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Why So Few Black Ballerinas?

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8 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Even if they are only reacting to expected negative audience response, that’s still a Palmore problem, I would imagine. e.g.,

    “In Palmore, a dispute over custody of a child, the divorced mother and father were both white; the mother, who had initially been granted custody, remarried with an African American man. A local judge in Florida, citing the prejudice that a child would suffer from growing up in an interracial household, then awarded custody of the child to the father,

    saying that that action was in the best interests of the child. The Supreme Court did not question

    the trial court’s factual findings about the difficulties the child would face; indeed the Court explicitly acknowledged the “risk” that the child would be harmed.”

    But “The Court declared that “the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give … effect” to the

    “private biases” directed at the interracial couple, notwithstanding their “reality … and the injury they might inflict.”

    from

    http://www.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1041&context=ils

    Moreover, I would think aesthetic responses would be far more malleable than the types of prejudice at issue in Palmore. IF a few tastemakers start valuing diverse performers, I would think the audience would follow. Indeed, there’s often only one ballet company in a city–to whom will they defect?

  2. AYY says:

    What was the answer to the reader’s question? If it was the NY Times ethicist, I suspect, although I don’t know, that he might have told her it was okay as long as she votes the right way.

    Actually I have to wonder why someone would ask someone else (much less someone who works for the NY Times of all places) if her aesthetic preference makes her a racist. It seems to me she’s looking for external validation that she’s not a bad person.

  3. Solangel Maldonado says:

    The Ethicist replied that this does make her “a racist – not in the sense of exercising a virulent antipathy toward African-Americans but of being, like most of us, affected by feelings about race.”

    I agree that this reader probably wanted someone to tell her that is was okay to have these feelings. It is also quite telling that she does not wish to intentionally discriminate against Black dancers and is questioning her aesthetic preferences. Maybe she should read some of the literature on unconcious racism.

  4. AYY says:

    Can’t agree with your last sentence. The literature on unconscious racism is just going to get her all worked up about a problem she doesn’t show any sign of having.

    If you’re right in conveying what the Ethicist said, then he’s playing semantic games rather than answering her question. I would think that racism involves making unjustified negative generalizations. If the Ethicist defines racism the way he did, then he can call anyone he wants a racist. But then maybe his point was to try to make her feel guilty.

    Also, he has no basis to draw the conclusions he did about her. She gave no indication of being affected by feelings toward race in any way other than the most obvious ones. There was no disparagement of Black people in her aesthetic preference. She merely referred to an obvious external characteristic. So as I see it, she hasn’t shown any signs of racism, conscious or unconscious.

  5. steph says:

    Racism 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

    2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    The lady is racist. I can’t fathom why one would ever say such a comment wasn’t. Its classic racism. Now if it was a matter of a ballet being ruined because the only black dancers in the show added a different style of hip rolling, soulful movement (for example)to their steps, therefore standing out in that manner, I would understand where the lady, excuse me woman (she is in no way a lady for that defines a “well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior.” ) was coming from. In that case the event would have been an act of disrespect to long lived traditions of ballet. Sadly this was not the case for her at all. It was not the style of dance but the color of skin and/or “cultural backround” of the dancers. I say with quotations because the idea of backround in her view was most likely a stereotype. Nevertheless none of this could have been portrayed in the actual dancing. As a former dancer with training ranging from smaller to some of the most celebrated companies, my opinion is that in order for those dancers to have been chosen for such a prestigious ballet, they had to be good if not some of the best dancers in the show all together. I mean its not like the company doesn’t know of the so called “risks” of black dancers. They could never be mediocre, they would stick out like sore thumbs and encourage the very segregation that this woman would prefer. Too bad she can’t just travel back in time.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Your above comment is pretty ignorant. According to the very definition you posted I see nothing to suggest the woman is racist. She did not comment that the white dancers in the show were superior to the black dancers, merely that she was bothered by the incongruity of the difference between the dancers. Ballet, as an art form, aesthetically focuses on a conformity and unity. Generally, dancers (particularly female dancers) must be within a certain height range (5’4-5’7), most posses a specific body type, and must dance in unison. I can imagine that when trying to portray snowflakes this unity and similarity is even more important. If your offended by this style don’t watch or dance ballet, patronize another dance form. This isnt to say that racism does not exist in droves in ballet. It does. But the above example is very poor.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Your above comment is pretty ignorant. According to the very definition you posted I see nothing to suggest the woman is racist. She did not comment that the white dancers in the show were superior to the black dancers, merely that she was bothered by the incongruity of the difference between the dancers. Ballet, as an art form, aesthetically focuses on a conformity and unity. Generally, dancers (particularly female dancers) must be within a certain height range (5’4-5’7), most posses a specific body type, and must dance in unison. I can imagine that when trying to portray snowflakes this unity and similarity is even more important. If your offended by this style don’t watch or dance ballet, patronize another dance form. This isnt to say that racism does not exist in droves in ballet. It does. But the above example is very poor.

  8. Dorian says:

    Rebecca, your comment, ”If your (you’re) offended by this style don’t watch or dance ballet, patronize another dance form,” makes absolutely no sense unless you are defining style as being “for whites only.” What happened to people, having the right to participate in whatever activity they choose? The form of dance was not the problem for the reader because she never mentioned it and the dancers would not have been on stage had they not have been trustworthy or great dancers. The problem was simply skin color, “her enjoyment of “The Nutcracker” ballet had been “severely marred by the appearance of a black snowflake and then, even worse, a black Snow King.” So, crawl from under your rock and see it for what it is. I personally don’t care for ballet but my daughter is taking lessons. I’m not planning on a future in ballet for her but as a hardworking middle class black mother, I want her to explore all of her options in life regardless of the limits that “others” have in their minds for her. My point is, you can’t run from us in your neighbor hoods, jobs, or schools, so what makes ballet any different. The reader, columnist, and you are probably RACIST, but that’s America the Great! LOL

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