Not every black kid can dance

written by Love isn’t Enough columnist Liz Dwyer; originally posted at Los Angelista’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness

Gorgeous weather yesterday afternoon, so I took my sons to our neighborhood park. As I watched my boys swing and climb on the monkey bars, another mom struck up a conversation with me.

She asked me where my kids go to school. I didn’t want to tell her so I quickly diverted the conversation by saying, “My boys looove school,” and then I asked where her daughter goes.

She shared that instead of attending the neighborhood school, her daughter goes to a charter school. I know the woman who’s the assistant principal at this charter school, and from what I’ve heard, they’re doing great things.

She began telling me how much her daughter loves the charter school’s dance focus, but, “Some of the kids aren’t such good dancers, you know?”

I nodded my head understandingly. I wasn’t such a good dancer when I was little, and these days I get a good chuckle out of my two son’s attempts at imitating Michael Jackson. But as this mom continued to talk, I quickly realized she wasn’t thinking about kiddie awkwardness.

“They have a hard time because all of the kids are like my daughter,” she said. “All Spanish people, and we don’t dance as good as you black people.”

Uh…say what?

“So I thought I’d come over here and say hi and see if you will enroll your sons in the school because then maybe our dance performances will be better.”

I kid you not, I almost busted out laughing right then and there! I wanted to ask her, “Seriously? Don’t you know black people aren’t genetically programmed to know how to dance?”

Do we need a new hashtag? #NotEveryBlackKidCanDance? And what’s this mess about Hispanic folks not being able to dance? Uh, really?

But oddly, I started feeling a teensy bit sorry for her. I mean, as I talked to her, it came out that she wasn’t born here, which means she came to the States and learned this racist crap from other folks and from the media.

It was also obvious she was totally sincere in thinking more black kids = her kid’s school’s dance performances improving. Then the one black mom she stumbles across at the park, moi, ruins it all!

Yeah, I’m that mom who prays daily that her sons get into, gasp, a math/science/technology magnet. I told her how I’m trying to get my sons into a super cool school with a robotics program, a science lab, and a one-to-one laptop program for grades 3-5.

“But don’t your boys like dancing?” she asked.

Sure they do, but instead I told her how my eldest says that when he grows up he wants to be some sort of scientist, or else design artificial body parts for people, and my youngest says he wants to be a rock star, a skateboarder or in the military. (BTW, we’re already arguing about all three of those choices.)

Her disappointment was palpable, but sorry, even if they were the best dancers in Los Angeles, my kids don’t exist to give street cred to any school’s dance performances.

We parted ways with her encouraging me to check into the school if the magnet thing doesn’t work out.

Yeah, um, sure. I’ll get right on that.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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