This land is your land – part II

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.

pg2_a_stepoff_600“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.