Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's Test Your Racism
Yes, You Too, Black Readers

If you have seen this video elsewhere, what was your initial reaction?

If you haven't, it's very important that you watch it before reading ahead.

I am so not kidding. Do it. I'll wait. You need not watch the whole thing unless you want to; a minute will be fine.

Last month, I saw this video on YouTube, and since then, a few blogs. I think it should be used as a social experiment to test for racism.

Comments I've seen show a lot of people, white and black, assume the kid is and will grow up ghetto and ignorant.

They are so into the negative stereotypes in their head that they:

- Make criticism that the child won't ever learn anything of value. They assume this simply because she dances so well before she can talk or learn her ABCs. By the way, not all black babies can do this.

- Are blind to the books in the background. Did you see them?

- Appear oblivious to the affectionate bond and the fun between the baby and teenager, perhaps an older sibling, and don't seem to value this. It's like it's irrelevant.

-State the home is dirty and ghetto. Looked like a reasonably clean apartment to me.

- Consider it irrelevant and unimportant that the baby is rhythmically gifted.

- Criticize the music and words in the song, Do Tha Stanky Leg, as though it will corrupt the baby, or that white folks didn't boogie off the Hokey Pokey for generations. You know the lyrics:

You put your right hand out, You put your right hand in, And you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, That what it's all about!

For whites who see only the negative, I think they have an underlying jealousy and feel threatened. I seriously wonder if they wonder this: If (some of) our kids can do this at barely two and still in diapers, what can they do in the sports arena or in the bed at 20?

Historically, if white men who were racist had not been so insecure and worried about white women running off with black men, they would not have passed laws to prevent this, nor did unspeakable acts of cruelty to them post-slavery right up to the 1950s. The oldest black men in my family never shook the fear of even looking a white woman clerk or waitress in the eye, well into the 1970s. As teens and young men, this simple action could result in a beating or death.

And let's not forget about Jesse Owens winning the 1936 Olympics. You may know that Hitler had some strong feelings about this. However, Jesse Owens recounted that "Hitler didn't snub me - it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." Jesse Owens was never invited to the White House nor bestowed any honors by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) or Harry S. Truman during their terms. (wikipedia)

Okay black folks, enough of them and their baggage. How about us?

For blacks who only see negativity in the video, I think they have absorbed the unconscious bigotry of whites against our own kind.

We have grown up watching mainly them on tv, in the movies, on magazine covers, billboard ads, commercials, even on the boxes of the food we buy and the products from the drug store, all of our lives.

We have learned to see the world through their eyes, and this includes the distorted way so many of them see us.

This is both good and bad - it's sort of like being bilingual where you can speak two languages. To some degree, this is called assimilation. Seeing the world from two cultures is part of this, and having this ability is necessary for optimum black survival.

For example, many of us talk a little differently when with each other, and are more reluctant in sharing our opinions or our unique brand of black humor out of fear of being misunderstood, thought ignorant or even hated.

On the other hand, over-assimilation can breed various degrees of self-hate and contempt for our own people who display behaviors that are common in our culture but not appreciated by the mainstream because it's not part of theirs.

Under-assimilation is a liability too. These are the folks most likely labeled ghetto, which is another word for low class, ignorant, and stupid. Unless they're successful in fields like music or have some unique talent, they have a tough time getting good jobs. They don't know how to dress for an interview, job, or play the Office Game if they get one. Some - not all - see rejection and contempt in every white face, and may not be particularly comfortable around blacks who know how to "talk white".

I hope this is food for thought: You know it's bad when a family having fun with their baby, doing something as simple as listening to music and dancing, is seen as threatening and/or undesirable.

If you did not see anything negative in this video negative except a concern that this well-balanced baby could possibly fall off the table and the teenager present wouldn't catch her on time, you flunked.

This doesn't mean you're a bad person, but some introspection might be in order.

Addendum, 6 AM, 11-12-2009

You might want to start with comparing this video below and the YouTube comments to the one above.

Hat Tip to Nubian Soul


  1. My first thought...dayum that baby can dance. Secondly, we used to do this all the time when we were young...maybe not this young, or maybe i don't remember, but i do remember being a child of 4 or 5 and my parents will be hosting a party or gathering and would pay my brother and i a quarter or more to dance...and we did, with great joy.

  2. At first I was like WTF, but then as I watched and saw the young man dancing with her, it reminded me of my own family. When my son is home, he and my daughter love to blast the music and have fun too.

    Hell, even I like to get up and move around! That child had moves and most certainly can dance better than me.

    Thank you for this teachable moment, if these were white folks nobody would think nothing. Yet with Black folks we have to slap assumptions on them which is sad because had I not watched the whole thing and saw the obvious affection I might have too.

    That house is not dirty by a long shot, hell houses with kids look lived in.

  3. suburban white chickNovember 11, 2009 at 4:38 PM

    I have read a few of your blog posts and I think your writing is wonderful.

    I notice you use the word "jealous" in two of the four posts I've read.

    I am not jealous when I see a small black child dancing so well to music I happen to dislike very much. I am not jealous when I see a young black male walking down the street dressed like a thug.

    I'm afraid. I have been a crime victim twice, and both times the perp was a black male(s).

    When I see a baby being encouraged to swing her hips around and squat to music that I find illiterate and confusing (stanky leg? what is on this leg to make it smell bad?), I do indeed make a negative assumption about what kind of environment she's in.

