agree with some of it. At the same time, a lot of the people in the comments are disregarding that this article is talking about culture and not just skin color. I agree with her, the white stiffness and reservedness is definitely a product of the puritan culture where it was a sin to dance. Sure, now it's fine to dance, but there is an insecurity about letting lose. If you are learning to dance and you're not great or you mess up you are laughed at and ostracized. White people wish they could dance, so they look at black and latino people (who's cultures have a totally different attitude towards dancing) and they say "wow, that is awesome, I want to be free and skilled like them".

Then they try to copy what they see and their attempts are met with even more hostility. Dancing is not a genetic ability - it's learned, like language.

Haven't you ever heard the saying "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery"?

Serendip Visitor's picture

Are YOU serious?

All types of dance does not take years of training and rhythm is something that comes to you naturally, not from learning it. Rhythm, really, is about feeling the beat and being able to move with it. I've known white people that can "dance" ballet but can't even snap their fingers/clap their hands on beat. Rhythm is something that most "ethnic" people, mostly black people naturally have. It seems it is instilled within us because all around the world the African diaspora end up having similar dances though they've never actually been to the other side of the world or that part of the world. You are putting "dance" into a box, a white people's box tbh because before ballet and all of these "trained" dances, dancing was about rhythm and FEELING the music not about learning something and mimicking it exactly. You can see the movement and flow in white vs black people. When I go to a club most black people are flowing with the music, they feel it within and are able to let their bodies do what they want to the music while white people are extremely stiff and uncoordinated. White people usually do really weird jerking/movements and a lot of it seems to be because they over-think dancing and that's what's wrong with "trained" dancing imo.

Serendip Visitor's picture

ever heard of self

ever heard of self expression. let the people dance the way they want to dance, people!!! this is a free country. they want to dance like someone else, fine, it means they just like the way they dance. NO matter what other people say, All people ARE EQUAL!! were all the same being. we are just different colors from different places, nothing more! some people just gave a hard time trying to see that!!!

Serendip Visitor's picture


can you just disable the comment section of this? the ignorance Is astounding and really ruins the post as is done with many good blog posts about race. white people stay getting butthurt when we tell them they can't do something because it's cultural appropriation or because we're not here to teach you that (by the way to the girl that said "why don't we all just learn from each other~~~) momma what are you going to teach us? please tell me because the only thing white people have ever taught me is history from a white man's perspective aka lies and how to hate my people. if some of you would sit back and do research before you commented on posts like these, we would have a better understanding. what the author is saying is that there is a language; a dialogue that black people worldwide have that white people just don't-- period. you can go to Latin America and see Afro-Latin@s dancing in the same way people in Nigeria do or Jamaica because it is in US. no amount of distance can take that away because it's in our blood and that is really the root of what the author is saying. POC in America cannot be racist because racism is an oppressive system in America. I shouldn't still have to explain that to people. it's really not that hard to understand. POC can, however, be prejudice, mean, rude, etc which is really what most of you mean when you say "racist" but really,
can you blame them? after all of the dirt that white people have done all over the world and continue to do, do you blame POC for not trusting you? for deciding to stick with people that look like them, share the same beliefs and usually won't hurt them??? and then you flood the comment sections of posts like this talking about "im a good white" and "well IM not like that" when no one fucking asked. you stay making everything about you instead of just listening for awhile and saying, "Hm, i understand how you came to that conclusion". you stay on the Internet and irl erasing the voices of POC making everything about you and it's sickening. go away, you're not wanted here.

Insecure Dancer's picture

Disabling the comment section

Hi, you seem to have taken full advantage of the comment section, and, by the way, I enjoyed reading your thoughts (and agreed with the majority of them!) But, why do you want the comments section disabled? I find that ridiculous. Surely we should not be frightened by the ignorant opinions of others. Just state what you believe in and why, and I feel sure that truth will, in the end, conquer!

Kate's picture

What a sad, pathetic, and

What a sad, pathetic, and gullible person you are! I truly pity you.

