People accused a competitive Irish dancer of cultural appropriation because she was black

Like a lot of things the identity politics left has been pushing in the past few years, the claim of cultural appropriation is just dumb. Here’s a case in point. Since the coronavirus lockdown began a few months ago a 20-year-old Irish dancer named Morgan Bullock who lives in Richmond, Virginia has been posting videos of herself on Tik Tok and other social media sites. Here she is doing her thing.

At some point in May she started posting videos of herself dancing in traditional Irish style to non-Irish music by artists like Beyonce and Michael Jackson. Those videos got a big response from people around the world, some were viewed over a million times. Most of the reactions were positive but because Bullock is black a subset of scolds also began saying what she was doing was cultural appropriation of Irish dancing.

I’ve posted other TikToks of me dancing to tracks by Drake, Koffee, Doja Cat, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson. The comments have been mostly celebratory, but some people said that, as a black woman, I’m appropriating Irish culture.

I’m passionate about Irish dance, teaching and my identity as a young woman of colour, so the comments about “cultural appropriation” were quite hurtful. I feel like they’ve come from people who don’t understand the term.

Irish dance is like any other cultural art form, it was created to be shared. It’s a dance that was born out of oppression; we can’t lose sight of that. For me, as a little black girl, it was a beautiful art I was desperate to be a part of.

I was 10 when I first saw an Irish dancing recital, at the dance school where I was learning tap and ballet. I was mesmerised. My mum was a bit incredulous at first, but she let me give it a shot. I fell in love after my first class.

The point is, there’s absolutely nothing to criticize here. This isn’t someone trying to make a mockery of a traditional dance form, this is someone who loves this style of dance so much that she devoted 10 years of her life to mastering it. But there are a lot of dummies out there who think falling in love with aspects of another culture is somehow disrespectful.

There’s a happy ending to this story. Morgan Bullock go some much attention from the videos that she was invited on a popular Irish radio show. The show had a surprise guest:

I did an interview on Irish radio where they surprised me by having the director of Riverdance, Padraic Moyles, on the phone. He told me what I was doing was unique and asked me to take part in the touring show. I would definitely have gone to see it when it came to Virginia; now I’m going to be in it.

For many Irish dancers including Bullock, being a part of the Riverdance touring show is sort of the ultimate goal, a way to do what you love for a large audience. The show she was invited to be part of was postponed because of the virus so it may be a few more months before it happens but at some point it will happen.

The BBC published this interview with Morgan Bullock Saturday. In this clip she says, “It’s important for people to recognize that there’s a difference between appropriation and appreciation. I think that people use the term appropriation without knowing what it really means.” She may have picked up that line from the Irish Embassy which tweeted this earlier this month.