    Will she grow up to be one of the black teen girls I see walking up my street with their loud voices and sometimes their thug-looking boyfriends on their way home from school ... only to walk back down a few hours later to buy drugs from that driver that "visits" the neighborhood now and then long enough to "talk" to these girls?

    Will this baby grow up to be yet another teen mother of one or two babies?

    Who knows. All I know is I am not jealous. I'm annoyed, mad, judgemental, disgusted, sad ... pick it. But I'm not jealous.

    And trust me, if this was a white baby I'd be just as annoyed, mad, judgemental, etc. Plenty of white thugs and thugettes around too.

  4. I thought the baby was cute, had terrific rhythm and couldn't wait to show the vid to my daughter.

    She had that song at her party. I didn't like it, but I don't like most of her music, because face it, I'm old.

    However I will be throwing down to Parliament/Funkadelics on New Year's Eve, holla!

    Sigh over suburban white chick.

    Then again, I hate that hokey pokey song and their raucous, uncivilized, savage redneck music.

    To suburban white chicks, methinks squatting is only acceptable when white folks do it.

  5. since you labeled it as a racism test, you kind of defeated yourself.

    My first reaction was "That's a big "baby"." Then I tried to figure out if it was a boy or girl. Then I laughed at how serious the baby was and wondered how she learned the dance. Then I thought, "well it's not something I would teach my child, but it's not that bad."

  6. Whenever I see the word "thug" I automatically translate it to "bad nigger."

  7. Mizrepresent, My family too!

    BGIF, Thank you. Nice comment. I agree. Watching babies and teens dance is fun, and houses with kids most def look lived in!

    Big Man, Re: usage of the word thug comment. I guess you're referring to Suburban White Chick's comment. In the context she used it, one could easily think that.

    About defeating myself using the video as a test for racism? Nah. Comments on YouTube are instructive.

    Wildflower, Oooh! A Funkadelic jam on New Years Eve? Dang, that's nice. And yeah, I cosign on the rest...

    Suburban White Chick, The jealousy aspect I spoke of in this post applies more to white men than white women. You might want to re-read that section.

    I think you can add "fear" to your list. Small things have big shadows... like a baby dancing or a high school couple walking down the street, or black folks smoking weed, which should've been decriminalized decades ago and might have been if there were fewer blacks here - like in Amsterdam and Canada, since we know y'all do it too, as well as have teen sex and pregnancies. It's too bad little things trigger your fears and other negative emotions; keeps you from enjoying more people and cultures.

  8. compare it to this:

    This is a youtube video of a little white girl dancing to some African music and the praise is to high heaven by both black and white people.

    A black little girl dancing = sure degenerate

    A white little girl dancing = wow what an achievement! parents must enrol her immediately in superior dance classes because she is destined to be a great dancer.

    When I first saw the youtube video you posted, even before I played I said to myself 'oh dear, there's going to be a big deal made about some lil black girl doing dance moves bringing down 'the race' or having no future e.t.c.

    I'm tired of people who want us to be soo uptight and have no life because they want to prove to white people that we are 'good folks'. If they had their wy, we would be like robots.

    I thought the baby was cute, could move and damn it is just a baby having fun. If i were her parents I'd be enrolling her in dance classes asap.

  9. I agree with BM that when I see the word thug in my mind I am hearing nigga.

    I am glad that Suburban White Chick replied because I think she definitely gives a lot of food for thought.

    I have been in Maine going on 8 years and I sure as hell see more than enough white kids dressed like a thug or as I joke, wanna be gangsters.

    Its funny because obviously in my day to day life, I see plenty of white folks and see my friends kids doing cute dancing yet it would never be percived in the same way that when black kids do it, its seen an a negative.

    Living here and working with the population that I do (low income at risk kids and their families) I can say that every behavior that Suburban ascribed to Blacks, I see daily but with white folks. Hell, my best friend still freaks out over the stories I share since he is always like these are white folks?

    Hell, I think I blogged last year about the cats who go hustling around here...the media would have us think only Black folks and POC of color engage in certain, no darling.

    Anyhoo, let me be quiet. I am enjoying quiet time and need to get off the computer. LOL

  10. you know what is more annoying..
    when it gets to black people.. some white people all of a sudden become soo damn literally.

    You know, that dude who is dressed like a thug?. really which one?
    you mean the white guy in the $4,000 dollar suit who steals my money before I have the chance to earn it?

    or is it the thug in a police uniform wielding a gun and demanding that I prove why I am walking on the street.

    or is it the thug in the straight jeans, converse sneakers, coke bottle glasses who is a serial killer

    and when it comes to drugs... puhlease. White kids are coke heads, they free base like it;s going out of fashion, just go to white clubs.. its no big deal there.
    Weed is like just a 'okay I'll manage it' drug. they are too busy off their faces on E's, ketamine, tranquilisers, MDA.

    I'm tired of people justifying their racism by ridiculousness. Surburban white chick should be afraid. i hope you keep being afraid of black people. run across the road, jump over ledges when you see us. Run, run like the wind...

  11. Soul, Thanks for the YouTube link to the little white girl dancing to African music. I just watched it. Man o man, the contrast in comments is a case study in race. Only one negative one, and that was a concern that a perv might snatch her off the street.

    Just read your 2nd comment, and talking about speaking truth, you nailed it. Reminds me of this riddle: What do you call meeting between Wall Street bankers or investors?

    A crime in progress.

    BGIM, I see you came back too. I wonder if people like Suburban White Girl have a clue to how misperceptions like hers, of us, is so upsetting, from the not listening to latching on one or two things and ignoring everything else.

