Randa Jarrar/Salon: White Women Who Belly-Dance are Racist


Randa Jarrar resting in between competitive belly dancing events.

In a post titled, “Why I can’t stand White belly-dancers” at Salon.com, Randa Jarrar, self-described feminist and likely self-described ‘community activist’ deplores the horribleness of white women engaging in shaking their hips as an act of cultural ‘appropriation’ of Middle Eastern history.

It would be too simple to point out that Jarrar is appropriating uniquely Western values of feminism and social critique to make her point. But her typical leftist jihadi obsession (see what I did there?) against white America is tired and frankly just boring.
When white people are ignorant of backward cultures, they’re isolationist racist xenophobes. When whites engage with said cultures to exchange values, they are jingoistic and paternalistic. When whites uncritically accept other cultures and embrace them, they are guilty of appropriation. It’s almost as though there’s nothing whites can do that isn’t racist, except of course to buy Jarrar’s book.
Here’s Jarrar’s first sentence: “Google the term “belly dance” and the first images the search engine offers are of white women in flowing, diaphanous skirts, playing at brownness. How did this become acceptable?”

Um, it became acceptable when we didn’t restrict people from enjoying whatever type of dance they wanted to. Consider the outrage Jarrar would have if we said blacks shouldn’t waltz, or Arabs shouldn’t breakdance, or the Chinese shouldn’t do the Charleston.
Jarrar even treats us to her own irrelevant personal anecdotes about how to do belly dancing the right way, as she did at her wedding.

It’s easy for unemployed English majors to throw around terms like this on sites like Salon, because there’s never any consequence to maligning whites. It’s a convenient soft racism that allows them to structurally talk about race. It’s academic bullying, where no one defends white interests so hey, why not complain about suburban white women who belly dance?

And it gives license to use meaningless academic words like “appropriation” and “agency” and “space” and the various lexicon of arrogant elitists who try to oppress dissenting views through stilted language, by reflexively denying an opinion to those who read it by signalling their authority through largely irrelevant words.

Here’s Jarrar’s professional diagnosis of official, must be true, racism in a whole group of other people:

“Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.”

If Jarrar had even an iota of introspection she would have seen the hypocrisy in complaining about white appropriation of belly dancing while assuming that such dances are the exclusive purview of one culture, one race, one region. But if Jarrar had any introspection, she probably wouldn’t be writing for Salon in the first place.



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