White People’s Lack of Rhythm

Considering I fit the description on about half of the wanted posters and profiling manuals printed in the United States, I for one resent stereotypes.

That said, what is it with white people and their lack of rhythm?

Not every white person is without rhythm, and not every non-white has rhythm. These are stereotypes–based in truth, yes, but not hard and fast rules.

I’m at church yesterday in Harlem, and the congregation is at least half comprised of European tourists. It’s a sociological phenomenon that I don’t really care to deal with now.

Anyway, they’re observing us, so I feel entitled to observe them. I notice one guy who just can-not manage to clap on beat to any of the songs. My one and a half year old son was putting him to shame.

I’m not trying to be mean or passive-aggressively racist, even though I have been called both in my day. I just want to know why some people have no rhythm. I’m not expecting you to dance like Justin Timberlake. But shouldn’t everyone be able to at least nod their head to the beat? Can it be taught?

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10 responses to “White People’s Lack of Rhythm

  1. I’m the white girl that *thinks* she can dance. When I went to that church in Harlem (and didn’t sit in the tourist section), I didn’t clap because I know that I can’t clap to any beat. If you ever figure this out, let me know.

  2. George Michael said “guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm.” Do you think it has anything to do with “white guilt?” With freedom and forgiveness, the ability to dance and clap to the beat may come [back]. Sounds kind of improbable, but let’s keep brainstorming.

  3. Seth-“I just want to know why some people have no rhythm.”
    Queen of Sheba-Does Rhythm really matter when it comes to giving praise, they(non beleivers/ tourist) watch us because they are amaze at the way the spirit manifests trough us. Instead of trying to compare their praises with one of a child, I think we should just settle with having them take part of our fellowship. Pastor Peters feel free to clap to any gospel beat, your lack of rhythm won’t stop you from entering “the pearly gates”. There’s bigger things happening in churches( ie: lack of love/understanding towards each other) than just followers or tourist that can’t stay on a proper “beat”

  4. No argument with you there. Anyone is welcome to come to my church. Many of the European tourists are Christians looking for fellowship–not just outsiders staring at us. My question isn’t about praising God, because everyone does that in their own way. I just want to know why some have no rhythm. It could be in church or at a secular concert.

  5. I saw a black man with no rhythm once.
    He also had a very uncool walk.

    I was shocked!

    As a man of color myself (lily-white!) I am proud that I have rhythm – thankfully because of my musical background.
    But generally, white people are tone deaf and don’t understand beats at all.
    It’s a mystery why that is, Seth.

  6. I’ve once read that African americans follow the snare drum, so they clap on the 2 and the 4. Native Europeans clap on the 1 and the 3. So native European tourists become confused in a church in Harlem.

    I don’t know whether this is true or not but maybe it is worth exploring?

  7. Mysterious to me, it is indeed (similarly, why do some folks not have rhythm at all?) I don’t understand why it’s considered “wrong” to clap, tap, or stomp (all of which I do at one time or another, depending on how tightly the particular music I’m listening to has me in its grasp) on the 1&3 beat versus the 2&4 beat. I feel ALL the beats, not just two out of four; the fact that I generally, but not always, tap, clap, pat, stomp, or whatever, on 1&3 versus 2&4 doesn’t render me any less musical (I’m definitely not tone-deaf) or rhythmic (Lord knows I’m a dancin’ fool). For folks of the 2/4 clapping persuasion to look down on me for clapping on the backbeat is unkind and condescending.

  8. Right, did you know in Haiti and other countries, they clap on the 1&3, and no one can say Haitian people lack rhythm. So it’s more of a cultural tradition than a hard and fast rule. Nothing inherently wrong with clapping on the 1&3.

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