    Well, eff it. I'm more concerned with how we pass or fail the test than them. Until most of us pass, the divide and conquer strategy will have won.

  12. suburban white chickNovember 11, 2009 at 7:06 PM

    Soul writes, "I'm tired of people justifying their racism by ridiculousness. Surburban white chick should be afraid. i hope you keep being afraid of black people. run across the road, jump over ledges when you see us. Run, run like the wind..."

    That's pretty funny. That's the kind of thing I would write.

    It's heroin being sold in my neighborhood, not pot. We're working with the police on this and thankfully there's been some "snitchin." I don't care about pot as I don't think people are committing many crimes over it, not the kind that worry me anyway (the kind I've experienced personally). Like I said, I wouldn't be too keen on the white thugs buying heroin right in front of my house either, but in this case it's black teen girls.

    Oh and Wildflower, I can't stand hillbilly music either. I'm always surprised when I find out that my peers/colleagues listen to country music. But that's me being elitist. "Hating my own kind?" No, just having my own tastes. . And yes, the Hokey Pokey is dumb but it allows old people to "dance" with little kids at weddings. Shrug.

    Yes Kit, I get I now. You are discussing male jealously.

    So, just to attempt to clarify, I am not "afraid of blacks." My neighborhood is not all white; maybe 60/40. What makes me uneasy is thug culture, and that's what I see in the video. Sorry. Cute little baby, amazing athlete in the making. But yuck that music.

  13. @surburban white chick.

    thanks for endorsing my humour, without you to do that, who knows, someone else might have actually read it and 'shock horror'! understood that it wasn't a joke.

    And nope, don't believe it's something you would write, because, u haven't written anything like that.

    Moving on, I don't care what is being sold in your neighbourhood. What is obvious and what you will refuse to confront and will deny to high heavens is your disgusting racism.

    You see thug culture in the way a baby is dancing?.
    really? the problem is squarely with you.

    Where's the thug culture? I guess we all can't see that '9' hanging out of her diaper.

    And yeah, let me guess, your friends smoke weed, right? that's why you can write it off as ohh it doesn't cause as much damage... pure BS.

    And white kids are still doing more heroin than black kids.. crystal meth had to damn near slap people in the face before they started getting serious about it because as usual it takes awhile to for white popular dangerous drugs to 'be tackled with'.

    You know, you think you are elitist, you are not. you are simply ignorant and closed.

    I'll borrow a phrase from another blogger..
    As that great negro poet Weezy once said..
    'if its too simple, then y'all don't get the basics'.

    If there is one thing that you need to learn, it is this:
    'you do not get to define for others what is what,that ended along ass time ago'.

    I'd say, I can't believe you could see thug culture in a baby, but then .. you are a white woman, engaged and firmly entrenched in your could you not see a lil baby as a thug.
    what's shocking is that you are not wondering around declaring black fetuses thugs.
    or maybe that's next in line?

  14. @KIT
    no problem...
    There other examples out there of lil white girls and boys doing dance routines for laughs and giggles..
    everyone laughs or commends them or praises them for their rhythm.
    People don't post comments saying these babies remind them of the white trash, pregnant at 12, crystal meth addicted, street whores in run down white ghettos.

    No-one is talking/dissecting britney spears 'hit me baby one more time'.
    I mean we can all play the 'literl game'.
    Why is she dressed in a school uniform asking men to hit her.. totally ghetto!. destructive and cheap.
    i mean its such an epidemic amongst white folks.. you can even see it with her sister having a baby at how old was she again.....

    You'd think it was just the lower classes, but didn't Sarah Palin's daughter also get knocked up at whatever age... Bush was a cokehead, and his twins were drunks.. it must be all that trashy pop music they listen to that leads to them growing up like that.

    Oh my and the dancing!
    Have you seen them 'throwing shapes' it's demonic, these people grow up to become devil worshippers and paganists. you can see it in the way they throw shapes and do jerky movements on the dance floor.

    ignore the wannabe elitist concern troll.
    urrgh, they'd claim to listen to 'just jazz' or 'blues' or some other old school type music like that's supposed to be some kind of enlightened format, forgetting that they are simply repeating the thigs their parents did... which was diss black music of the present time because they couldn't understand it.

    Bet she doesn't view that white girl dancing to African music as 'thuggish'.

    kmt* why do these people try to invent 1001 reasons why they are not racist when the first thing out of their mouths is racist.

  15. suburban white chickNovember 11, 2009 at 7:38 PM

    Kit, you write,

    "What do you call meeting between Wall Street bankers or investors?

    A crime in progress."

    The difference is the 4K suit thugs aren't going to come into my house and hurt my person and shoot my person.

    Will they TAKE my house? Now that is a good question.

    "...I wonder if people like Suburban White Girl have a clue to how misperceptions like hers, of us, is so upsetting, from the not listening to latching on one or two things and ignoring everything else."

    What misperceptions?

    I am sincerely sorry if what I think and wrote was upsetting. I will never know how it feels because I'm not black. But I think I'm more empathetic than a lot of "us" (whatever "us" means.)

    "Well, eff it. I'm more concerned with how we pass or fail the test than them. Until most of us pass, the divide and conquer strategy will have won."

    What test? That if a black person sees that video and doesn't like it for various reasons, he or she is automatically a "self-hater?"

    You know, I come from what many would call a white trash background. I really, really hate bad grammar. Does that mean I'm disrespecting my culture? Because I was raised in a family of nonreaders who are all uneducated.