Arthur's picture

I can't say if you have

I can't say if you have actually never learned anything from white people. (Though I doubt it) But refusing to learn from other people is the dumbest thing a person can ever do. The computer and the internet you are using now where invented by white people, as was your car. You are just an angry person. If you were a white american you would probably blame black and latino people for all the trouble in the world. If you were Pakistani you would hate indians and if you were eastern european you would hate gypsys. You should probably go learn Meditation (from brown people from india, so that's ok I guess?) and just calm your mind because you are tearing yourself up. Your anger only hurts yourself. Honestly we want you to do well, but we don't care that much.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Lets not get things twisted here

Oh dear, you seem to be of the opinion that white people created the computor, but in actual fact it was a black man by the name of Dr Mark Dean weallbe dot blogspot dot co dot uk/2007/10/black-man-invented-pc-as-we-know-it.html and it was another black man Richard Spikes who invented the Automatic Transmission (gears to you and I), so I suggest you read up on your facts before you start spouting nonsense. Just so you get your facts straight for future reference, here is a website you can look at which will show you what was inventred by black people, which white people took the credit for: creativebrotherdot freehosting dot net/invent

Serendip Visitor's picture

Don't forget emeagwali - the african math genius


Arthur's picture

Hey, thanks for your

Hey, thanks for your reply,

First of all. I think this list is actually a great example of the intelectual isolation a lot of pro-black intelectuals are in. (pro-white people are obviously also in intelectual isolation since the only way you can keep up racist thoughts is through isolation of your thought system where you keep on feeding your own believes by comunicating and learning only from people that allready agree with you, until you end up with a lobsided world view that feels extreamly believable to yourself)

I'm SURE black people throughout history invented many things, (why woul'dnt they?!) But you just BELIEVE in the acuracy of the information you gave me without objective verivication. At first glance, chess for example was not invented by a black person, it was invented by Sanskrit speaking Indians. But more importantly while many of the other inventions on the list might very well be true. Dr Mark Dean DID NOT INVENT THE COMPUTER.....he led the design team responsible for creating the first one-gigahertz computer processor chip. The man obviously is very inteligent but Saying Mark Dean invented the computer is just like saying Justin Bieber invented music... Mark Dean was born in 1957! the computer was not invented by one man... it was invented over decades leading to the first all purpose electrical computer being built in 1946!!! It just reveales something about the way you think and get your information. You have just engaged in wishfull thinking.

Furthermore like I said, ofcourse many black people invented many important things. Why wouldn't they have? And Even if a black person haaaaad invented the computer, this doesn't contradict my point at all. STILL many other things you use would be invented by people from ALL OVER THE WORLD, ALL THROUGH TIME. Inventions are passed on to the next generation and adapted and changed into new better, or just different forms. Just Because Indians invented our numbers THEY DON'T OWN the numbers, and just because a bunch of white people invented the microscope, THEY DON'T OWN the microscope. You don't see any indians getting mad, just because we use their numbers. In that excact same way, just because african americans invented certain types of music THEY DON'T OWN THOSE TYPES OF MUSIC. Just go and steal ideas invented by people from other races! go! do it! It's the only way to have a succesfull life.

Serendip Visitor's picture


first of all, u cant teach someone a certain way to dance. u have to let the person find their own rythym. each person eventually finds their own move. they dance to their own beat, each and every one of us!!! whatever happened to freedom in america!!! people should be themselves and do what they want to do!!! stop changing how one person can act. the person makes their own choices!!! i didnt read the entire article, it was just way to long and i got a limited time in this class to use the computer. Freedom!!

Eric's picture


Regardless of anything, this is purely racist. First of all, this was funny to read. The Electric Slide is not a "Black Dance", the person who created it was.. yes.. I'm going to say it.. WHITE!!!! :) Look it up.

Almost everything here was racist. Exclusion of white people from participating? This is no different than when black people had to sit in the back of the bus. A club is open to everyone. No one has to sit out. I grew up around only black people, though I am white. My roommate is black, and he agrees. The fact that the black people and white people danced seperate is EVERYONE's problem, not just the white folks. You don't own a space on the floor, you're not entitled to it, it's not yours, you don't have your name on it, anyone can go near you. Get over yourself.

