I was slightly bothered by a newspaper article in our local paper today about the controversy surrounding a recent step team competition in Atlanta.
If you're not familiar with stepping, the routines are comprised of intricately choreographed foot stamping and hand clapping, inspired by cultural dances in Africa.
The uproar surrounds the fact that the University of Arkansas' ZTA sorority group won the competition, and they are .... um..... white. The debate is over whether "the integration of a once-ethnically exclusive activity constitutes a form of cultural theft." I don't think we want to go down the road of what defines a culture and what might be considered cultural theft. I could write an entire blog post on that topic, but it might be dangerous.
I am far from being a racist, but (and?) I am offended by the suggestion that any activity should be limited to any ethnic group. I'm not talking about the Russian ice dancers misrepresenting the Aborigines culture at the Olympics, I'm talking about whether or not a group of white sorority girls should be allowed to come up with their own (apparently awesome) step routines and win a contest that has historically been associated with African Americans.
The article says there was supposition that the judges, awed by the unlikely white competitors, may have been "wowed" by them and inflated their scores.
Come on. They were "wowed" just because they were white?
Or perhaps were they "wowed" because the girls were that good?
Here is a clip of part of the routine.
The article goes on to say that the sponsor, a major soft drink company that is NOT Pepsi, later announced that there were "scoring discrepancies" and awarded the second place team (of African American steppers) an equal amount of scholarship money as the winning team.
Naturally the video itself has generated a ton of controversy on YouTube.
To be fair, I haven't watched clips of any of the other teams, so I can't objectively compare their performances. But they look pretty darn good to my (admittedly unlearned) eye.
They were judged, though. I'm guessing by a PANEL of judges, not just one.
I have to wonder....
What race/ethnicity were the judges?