    I've "assimilated" with the educated, language-loving whites. Sounds like survival to me, not self-hate.

    Or does this analogy just not work at all, so it's not worth doing the comparison?

    It's interesting to me, the accusations of racism. You recall your grandparents (I think) having to worry about looking a white woman in the eye because the white men were so jealous. So today, decades later, you suspect that white males continue to have this jealousy, and that's why they don't like the looks of "thuggy" looking black males. Isn't that racism too?

    (by the way, if my point of view is not welcome here I will leave and not be offended.)

  16. Suburban white chickNovember 11, 2009 at 7:42 PM

    OK, Soul, Kit, etc.

    I see I posted too soon.

    Nice meeting you all, bye.

  17. My first reaction was what a cute baby. My second reaction is holy cow that cute baby can dance.

    Then I noticed that she was dancing with probably her older brother--also a gifted dancer--and it was obvious the love and admiration babygirl had for bigbrother/cousin and how she emulated him. My own great-nephew ADORES my 10yo Sun and tried to do EVERYTHING he does. In this case my boy's not that great a dancer (takes after his momma) but he used to do karate and great-nephew emulated all his katas.

    But since this was a racist test (and really.. I think it should have been labeled "cultural stereotypes") I stopped to think about the music.

    I happened to be at a birthday party recently in which "Stanky Leg" was played, and babies and teens alike joined in the fun. At Suburban White Chick... truly... you need to work on that fear. KIT is right... see past your own fear to note the books, the computer, the nice dining room table, the obvious love in the family and think that maybe, just maybe, this is a baby dancing to a very simple beat. Nothing more. You have nothing to fear but fear itself. I'm sorry you were mugged twice by black men (but maybe you should be more self-aware and see those idiots running up on you before they get to you). I mean, I've had to get over my fear of being labeled or denied jobs because of the color of my skin (coffee brown) or who I hang out with (a lot of folks who dance the Stanky Leg). And even though just the other day, my Sun's darkbrown music teacher told a story about how she was in an all-(Irish) neighborhood in the Bronx NY for a class and someone started chanting "KFC, KFC" (implying she should go eat fried chicken rather than the diner she was in), really, I don't think all white people are racist. Hell, my Sun's father identifies as "white".

    As for "Stanky Leg"... it has nothing to do with smell... it's more to do with the fact that the leg is made to be elastic. And the song is in the same genre as "Chicken Noodle Soup" a few years back; a simple ditty that has a specific dance to go along with it. They have contests over this; who does the best "Chicken Noodle Soup" or the best "Stanky Leg". Kind of how when you "Shake it all about" in Hokey Pokey. Or how some people in the mountains have clogging contests while they dance to "Turkey in the Straw".

    Which brings me to culture... I've been thinking about how a lot of African traditions that are natural to us, that have been handed down in families and adapted to our modern life are used against us as stereotypes. They did that to my Native cousins, too. Made to feel ashamed of their language, their customs, their dress. It's how the European used us against us to make us doubt ourselves and turn against each other, making it easier to conquer and divide us. Us brownskinned folk should take a leaf from our Native cousins/relatives and take back what's ours. With pride.

    And do that Stanky Leg.

    Oh, and I've stopped reading the comments on YouTube. The Gollums hiss and slither and make my stomach turn... I refuse to give them the light they so desperately crave.

  18. Oh, and P.S. For what it's worth I don't like the music either. But it does make me laugh because it's silly and nonsensical.

  19. To all readers: I didn't expect this firestorm.

    How are we to bridge the communication gap if we don't share our perspectives, between the races or among each other?

    Suburban White Chick, you may or may not return, but I don't mind if you do.

    You may be too young(?) or just not know what divide & conquer means to black folks. Bear Maiden said it well. Read her comment.

    It dates back to slavery, although before then in other cultures. If one group can split another via in-fighting, they win. We see it families, cultures, politics and nations.

    I was not surprised at the negativity from so many whites on YouTube and elsewhere, but I was surprised and appalled at it, over a baby dancing of all things, from my own people. I personally see this as a problem and remnants and evidence of divide & conquer, ie a complexion issue during slavery and a class issue since MLK.

    Soul, Re: to SWC, "You see thug culture in the way a baby is dancing?. really? the problem is squarely with you. Where's the thug culture? I guess we all can't see that '9' hanging out of her diaper.

    That was on point for anyone who flunks the test, and hilarious to boot.

    Bear Maiden, I've talked with Wildflower about this off-line. For many, it's a genuine blindspot.

    I've also gotten to know whites who grew up as 'hillbillies'. I had some preconceived notions and fears about them too. They turned out to be quite cool.

    My point is, we all carry cultural baggage. Introspection helps lighten the load.

  20. No need to leave Suburban. You expressed your opinion, everyone else has the right to do the same.

    As far as the video goes, my reaction had nothing to do with race. I thought it was damn cute BUT since children imitate their elders, I initially thought someone is doing a little too much dancing when they should be doing a little more working. Then, I saw the teenager and I too made a wrong assumption. She is imitating an older sibling most likely and WTH is wrong with that? It was cute.

    Some people have too much time on their hands that they need to troll around the net making ugly biased comments and assumptions.

    As far as Heroine goes, it was first introduced by the BAYER corporation in the early 1900's. And you can bet your pretty pink ass that the company didn't have a single black CEO.

