When it comes to media, minorities are often made to be representatives of their identities. Here is a token black, gay, lesbian, lower-class etc. character. Very few, and sometimes only one, character is expected to perform as and represent the entire scope of their identity. In media, this is automatically an impossible task. A demographic cannot be reduced to a single identity or expression, as the group is not a homogenous entity. The creation of a flat character that relies on stereotypes and archetypes is unfortunately a very easy and comfortable pitfall for creators to fall into.
This is not restricted to media, either. Often, everyday people are aware of how they present themselves. “Am I confirming a stereotype by dressing/acting this way?” “Is it my responsibility to break these assumptions down?” “Am I acting this way because it’s me or is it in response to this stereotype?” These questions and more pass through our minds. Merely being a minority presents a bind of whether or not they present or act ____ enough. Although one shouldn’t be defined by a stereotype, one’s presentation and performance is ultimately at least tangentially influenced by them. The question of how one’s performance reflects on their identity is a constant presence.
Dance is coded in a similar way. Dance is literally a performance, and has expectations based on one’s race. Everybody moves differently, and their self is expressed in their style of motion, whether it’s innate or trained. Yet, there are manners of dancing that are prescribed to different groups. African-American dances moves are often considered to be things like “ghetto” or “ratchet,” but once they’re popularized they become the dance crazes at parties. (In a sense we can view this as a continued form of cultural appropriation). The old adage that white people can’t dance is its own code, but the prototype for high or classical dance is primarily a white figure. While other schemas regarding race are more prevalent, these views on dance and race are disappointing. One of the most common forms of self-expression, freedom, and individual motion still ends up codified by race. A person should be allowed to be themselves without having to represent their race to begin with, but they should also be able to dance without being put into a box based on their identity.