Samantha Bee’s witty slap down of traditional racism (February 7, 2018
Full Frontal) is the second (and by far more amusing) post on the inherent racism of square dancing I’ve seen recently. However, neither Ms. Bee nor the earlier article dug into the roots of the dance itself. Henry Ford and white school districts were undoubtedly a bunch of racist asses, but they were also unwittingly and quite ironically, perpetuating a dance that enslaved Africans had created, mocking the formal (in lines, box step, very “square”) dances that white people did. (And remember, Call and Response is our thing, according to your own experts, white people, lol; you can’t have it all ways, all the time!)
I suspect that the late, great George Michael may have exhibited a deep philosophical insight and explained the stiff, mono-rhythmic dancing found in many white enclaves when he sang, “Guilty feet have got no rhythm.” (Ahem…
Anyhow, the stolen and enslaved Africans quickly became adept with European musical instruments and boom- we were on the scene! (And probably having a few laughs back in the Quarters, at the white folks’ expense.)
And btw: the squarest Hall of American Whiteness– The Grand Old Opry- owed its early success to the popularity of one of its founding members, DeFord Bailey, grandson of enslaved Africans😉But don’t take my word for it! (thanks, Levar) Start with the short article below, then go deeper, if you’re so inclined. James Weldon Johnson has a notation on square dancing’s creation in his famous Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), and there’s James Alan McPherson’s short story, Why I Like Country Music, a sweetly romantic, yet insightful piece in terms of cultural identities. (In Elbow Room, 1986)
To be rather essentialist about it, in American culture, pretty much anything that’s fun, interesting, tastes good, or is cool (including the concept of “cool”itself, derived from the Yoruba yin-yang in the concepts of Ashe & Itutu) is probably based on or stolen directly from pan-Africans or Native Americans.
So Happy Black History Month, ya’ll: yee ha!