    Suburban I am sorry you were the victim of any crime but because of your misfortune you are classifying black people as a whole, automatically assuming they are all "thuggish". This is the same as assuming all white are redneck trailer trash. There are bad seeds in every culture. Seek help if you need to but move on.

    I'm white. Who gives a shit?

  21. Tri-State, Hmmm, I had to look up on Google blogs to see what you meant about Heroine and Bayer.

    Many people don't realize that heroin is actually a brand name. When it was first tested on workers at Bayer, some claimed it made them feel “heroic,” a term used by chemists to describe any strong drug. Source: Ten Fun Facts About Heroin

    Dayum. Those poor workers. Thank you for that and your input.

  22. I think this is a really interesting post, Kit, and I'd actually like to thank you for it, because I take as a "lesson," just as much as a "test."

    I'm a white American, and that means that I'm trained to see white and black people differently. More to the point, I've been unconsciously trained to trust unfamiliar white people and fear unfamiliar black people. So as I watched this video, I eventually got around to seeing it as the innocent, harmless fun that you see it as.

    But, I'm willing to admit that it took awhile for me to see it that way. I think I did see blackness first, and heard "that" music, and saw "that" kind of dancing. And so, at first, certain feelings were triggered -- associations, ones that I've been taught to feel when I encounter poor, urban, and thus supposedly dangerous black people. I'm still more likely to have words like "thug" come to mind with black people in such a situation, words that don't come to mind when I enounter white people basically doing the same damn things.

    However, I think I have come to recognize, with a lot of hard, "anti-racist" work on myself, that 1) while those trained, unwarranted, and racist feelings are deeply embedded in me, and they're still going to kick in sometimes, 2) I can push past those feelings, and look more realistically at the human beings in front of me. And so, after a minute or so, I was watching this baby dancing and just having fun, and I was soon thinking, well, cool, that DOES look like simple, innocent fun. (And yes Kit, I think this particular white male did feel some jealousy too -- I wish my suburban middle-class family had been able to relax enough to have what looks like joyous, full-bodied fun -- we never danced together, at all.) (And no, I don't think now that all black people dance better and all that, etc.)

    I also really appreciate soul's comparison of the other video, which I've seen before. And yes, none of those feelings about "thugs" or corruption of this young child came to mind when I watch that video, and that has everything to do with that girl's whiteness.

    I'm glad that I can now see these two videos as basically the same, wonderful thing, even though I've been trained not to.

  23. I finally got around to watching that other girl dance. Holy Cow! I wish I could dance like that! But I find it very interesting that she's French. Meaning... not suffering from quite the same racial hangups American's do. Although they have theirs, too...

  24. Macon, Thank you for being so specific about why it's so dang difficult for some white folks to overcome obstacles their feelings of racism - and for acknowledging the validity of Soul's points.

    I really try to be diplomatic, but sometimes you have to be blunt to get those points across.

    Bear Maiden, Yeah, I'm glad you watched that other YouTube video and read the comments.

    I challenge anyone with hard feelings about the black baby dancing to watch and read the comments of the white kid doing the same and ask themselves, what's the difference?

  25. @KIT.
    Seriously, I don't see the firestorm.

    What I do see is a typical white reaction.
    Let's really cut everything down to brasstacks here.
    White surburban chick wasn't trying to engage.. she was trying to justify her racism and get black people to agree with her that it is justified.

    I mean really, do people not get how entrenched in her psyche that racist crap is...
    She sees thug culture in a little baby in diapers!

    Instead of recoiling in disgust at her own prejudice.. no no no!. She attempts to justify it because:

    1) 'she has 'emlightened tastes' in music

    2) her neighbourhood has a heroin problem

    3) she was mugged twice by a black person

    Anything... any excuse, than to confront the ugliness inside that jeez. she branded a baby in diapers a thug.
    There is no dialogue to be had here. She doesn't and you would be wasting your time to even attempt it.

    I am sick and tired of white degrading us all in the name of ohhhh I was mugged! my neighbourhood is bad.
    oh and the drug of choice amongst me and my friends is not dangerous..malarky

    Didn't anyone catch that. So damn predictable..urrghh.

    The day I ever look at a baby and declare the baby is a thug is the day I know I need help.

    surburban white chick gets absolutely no dialogue or sympathy from me.

  26. Soul, As I said a couple comments up, "I really try to be diplomatic, but sometimes you have to be blunt to get those points across.

    Sometimes neither my approach or yours helps people like SWC "get it". Other times a combination of both do. I remember when this culture was far more sexist. Mixed approaches in dialogues like this were the candles that brought a lot men - and women - out of darkness.

    So it's not sympathy, it's hope that maybe one person will see the light and change. May not even be her, but instead, a lurker. That's all I hope for. No more, no less.

  27. @KIT..

    I understand. I put my hand in the air and admit I have completely lost patience at this stage of my life.

    You are right, there needs to be a different sound for people like SWG to hear and I have to admit that I'm just too tired to produce that beat anymore.

    I'm in my early thirties and I am tired. I'm just tired of it.
    I apologise to you KIT for not being patient enough on your blog.
    My apologies.

    No hard feelings? (smile)

  28. Soul, Oh hell no. Nothing to apologize for, and I mean that. I said different approaches are needed to tackle blindness like racism, sexism, or any of the other "isms" or phobias that wound us repeatedly. For that, I thank you.

    Lemme add that I also appreciate that Suburban White Chick dared to share her feelings. I can generally spot a troll, and I could be wrong, but I don't think she was one.

