Ballet is, culturally speaking, a European dance. That a black person (really…she’s multi-racial — African-America, German and Italian) would become a ballerina is only striking in that she chose a culturally non-aligned field of interest and that only so if she was of pure African escent. It is not interesting or remarkable that a black person would excel at ballet simply because of her race. It is more interesting that she mastered this skill and was talented enough to do so having started at a late age. What seems to have been discounted is her German and Italian heritage. Apparently, if one is “Black” or “African America,” no other part of one’s heritage is of consequence. That seems odd to me. Why would I acknowledge one part of me and not the others. I don’t believe that Ms. Copeland is guilty of this. However, it seems that the rest of the world has forgotten that Ms. Copeland is a complete human being and not just broken or scattered and discarded pieces.
Am I to become excited when the first White person becomes a master at some African dance or cultural interest/skill? Perhaps, we should go back and seek out the first White person to master the banjo, the first White person to master the canoe, the first White person to master Arabic belly dance, the first White person to master Chinese calligraphy. Hell, the list could go on and on. We could move on to the Asian peoples and Arabic peoples and find the first of those persons to master non-culturally aligned talents and skills.
I refuse to congratulate her based on the color of her skin. Personally, I believe that this belittles her accomplishment.
QUICK: Someone name the first White person to master some skill or activity that Black people invented? Oh…that’s right. No one cares.
Actually, many people complain when White people co-opt or borrow some non-White cultural dance, music or other cultural talent, skill or development. (21 April 2015 Edit: Now they’re calling this #CulturalAppropriation. However, it seems to be cultural appropriation if a White person does something that Black people did such as a hairstyle or hip hop dancing/music.)
So a Black woman excels at Ballet. Awesome! But should I really congratulate her because she was Black or because she dances beautifully and her talent takes the breath away. Can’t I simply appreciate that she is a beautifully skilled human being?