So you probably haven’t seen me dancing for a while. If you have, I’ve probably grumped on you about how fucking racist this bloody scene is. *sigh* Anyhoo, here’s an explanation of why I’m done with blues dancing, and there’s an extremely high chance that I’m not coming back. This post has been sat on my desktop for months, gathering digital dust, because I’ve been too scared to publish it, so er be nice I have feelings and also please don’t hate me.
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Dear White People Who Blues Dance,
Let me warn you, this won’t be an easy read. You aren’t bad people. It’s just your existence that makes you responsible for these feelings, not your choices. That being said, I feel responsible to let you know that I felt sick to my stomach every minute I am in a dance hall.
I recently came to the sad conclusion that it is impossible in this America to be white, and dance blues, and not appropriate black culture.
Here is a story about the last blues weekend I went to. It’s the Saturday night dance. There’s a ballroom full of 150-200 white people, each paying $50-200 a ticket. There are four black people, including myself. Two are working for the event. One is me. The one black person who was not me, who was not paid to be there, stood by the wall the entire night and was asked to dance twice. By me. Both times. When my friends looked him up and down, I saw fear in their eyes.
How can you justify dancing the dance of my people and not welcome them?
The weekend this event took place, yet another black man was murdered by police. His name was Patrick Harmon, and he was fifty years old. He was killed because he was biking at night without lights.
You cannot – you simply cannot – dance in a pretty ballroom and call it blues. The theme of the Saturday night dance was glitter. Glitter?? Are you kidding me? This dance, a dance about murder, prostitution, poverty, alcoholism, hunger, oppression – glitter? How can anyone think that is okay? As far as I’m concerned, they might as well have worn white robes and hoods.
Jay-Z writes in his song “The Story Of OJ” (please watch this film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM7lw0Ovzq0)
“House nigger, don’t fuck with me
I’m a field nigger, go shine cutlery
Gold-plated quarters where the butlers be
I’mma play the corners where the hustlers be”
That evening, I saw the hustlers on the corner and it broke me; the black men who were not safe, dancing in your pretty, softly lit space; they were outside sleeping rough and shooting up. Did any of you meet their eyes? When was the last time you passed a homeless black man in the street and looked into his eyes? Let’s face it – you’re terrified of them. And you’re terrified of dancing this dance in its truest form, to black blues and in dark grubby bars, because it’s equivalent to that gaze.
Google defines appropriation as “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. You did not ask our permission. Black blues in America is not about being sad; it is a way of fighting the racist bullshit we put up with every day to exist in this country. You don’t get to participate in that – it’s not something you can put on and shrug off as you please. You don’t get to dance that pain. It’s not yours. You aren’t allowed to be blue – not when you do nothing when your policemen shoot our brothers in the back.
Please don’t tell me my feelings are “real”, please don’t tell me this is “valid” – I know that already. Don’t initiate a new policy, don’t make empty promises. I want you to stop blues dancing. It’s. Not. Yours.
I’m truly so sorry that we can’t enjoy this dance together. I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish I could go out have fun with my friends without thinking about it, and I wish that it wasn’t the case that every fucking conversation I have in America circles back to race, again and again and again. But I also wish that man didn’t have to die. He was someone’s brother, he was someone’s son. I wish I didn’t spend the hour after I left the dance that Saturday sobbing in my boyfriend’s car. I wish I could get on with my life instead of sitting down and writing this, because frankly, I have an education to achieve, work to do, and fun to have. I wish I could sit down and shut up – but I can’t.
Until we achieve complete racial equality in America, white people blues dancing is inherently appropriation. You aren’t bad people for participating in this – it’s just the way it is. Again, if you want to change it, here’s a tip – stop blues dancing. Spend the time you would have spent working for the NAACP. Organize a BLM protest instead. Memorialize that dead man. Or, at very very least, petition to let black folks in for free. Don’t charge us upwards of $200 to dance our own fucking dance. Not the dance we created to express the pain your people put us through.