    I think she has gaps in perception and understanding, due to what Macon was talking about in his comment, i.e. how they were trained to view race. Learning how to see things from another's perspective is as hard as learning a new language, and there lies one of the problems.

  29. This post is right on the money, Kit, in ALL its specifics. And the video is SO sociological. Kids learn pretty much everything by watching other people. If this little sweetie was playing the piano, folks would call her a prodigy. She's dancing instead, but that doesn't reduce the magnitude of her skill, just the area of her expertise. And the interchange between her and the teenager is a perfect example of the imitation I'm talking about. What was my immediate reaction? I was imagining mom coming home after leaving Baby home with her older siblings, watching the video, and squeeling, "You let that baby dance on the TABLE?!? What are you -- CRAZY!?!" I haven't had any little ones for a long time, but I'm still a mother. ;^)

  30. Well, you got me. Although I was immediately concerned as to whether or not that baby would fall off the table, I did see it as "ghetto" behavior. After reading through all the comments I realized that this was mainly due to the song. If that had been dancing to some Motown hits it would have been all good, but the song just made me cringe.

    This is due to my own upbringing--my mom was the church choir director, my siblings and I took lessons in piano and violin. We didn't have cable tv, so in our spare time we did Girl and Boy Scouts, played at the park after school, did arts and crafts projects and the like. We weren't allowed to listen to much mainstream radio or any music that came with a parental advisory label on the front; all our rap CDs were the edited version. But since I grew up listening to mostly gospel, jazz, classical and old school R&B music it has very much shaped my idea of what constitutes "real" or "valuable" music.

    I've made some strides in the sense that I don't assume everyone who likes the Stanky Leg, etc is stupid. It's meant to fun party music, not a symphonic suite! Still, I have mixed feelings about exposing young children to music with crude lyrics. But thank you Kit for bringing that to my attention; this post was definitely food for thought.

  31. I did initially think it was ghetto not because of the surroundings but because of the choice of song and the fact that the baby was standing on the table dancing while someone was taping it. I won't pretend my kids don't stand on the couch or the table but this is behavior I discourage. I couldn't see myself posting a video of them on the table no matter how cutely they were dancing. I'd have to remove them from the table and then catch the action while they were safely on the floor. But I didn't see anything wrong with the dancing at all. I regularly tape my kids dancing and I listen to all kinds of things from Jay-Z to Nina Simone (and now realize I have to skip Mississippi Goddamn after my first son started yelling it at any given time). We practically memorized the dances to Diva and Sweet Dreams by Beyonce.

    I don't know if it's because I've absorbed racist stereotypes that I first saw the video this way. But I did have that gut reaction--maybe it's the place I live . . .too often, the stereotypes match the actuality unfortunately. I wonder will this baby be exposed to any other kind of music. I hear the accents. See the older brother/cousin with low hung pants and no shirt. And I wonder.

    I'll tell you what, though . . . seeing the baby's older brother/cousin dancing with him really, really softened how I viewed the whole thing. And truth be told, I don't mind a little "ghettoness" from time to time--there's a realness there and I'm not too far removed from my days growing up in the South Bronx to not appreciate it at times for what it is.

    It sounded like everyone was having fun. So who could be mad? That baby is gifted in dance . . . I mean mimicking to a tee! He can't be more than 2 years old. I was impressed.

    And I totally ignore You Tube comments these days.

  32. Changeseeker, ...the video is so sociological. Kids learn pretty much everything by watching other people...

    Yes, starting with their family and onto their community, then the larger world they have never experienced except through various medias which is full of good and bad information and stereotypes.

    Maybesomaybeno & Original Wombman, Amazing how our and our parents experience with music affects us. You each mentioned it was the song that triggered negative feelings, and one felt that if it had been an R&B or Motown music it would have been okay.

    Did you know that up thru the 1970s that kind of music was segregated on the radio? Or that the white majority then thought of it the way many of them now perceive hiphop, or it's tougher cousin, rap?

    I darn sure do, and it's only until they embrace it that it's considered "acceptable", and for us, "safe" to enjoy without being negatively stereotyped.

    Every form of music we ever invented and bringing our use of the drums with us from Africa was initially rejected. The thinking always broke down to sex, that "it's too sexual." This even included jazz... can you imagine?

    Again and again, it's been the youth from every generation that paved the way for new genres of music. In our culture, they fight not only with their parents and the middle aged and older blacks, but with the white majority - who uses our music like ammo to reject and oppress us.

    For example: My uncle can now get stopped for a broken tail light and be blasting The Temptations, and chances are, nothing will happen.

    Just let my 21 year old son and a buddy get pulled over for the same thing and be blasting Lil Wayne or Soldja Boy music from the video, and there's a better chance they'll end up sitting on the side of the road while the car is searched.

    Now hit the rewind button to when same uncle was boogeying in his car in the 1960s to the good old Temptations. He was told to turn that nigger shit off or get his ass beat.

  33. I have to admit, my first reaction was the image of a "Gangsta Rap"-Video on MTV. Then again, what I saw ma be more connected with my view of the music, not of the race: it'S easier to see "Black Rap Video" when seeing a black kid dance. The white girl actually started out more like "why do you do this to her...", but I feel it more conencted to age and context: the first one actually seemed to do it for fun, the second one seemed more likely to be pressured by her mother to do her "great dance, yes sweety, you are so cute!".
    Bad grammar, but I hope it gets the point across ;).
    By the way, "Thug" to me more involves the image of a huge mediaval robber...
    In case this seems strange: I am from Germany, so the cultural background does vary greatyl from the American one especially when it comes to racism AND I simply mostly come along the word "Thug" in novels ;).
    Still, I agree that seeing a black kid and a white kid doing the same thing can easily get two totally different reactions. Often, we are simply not even aware of when we fall for stereotypes.

