I’m a dance dad. While I’m not standing outside the studio yelling at my daughter to get in formation or tighten up those pirouettes, I do find myself at dance class at least once a week and, on special occasions, twice a week. See, my daughter has been taking dance lessons since, I believe, she was 2 years old. She is now 7, which means she’s been in the game for years and it made her an animal. She’s taken tap and ballet classes and has done a tremendous job with her fundamentals.
She’s moved to the point where they assign students to different classes based on their skill levels. My daughter, in her awesomeness, was able to be placed in the higher-skill-level classes for both tap and ballet. Proud-dad alert.
Except there was another class she was interested in.
Let me take you back a few years. Every year the dance school she’s a part of has an annual recital. During her first year, after her performance, a class walked onto the stage in Adidas tracksuits and sneakers. I don’t remember what song came on, but it was probably some new-age-pop-meets-EDM concoction and the kids onstage started break dancing. My daughter was mesmerized. For, like, the entire next year, she’d break out into random moves she somehow remembered from that one three-minute routine she saw. Not only that, but she had the attitude. She caught the hip-hop bug.
Snap back to reality, and this year she was eligible to take a hip-hop class. We enrolled her, and after her first class, the teacher decided that she was going to be bored at that level, so they moved her up to the next level.
My daughter’s energy was so trill that she was ahead of the class we put her in, but in the new class? She was going to have to work harder, since the other kids are, technically, a level ahead.
This is where things get dicey. See, my daughter is one of two black kids in this hip-hop class. And saints and aints, I need you to bow your head in prayer and sanctification and understand my testimony: My daughter and the other black child are not the best ones in the class.
I don’t know if it’s my blackness creeping on a come-up or what, but I feel with my whole heart that my daughter (and the other black child, natch) should be outchea doing it like they’re doing it for television on some natural-stereotype s—t. Did you ever see that episode of South Park where Cartman tells Token, the black character, to pick up a bass and Token swears he can’t play, but Cartman is like, “You’re black, you can play bass!” And it turns out that Token can, indeed, play bass. Because black. I feel like that should be my child. And it’s not. Not yet, at least.
Don’t get me wrong—she’s doing great and she’s gon’ be all right. She’s giving it everything she has. If you measured ability in effort, she’d be takin’ out those suckas and they would not know how she did it. Realistically, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. And I’m still a proud dad and we gon’ get it together, together.
It helps that the dance moves they’re learning are things I’ve been doing for decades now because I have a hip-hop dancer’s heart pumping blood through my body. I’ve been in the hallway busting the stupid-dope moves while white soccer moms and dads look on wondering if I’m a rapper or Usher, because “How do you know how to do that?” I do the moves, though, because my soul will not let me chill, and also so I can help my daughter nail them at home.
After one class, and on our way to dinner, we practiced in the parking lot of Uno Pizzeria. If it had been raining, we’d have looked like extras in Ray J’s “One Wish” video. I saw other people in cars looking at us, but there was no shame in my game; we were doing it for the culture.
Obviously, if my daughter never achieves Super Saiyan hip-hop dancer, the world will not end and Brick will still kill a guy. But you know what I wonder? I wonder if the white people are also looking at the black kids in class and seeing that the black kids not leading the pack and are wondering what’s going on here. We joke that being the only black guy makes you the first pick for the basketball team, but don’t you feel a way if you ain’t chosen first? I’m not even that tall, and I’ve been the beneficiary of Black Stereotype Assumption Syndrome and been happy as hell about it. Dancing works the same way.
I like being a stereotype, and the one I’m proudest of is my ability to dance the way a black person is supposed to dance. I will show you up. I will try to show you up and you will watch me because the streets are watching and we are the streets. And if you are white, you will come to me after and high-five me for being awesome on the dance floor. And hopefully buy me a drink because my dancing is stereotypically sound. It’s happened. They made me drinks to drink them, I drank them, go drunk.
And I just want that for my daughter, ya know? I want her to get the high fives and be the envy of all the white kids in the class because it’s hip-hop. It doesn’t matter, but I’m trying to keep the universe balanced here. She is hip-hop. Her daddy is hip-hop. We are hip-hop. And white people know this.
And it’s one that I’d like to keep intact, because I do it for the culture. Obama has fewer than 100 days left in office.
We all we got now.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.