People like you encourage racism, despite what you may think. You have way too much hostility built up. Anger fuels racism. To escape racism, one must escape anger or at least channel it elsewhere such as um.. pedophiles? Yea, that one works. As for you referencing speaking english instead of in ebonics, who cares? You think in Africa that your professor will let you dance instead of write an essay? lol.. SO many irrelevant points, contradictory points, ignorant points, and even unintelligent points. Take up buddhism or something, achieve a greater piece of mind. It helps, and I don't mean that in a smart ass way.

Serendip Visitor's picture

if people are friendly and

if people are friendly and keen to dance with you and have fun then do it! who cares about their skin colour or gender or age!

anonymous's picture


You are so ignorant. You said you weren't going to group all blacks and all whites together but you did. You are the most racist person have ever heard. If a white person says anything bad about a black person its considered racism and if this article was written by a white person about black people it would huge. Everyone would be throwing a fit. However, since it was a black person being completely rude about white people, everyone dismisses it and it's completely okay. You are being a hypocrite. I can't believe you wuold post such a narrow minded article.

Serendip Visitor's picture

It comes natural like breathing, eating & sleep

Reading this article and most of the responses I found it very interesting how most of the white people took offence and found the blog racist. It reminded me of a very hot (rare occasion for the UK) Notting Hill Carnival, where in full Mass regalia and dancing with my troop, a sister (by that I mean black woman) and her boyfriend (both whom I’d never met before) started to "Jump Up" with me. I didn't mind one bit, because they were able to jump into my groove no problem. We all understood why we were there; celebrating love of self, love of life, love of "Our People" and a love of Freedom. We were having a great time until a brother (again black guy) turns up with two white girls on his arm and these girls decided that they should jump in and try to gyrate and rub up against me - big mistake! What made them think that they had the right to do this? I stopped dancing immediately and asked them to stop. They did not/could not feel my groove and in turn F'd up the whole rotation. What these girls where trying to do was learn how to dance from me and my point is this, if you want me to teach you something then pay me! Why should we teach white people how to groove? You have already taken our music and made a mockery of it. You have taken our rap culture and made mockery of it and it seems to me that everything we as black people have, white people want it. Well I am sorry if that sounds racist, but for me it is fact! Most black people are born with the innate ability the hear and respond to rhythm and sound and express ourselves naturally without consuming large quantities of alcohol to be able to let our repressed selves go or resort to taking classes to learn mechanically just how to do this. It's a natural born thing and it’s ours. We are the originators and the instigators. If you see me in a club and you like how I move, fine I'll accept the compliment and say thank you, but please don't try to jump in on my “thang” - go home and practice in your own mirror and leave me to mine. Oh and one last thing, I'm not sure about anywhere else on the planet, but in the UK in Black clubs, you don't see black people fall down, binge drinking, making a spectacle of themselves, it's all about the music - not the booze!
I was sent this video this morning and thought I would post it as testament & have yet to see a white child do this! .

Arthur's picture

Hey, I think the biggest


I think the biggest thing holding black people back is the excact point you are trying to make... learning from eachother and other cultures. The Alphabet was invented by middle eastern people, the numbers now used all of the world were invented by indians, most world religions come from the middle east. Most modern technology comes from europe. These concepts are shared and black people share in all of them awell. BUT THEY SHOULD SHARE IN THEM MORE--GO--AND--STEAL--IDEAS--FROM--OTHER--CULTURES. Learning from eachother and other cultures is the only way people can thrive. YES Africans made a very large contribution to the music of the modern age. Well great! White people don't say that black people can't use computers just because white people invented them, you are keepig yourself out of the cultural exchange by thinking that way.

Serendipitous Visitor's picture

I'm a white male who doesn't

I'm a white male who doesn't dance. I just wanted to say that your article is awesome- extremely well written and your point came across perfectly. It's certainly changed my view of other cultures in general and given me insight into both America's serious white-black racism problem, as well as how to go about understanding other culture's art forms.

Thank you!

patrick's picture

unless its an upscale club

unless its an upscale club you should know if white people are dancing they are drunk! if someone imitates you take it as a compliment. if they suck at it consider it an instant victory. you would really have been pissed if the white girl just stole your moves and made it look badass. you say white people have an entitled attitude. i would say you have a weak ass outlook on life. why would i want to see the world through your eyes if anything you should see it through mine. after all according to you i can do anything i want since i am white. you are only limited by yourself and im not taking a step back so you don't have to take a step forward.