  34. 'The thinking always broke down to sex, that "it's too sexual." This even included jazz... can you imagine?'

    Jazz Sexual? Hmm... interesting, never felt that one.
    Also, sexual does not always equal bad, I think. Sexual can also show love of life, awareness of ones body, awareness of oneself. In a way, it is a pity we seems to have lost a lot of the ability to see that aspect, too.

  35. My first reaction was that I thought the video was adorable and I was amazed at the baby's skill. I drafted an email to send the link to my boyfriend with the commentary "This baby is a much better dancer than I will ever be." Then I wondered why this was a racial litmus test. So I kept reading. I honestly didn't consider AT ALL what this child's future will I went to the comments on the YouTube page, as they were mentioned, and then I felt like vomiting. And sending the link doesn't seem as fun anymore. Although, insofar as its use in showcasing racial prejudice and hatred, it's invaluable - as is this post. As a white person I also must confront the way I draw conclusions about others based on race, but in moments like these I feel - being white, and surrounded by a generally Liberal group - sheltered from reality - in a bad way. Thanks for this post.

  36. I'm one of the white viewers who was inclined to: "Criticize the music and words in the song, Do Tha Stanky Leg, as though it will corrupt the baby" and I would add "or corrupt the young man." I'm still not over it. Google led me to the urban dictionary entries for "stanky leg" and I was not amused. Maybe I'm missing the point of the song or maybe I need to "light up" and "stop being so sensitive." So, out of the six categories of stereotype you found from the white commenters, one applies to me.

    As I said on Macon D's site, I'll never be able to see either of these videos as purely innocent fun, because of what I perceive as misogyny being pushed onto kids. I am also still pondering whether the second video displays cultural appropriation.

  37. Linda L, There is a selective literalness, a streak of Puritanism, and a rigidity about what you said that is disturbing. It's colder here that at Macon's blog, who is also doing this theme. And as for your comment, "I am also still pondering whether the second video displays cultural appropriation", I am so glad that you don't run the world.

    Amanda, You said, " I went to the comments on the YouTube page, as they were mentioned, and then I felt like vomiting."

    Horrible, aren't they? Amazing how much hate has been pouring out under the cloak of anonymity. I think many of them are the kind of people who look the other way in the event of a new holocaust, or openly justify and support it. Betcha they look perfect normal on the bus or next to you at work. That's what's scary to me.

    Trish, Re: jazz. Me either, but that's part of the history of it's emergence and I remember that. Otherwise thanks, and I agree.

  38. I had emailed this to Kit instead of commenting because it was a little too much all about me (way off topic!) but Kit suggested it was worth posting, so here goes:

    Hi Kit,

    I'm the Karen L (or Linda L) whose comment about the dancing kids video you found cold and Puritanical. I agree with your reaction, I even FELT rigid while I was writing it. Though I am sorry that it was so rigid that it was disturbing.

    I think that I was being so rigid because I'm new to testing my racism and, yeah, I was being really calculated about what I was saying because I don't know you and your readers and I was afraid to open myself up to genuine, legitimate criticism. I'm not yet comfortable about being uncomfortable with challenging my racism. Probably means I should have shut up for a while but I didn't. Sorry.

    Thanks for calling me out. Moral of the story for me: if I can't be frank with my comments, they probably aren't furthering the conversation any.

    As for the thing about cultural appropiation, well, I'm just confused about cultural appropriation and I was meta-gaming the racism test: I figured I was "supposed to find the racism" in each video. Cultural appropriation was the best I could come up with. If I'm totally honest, I was selfishly hoping that someone was going to jump in and explain to me why it was or wasn't - which isn't anybody's job, of course and I "knew better" than to ask.

    So keep hoping that I never run the world because 1) I'm evidently clueless and 2) I'm not much fun at a party. I was serious when I said probably I need to lighten up.

    Sorry and Thanks again,

  39. Karen, Thanks, and also for what you said in your follow up email: "Mission accomplished with generating introspection."

    Examining our personal beliefs under a microscope is tough for anyone b/c our identity is tied to them. Thanks to all of any race who dares to try.

  40. I believe that the claim of possible cultural appropriation should not be so glibly dismissed, that it at least deserves a fair amount of serious consideration because of the different sociocultural background. The girl is not White American but White French, and the dance & music are not African American but African, specifically Ivorian.

    I find it interesting that Bear Maiden gives the impression that French “racial hang-ups” are somehow less than ones in the U.S. (I appreciate that she said they have different hang-ups, but the phrasing seemed to me to convey that they were different but also less significant.) The thing is…they’re not.

    There’s a great story on this blog telling of an experience in France in which a public official (rail networks in France are operated by the gov't enterprise SNCF) screamed at a woman for nearly 5 minutes about her being a stupid African woman…and no one acted like anything out of the ordinary was happening. It’s unfortunately reminiscent of my own extended stay in France this past summer where although nothing of this magnitude occurred, everyday was peppered with comments of “he/she’s a black/Arab, *conspiratorial smile* what more can be expected?

