Statistical Stereotypes

In Dave Chapelle’s video White People Can’t Dance, he jokes that white people can in fact dance, but only when listening to electric guitar. He does so to fight against the stereotypes that separate different races. However, I don’t think that is the point of stereotypes. Stereotypes come from some observations, even if those observations are skewed. Stereotypes of white people as being unable to dance probably come from the fact that traditionally ‘white’ music like country music has a very structured dance scheme that you either know or don’t- you can’t really improvise. Furthermore, ‘white’ dances are more about moving one’s body relative to the ground rather than relative to the rest of the body. Hall would argue that now that those stereotypes exist, they define white people’s continued inability to dance.

On the other hand, even in Chapelle’s sketch, the ‘white dancing’ was really bad. So what if instead of saying “white people can’t dance”, we said, “most white people can’t dance”? That fits my observations of reality without pigeonholing every white person ever. So how about another one…”white people can’t jump”? Jumping is one of the most highly correlated skills associated with athletic performance and we all have seen the predominant skin colors of professional basketball and football teams.

I personally can not dance, but I am good at jumping and yet I don’t get the least upset when someone says that white guys can’t jump. I know that what they are really saying is that most white guys don’t got hops, but I know that I am a statistical aberration from the norm.

Generalizations are rarely true across all individuals outside of mathematics, but statistics reign supreme in all walks of life. Say what you mean and mean what you say: don’t make generalizations of ALL people when you mean that there is a trend and go take a statistics class.

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