The Black American Legacy: Singing, Dancing and Dunking Basketballs

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It’s safe to assume that for many of you your favorite singer is a black person, so is your favorite dancer and I’ll bet the farm your favorite athlete is as well. Why is this? There’s some insight to be found here, but that doesn’t explain everything. Are whites intrinsically drawn to the aggressive seemingly primitive dispositions of darker skinned people? Does it have something to do with returning home? Are the emotions these people inspire in them subtle reminders of what once was? Okay, this could go somewhere, roll with me.

Pop on a rap video. Notice the bravado, the ostentatious clothing, the over-compensating? This is all quintessentially American. The appeal of the minstrel show to white audiences wasn’t just the ribald displays on stage; it was the fact that the audience had an implicit hand in creating the buffoonery they were witnessing. Of course many of them didn’t know this, but the stereotypes that were being satirized (yes, minstrelsy was satire, the white audiences just didn’t know it) were created over hundreds of years. The charm of the black ne’er-do-well who can sing, dance and crack wise with the best of ‘em evolved from a history of slavery and subjugation. He is a genial character who wants to assure white audiences that he is not bitter for his mistreatment, matter of fact he’s down right tickled by it because without it he wouldn’t be who he is today. What whites (and later capitalists) noticed was how exceptionally well he could sing and dance and since it provided harmless amusement this could be safely exploited without offending too many hard-liners. Moreover, white audiences fell in love with the peculiar nature of the black performer. Their singing voices were rich and soulful, they were able to move their bodies in ways previously thought impossible—it was sexual, it was aggressive and it was full of pain. This is a passion that was completely foreign to them and they found it fascinating.

Throughout the reign of slavery black slaves often entertained for their masters and his acquaintances. Matter of fact the expression it’s going to be a cakewalk comes from the traditional Cakewalk dance slaves would perform for their masters. The style of the dance is no more than a send-up of the more “refined” dances of white aristocracy. The whites loved it because they enjoyed laughing at themselves. It’s always fun to do that on occasion, especially when these Cakewalkers will be working diligently in your fields the following day. This same dynamic is played out in comedy clubs all over America—hack black comedians are getting up on stage to tell us that white people to this and black people do that. I wil leave you with first, the thoughts of a postmodern Southern statesman:

POST SLAVERY AMERICA
Perfect. We found a new “role” for them, Slavery’s no more. These people are quite messed up socially. Don’t think they’ll become doctors, teachers and scientists right away. Only a relatively rare few of them will. And check this out, as a result of their natural lean physiques (the sun will do that to you) and because they have evolved to be adept hunters they are also exceptional athletes.

And second—the insights of a young, liberal (white-guilt victim), well-read aspiring record producer from a northern state like Massachusetts:

EVOLUTION’S LOUNGE ACT
Wow! What a boon! An entire race of people whose sole purpose will be to entertain us. And to make up for that slavery bit we’ll pay ‘em a bunch of money but don’t worry, their inherent nature coupled with the “scary psychological bit”—the money will turn them into clowns. Everyone will laugh at their excessive ways and garish clothing. They will be notoriously bad with money as they try to understand this new monetary system they were once denied. Matter of fact, many of them will lose everything. Remember, they have their own warped stereotypes of what it means to be wealthy or “white.” They will go to great lengths to approximate this. We will think it crass, but in actuality it’s a love letter to us, we just don’t know it. We will judge them for this. We will fear them because we do not understand that they are merely mimicking us in a way consistent with their nature. You remember that Cakewalk business, right? They feared us for a spell because they perceived themselves as inferior, but once they realized that they were just like us they got offended. How could us white folks have lied to them for so long? They fought us. Painful evolutionary event happens here, it’s just like puberty. We’re still going through it right now, but we’re starting to make some strides. We’re getting away from that fearful blame game.

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