I’d be an irresponsible blogger if I didn’t log on about the recent Sprite Step Competition which crowned a WHITE women’s fraternity from Arkansas (ZTA) champion. The Washington Post article by Neely Tuck does a nice job summing up the issue:
When the team finished — to wild applause — emcee Ryan Cameron, a local radio personality, rushed onstage: “Whoa! Wow!” Then he playfully admonished the sold-out crowd of 4,600 fans, nearly all of them black, not to be so surprised that the evening’s only white contestants were that good.
“Close your mouth! Close your mouth!” he said with a laugh. “Stepping is for everybody. If you can step, you can step.”
But later, when it was announced that the Zetas won, the feel-good vibe evaporated. Large sections of the crowd starting booing. Then Internet and radio-call-in warfare broke out when the videos were posted on YouTube. There were allegations of cultural theft and reverse racism, not to mention race-based taunting and name-calling.
Late last week, Sprite officials said they discovered the scoring discrepancy. This was odd because the show’s host, rapper Ludacris, assured the crowd that the judges’ scores had been “double-checked.”
Here for your enjoyment – and I don’t know if it should have won but it is cool – are the ladies of ZTA:
The responses on this have been really interesting in the blogosphere I track, including backlash against Sprite for double-championing, and “reverse-racism” (on ESPN no less…) In a social media conversation I wrote, “I know white people who do indian dance, and play jazz music, and I know black people who dance ballet. In judging performance – do the apparent cultural roots of the performers matter? I think our perception and judgment of performance is closely tied who the “our” is in this sentence. Who owns our art forms? All successful (read:compelling) art forms evolve over time, as do the people who practice them. In this performance the audience and judges made a decision which reflects their mores as judges, and as audience.” That was within a conversation that was beautifully heart-felt and open… As a white person it is not my culture being assimilated (again.) There are real issues of cultural appropriation in the not-so-distant past within the originating Step community.
It seems like most people are really owning their issues in discussing this. Sprite just wanted some publicity from a Step competition to market toward hip urban consumers, not a boycott on charges of racism.. Who says there should be an easy answer? By the by — the last post I wrote titled This Land is Your Land is about Israel, and the Palestinian conflict.