Well, white men may not be able to jump, as Wesley Snipes suggested in the movie bearing that title, but apparently white sorority girls can step! That was the sentiment and determination of judges at a recent national “stepping” competition who deemed a white sorority winners over members of a Black sorority chapter. It has some Blacks steaming mad, and suggesting that it is implausible that white girls could excel in an area in which we claim pride of ownership.
Huh? Can we take a step back, and get a grip. When did stepping define who we are as a people or serve as the benchmark of Black culture?
It all started when the folks with the soft drink Sprite teamed up with the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the oversight body for the nine “Greek” letter organizations, to sponsor a nationwide “Step Off,” inviting fraternities and sororities from across the country to demonstrate their prowess on the hardwood. Mind you, this was not announced as the “Black Step Off,” though promotional materials seemed to imply that this was an Afrocentric event. Well, apparently someone forgot to tell the young ladies from Zeta Tau Alpha from the campus of University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. They entered the competition and, well, they won and won again to the point where they made it to the finals. Their opponent? The sisters and we mean that with its racial connotation, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority from the University of Indiana.
This is where the story gets messy and ugly, and downright disappointing in our opinion. After the conclusion of the competition on February 20 in Atlanta, the judges declared the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority the winners. Surprise! Who would have thought it; white girls can step! Mind you, the judges were R&B songstress Monica, Atlanta-based producer Devyne Stephens, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of TLC, and Atlanta dancer-choreographer Zack Lee. Judging from the uproar over the results, you would have thought Jim Crow had been reinstated. The reverberations were loud and the accusations flew. So much so that the folks at Sprite, fearing that they might no longer be able to push their concoction on Black consumers, quickly made an about face and declared that a mistake had been made in the scoring and deemed the AKA’s winners too. Sad, real sad. For a generation that is catching hell, after their parents and grandparents caught HELL, the preoccupation with stepping is trivial and telling. Your student aid is about to be slashed, job opportunities diminished, and chances of encountering the criminal justice system enhanced and you invest emotional capital into the results of a step competition?
Are we to believe that only Black people can step? If that’s the case, can only white students win science and math competitions? It is a narrow world-view that diminishes the greatness of our culture. Yes, we know stepping has a tremendous legacy within the Black fraternity and sorority tradition, but so does academic excellence, public service and groundbreaking accomplishments. We are too big as a people to fall prey to such nonsense as getting upset that a white sorority won a step competition. We were not there to see the competition but judging from the outcome, the ladies from Zeta Tau Alpha must have been pretty good to make it to the finals. We can still love and respect our sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha, without declaring the end of the world because they lost a step competition.
One last word, it’s time we stopped getting played by corporate America. We spend billions of dollars as consumers and we accept the philanthropic equivalent of government cheese. Enough already.