Often it is hard for our white majority to view itself as ethnic. For centuries, white customs and norms have set the cultural standard, and much of what might appear as ethnically biased if transposed into a different culture, has acquired the aura of apparent objectivity. Sometimes other ethnic groups can help us recognize this, and sometimes it will be just one exchange student who holds up a cultural mirror and talks about something we otherwise ignored as taken for granted.
But then there are times when we can help ourselves. In those moments, we remember our own particular ethnic past, its customs and costumes, its foods and its songs. Such a moment arrived, when our Dutch Dancers readied themselves for the opening ceremony of the CO-EXISTENCE exhibition on April 28th at the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick. In full costumes, we walked from the church through the center of town to the museum. Our procession caused quite a bit of friendly attention. Some cars stopped or slowed down, and people took pictures with their cell phones, and others made friendly remarks.
What was this good for, you might ask? Well, if it helped us leave the illusion of ethnic objectivity and assume the heritage of one particular tradition, then it was a great exercise. When we finally danced at the Zimmerli, we joined the company of a great Chinese choir and a very sophisticated Hungarian dance ensemble. Together, we provided for a colorful overture. Thank you, Erie and Ellen, and you other Dutch Dancers from First Reformed Church!