    Additionally, one cannot disregard, ignore, or relegate to the irrelevant past the protracted history of colonialism in France. There are very painful and still valid reasons the official language of the Côte d’Ivoire is French rather than Dioula or any of the other ~65 native languages, and why the nation of Côte d’Ivoire even exists in the first place rather than the Abron, Kong, Baoulé, Indénié, and Sanwi kingdoms. The legacy of this colonialism still affects Ivorians in myriad ways, much like how the legacy of slavery still affects African Americans as you point out so well in a number of your posts. This legacy expresses itself in a variety of ways, not the least of which is through the Coupé-Décalé music and dance. Coupé-Décalé was created by Ivorian immigrants in Paris expressing their experiences of “couper, décalér, travailler” of “to cheat, run away, work/distribute their gains” as well as their success, which could not be found in their native Côte d’Ivoire. Coupé-Décalé then gained popularity and took on socio-political statements in the Côte d’Ivoire as the military and political situation there largely destabilized.

    For this young white French girl to be performing Coupé-Décalé is not definitively cultural appropriation, but that she quite comfortably does so (most likely) without any knowledge of its history and sociopolitical connotations, without any understanding of Ivorian history, suffering and rising above, and her country’s significant part in that suffering is something that bears consideration because being able to divorce an art/philosophy/aesthetic from the “inconvenient” and “superficial” influences of culture, history, the people that created it has always come from a place of privilege.

  41. Liriel, you said, "her country’s significant part in that suffering is something that bears consideration..."

    That's an interesting historical point, but what if her mother's boyfriend or friends are African, or if she has African relatives by marriage? She didn't learn that dance in a vacuum, you know?

    The link to the irate French train conductor yelling at the African woman with a poorly sealed box of fish in her lap seems irrelevant. At what point is okay for any people to move past the past and enjoy the best of all cultures?

    Shall we throw away all of our merchandise and clothes made in China if we ever go to war with them? Can't I dance to music made by non-black artists? Should racist whites in need of a blood transfusion refuse one because Dr. Charles Drew invented this technique? Do we give up the radio, invented by Heinrich Hertz, if we don't like the Germans?

    The list is endless, making the whole "cultural appropriation" argument bullshit.

  42. Suburban white chick said:
    "Cute little baby, amazing athlete in the making."

    I'm just coming across this thread, but as I was reading through the comments, I was hoping that someone would have addressed this comment, or that SWC would have explained her athlete statement.

  43. Awwww, what a cute little Baby Girl!!

    I'm not sure I would have put her on Youtube given the racist comments that I've seen there on a regular basis (don't know who moderates their comments), but I see nothing even mildly vulgar or inappropriate about this video.

    By the way, since I cannot stomach most rap songs, I watched the video on mute.

  44. Suburban white chick said:
    "Cute little baby, amazing athlete in the making."

    I'm just coming across this thread, but as I was reading through the comments, I was hoping that someone would have addressed this comment, or that SWC would have explained her athlete statement



    What I meant by that was simply this -- this is a very coordinated child/baby. I would expect that -- if she CHOOSES to do so -- she could be a very good soccer player or gymnast or figure skater or hurdle jumper or whatever other sport will be popular in 5-10-15 years.

    In my grade school there were three brothers who were incredibly gifted in the same way. They could throw with more accuracy, run faster, do skateboard tricks better, kick the ball higher, etc. than ANY of the other kids. All three of them.

    The brothers were white, by the way.

    Was there something wrong with what I wrote? With connecting her coordination in dancing with athletic ability?

  45. Single White Chick, I'm glad you're doing enough introspection to want to know. When genuine, this is tough learning to see the world from a different perspective, much like learning a new language.

    To answer your last question regarding Saran's comment, from my point of view, no, nothing's wrong with noting that a child is gifted in some ability. HOWEVER, in context of the other things you said linking black crime and drug abuse to a baby dancing with her family, it appears to have come across as a one of those sneaky insults disguised as a compliment.

    It's sort of like someone who sees a gay man doing something cool, but then starts talking about them spreading AIDS, or sees a photos of a Christian baptism and starts talking about the bloody Crusades and spreading wars, or a man who has a new older woman for a boss, but says she's competent because she doesn't get PMS like younger chicks, or meeting someone from West Virginia and saying, you're smarter than I'd expect considering your hillbilly roots.

    As they say, timing is everything. So is context. I hope this helps.

  46. suburban white chickNovember 24, 2009 at 5:15 PM


    Thanks. Yes, that makes sense.

    I just wondered if "athlete" was a loaded term for some reason.

    I hope Saran sees what I replied to his/her post.

  47. Okay, I couldn't hear the music, but anybody seriously thought this was anything but a doodlegoose hamming it up with big brother? Ime all little kids love to dance, and they love it even more when you dance with them, and the music can be rock, classical, badly warbled by those present, whatever. She's going to grow up all 'ghetto and ignorant' and never learn anything of value? Somebody really got all this out of a three-minute film of a toddler dancing? That seriously weirds me out. Darrin

  48. Anonymous @5:17, I couldn't agree more; just goes to show you how ignorant, sick and evil racism is, and really oozes in the comments where it's posted on YouTube.

  49. Hi Kit, I have just discovered and loved your blog. I am a community college instructor in the psych department. I am teaching a class on human adjustment and we are currently discussing self-knowledge and how it benefits us to know our prejudices and therefore work to rid ourselves of them. I am going to use this video and your commentary in class if you are okay with that. Thanks.


Hi, this is Kit.

I haven't posted since summer 2010, and comment moderation has been on for a very long time.

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