|From "The Dance"|
“You can dance? I don’t believe it.”
“I can’t even imagine you dancing.” — Issa Rae, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
In Issa Rae's memoir The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, she revealed that she bragged in high school about her excellent dancing skills when she received an invitation to a friend's party. The response she received in return was just as amusing as her dancing ability.
The ability to dance well is the epitome of coolness and expected of black people. When Rae lied about her dancing skills, I understood why she would go to great lengths to create the illusion that she can dance.
There's a popular myth that says black people can naturally dance or stay on beat. Many people hold onto these cultural beliefs that black people have an innate dancing ability, so it becomes peculiar when you encounter a black girl with no rhythm and two left feet.
Dancing is essential to black culture because it's rich in tradition. For example, "footworkin" was a popular dance in Chicago in the early 2000s, and I never participated publicly in the dance because I didn't want to be embarrassed myself. When people started to footwork at parties, I would ease my way to the back of the crowd and watch from afar.
I never learned to properly footwork or dance, but I still get invited to parties and decide to have a good time and join in with my awkward moves. Sometimes I may worry if people are watching me move rhythmless across the dance floor, but I don't let it consume my thoughts, and I focus on the moment.
• "Awkward Black Girls Really Do Exist"
Lakenzie Walls is a graduate student in the English, Language and Literature Program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.