Pabs's picture

Want to see white people

Want to see white people dance and move like black people?

Go to Brazil, where they're a dime a dozen. :)

It's purely a cultural thing. I've come across the kids and teens of African migrants, born in predominantly European countries, and have noticed how quickly the rhythmic gene can abandon them. This is evidence to me that much of it comes down to being immersed in dance culture, and sustaining the traditions. In a sense, you always have to be relatively well practiced in the art.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Wow, just wow!

Vilifying an entire race, wow, just wow! I guess I could say all black males scare me as I am a white woman. But they don't. I look at the eyes, the body language whether white or black or something in between. I judge people as individuals and not as an entire group. I have a close Iranian friend who still lives in Iran. When friends first heard of that, they thought I might be communicating with a terrorist! Get it? We all to some degree tend to stereotype, but your assessment is completely stereotypical as well as racist.

I have seen some terrific black dancers and some that stink. I have seen some fab white dancers and some that stink. Dance is a wonderful thing and a great way to release tension, enjoy the music and move your body in an expression that is all yours (or copied, and copying is the sincerest act of flattery).

I am an avid dancer, not a couple's dancer, but a lone dancer, a zumba dancer, a hip hop dancer, and a lyrical dancer. And I am very white. At my health club where I practice, I have had black people approach me and compliment me. Apparently my being white didn't seem to bother them much. I love dancing and do not feel possessive of it. It is to share, to enjoy, and to bring joy to yourself and to others. Coming into a dance club with a 'tude" is a way to make your experience close to miserable.

And for people cutting across your dance space? I agree it isn't polite. But it isn't because you are black. Even when I practice at my club in the aerobics room (which is completely empty, I have had women cut across my space between me and the mirror. Pretty rude. I even put a plastic block between me and the mirror and behind me to "mark" my territory and still a few cut through without so much as a look. I just think they are clueless and not just a white woman hating on another white woman who can dance.

Random Netizen's picture

I can't dance

I'm white, and I cannot dance to save my life. Knowing this, I avoid dance clubs, and if I happen to find myself in one, I normally sit quietly at my table and drink. Or play pool. Or darts. Whatever. But on rare occasion, I might get drunk enough to dance. The alcohol does not magically imbue me with the language of dance. In fact, it often robs me of the ability to speak the English language. But it kindles the confidence I need to stagger out onto the dance floor and flail about like a Dervish with a snakebite. I do not think I am alone in this.

Since most dance clubs make the lion's share of their profits from alcohol sales, it stands to reason that a good portion of the dance floor is populated by people who are not entirely sober. It seems to me like it may be a little optimistic of you to assume that they are all going to be attuned to the subtleties of your unique brand of body language. It is more likely that at least a few of them are going to step on your feet, spill their drink on you, and dry hump your leg. This is one of the many reasons I avoid dancing at bars. I don't want to bounce around like a blind guy in a mosh pit.

I'm not nearly as bitter about it as you seem to be. It sounds like you have a very good knowledge of dance, and a real passion for it. Perhaps you should surround yourself with people who are just as passionate and knowledgeable? Have you considered becoming involved with dance at a more organized level, like ballet or ballroom dancesport or a dance troupe, or even teach a class yourself?

If you want to dance in a mixed crowd, I think it might help you to relax a little and think of yourself as an ambassador of dance. If dance is a language, and there are people out there who need and want to learn it, then why not share your knowledge? At one point in your narrative, you were actually approached by a white person who wanted to learn your language and then share it with others. That was an opportunity to ultimately remake the dance floor into something more to your liking.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Serendip Visitor's picture

that's a good point

I think that this is the best point that has been made in this entire discussion: that there is lots of alcohol being served, bought and consumed and the people in the club are all drunk! How much courtesy and respect can one expect in that environment. Your suggestion that the original writer join a dance class/troupe or teach herself is a good one. Surrounding herself with people who respect and love dance would give her a different perspective about this. I think that black people who have been drinking can be just as weird as white people (or any ethnicity) and really it isn't fair to assume that these people would all act as disrespectfully if they were sober. Not that being drunk excuses any disrespect or disregard, but that you aren't going to get the best of people in that situation.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.