Barnard Event: Zumba Is ‘Cultural Appropriation’


Barnard College is hosting a lecture later this month titled “Health at the Expense of Cultural Appropriation: Yoga and Zumba.”

Yes — Zumba.

The lecture is part of a series titled “Barnard BLUE.” According to the college’s official website,  “BLUE” stands for “Building Leadership & Understanding Equity,” and it’s “aimed to engage students in intentional dialogues to explore their identities and what it means to foster inclusive communities.” Titles for other sessions in the series include “Sorry for Party Rocking: College Party Culture & it’s Implications” and “Faux Feminists: Pop Culture Icons & Hypocrisy.”

Now, people freaking out that yoga is “cultural appropriation” definitely is stupid, but it’s a complaint that I’ve heard before, and seeing it as the subject of a lecture at a liberal women’s college hardly surprises me. But Zumba? As in, the form of jumping-around aerobics that moms like? I’ve got to admit that that’s a new one.

Although it’s not clear what exactly the claims of the lecture will be, I’d assume that the “cultural appropriation” complaints about Zumba have something to do with the fact that workouts are traditionally performed to Latin American music.

The title of the lecture, “Health at the Expense of Cultural Appropriation: Yoga and Zumba,” really does illustrate how completely stupid it is. After all, I really have a hard time believing that enjoying a workout centered around a typical kind of music — even if that kind of music isn’t from your own culture — is really coming at the “expense” of anyone, however, making people so terrified that their workouts might be racist that they’re too scared to do them could come at the “expense” of their health. We’re an obese nation, and if people like to stay in shape by doing Zumba, then good for them . . . whether they’re white (ew!) or not. Seriously, how far does this go? Are we going to get to the point where white people can only work out to white-people-music without having to have some sort of cultural consciousness discussion beforehand? I sure hope not, because working out is already annoying enough as it is.

#related#One of the most beautiful things about this country is that we are made up of a mix of people from different cultures, and that that mix gives us so many opportunities to enjoy art and music from cultures other than our own. Now, I do understand how someone claiming another culture as their own — or claiming to understand what it would be like to experience life as someone from another culture — would be offensive, however, I highly doubt that anyone who’s going to Zumba class will think that their going to Zumba class means that he or she is some kind of Latin American cultural expert. They just think that they’re someone who went to Zumba class, and I’ve got to say, there are certainly bigger problems facing us than that.

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