When Justin Bieber, a Canadian who wears sagging pants (a fashion style that is said to come from prison culture), tweets Missy Franklin for winning a gold, it is called sweet teen spirit. When volleyball players sport itty-bitty-titty bikini’s in front of the royal palace, it’s called a proper uniform. When the English Queen does a skit with the most misogynistic and man-whore spy in the world, the director is considered brilliant, while the queen was crowned as the memorable crowd favorite of the opening of the London Olympics.
When a tennis player smashes their racket to the ground like a drug-riddled heavy metal rocker, that’s just great sportsmanship.
But when Serena celebrates with a dance that has become a crossover move that was created and popularized out of urban culture, she is signified as a trashy representation of the USA. Like her father said many years ago, the people in Compton will be celebrating with their “40 ounces” and Chronic. But don’t tell that to Fox Sports writer, Reid Forgrave who clearly doesn’t approve of such, well… ethnic display of rhythm:
And there was Serena — the tennis legend, the winner of 14 individual Grand Slams, the best player of her generation, the American girl being crowned at the All-England Club as the queen of tennis — Crip-Walking all over the most lily-white place in the world.
She didn’t do it on purpose. It was a moment of unbridled joy. She pumped her fist, jumped up and down, looked into the crowd, then did her ill-timed dance.
You couldn’t help but shake your head. It was as if Serena just couldn’t seem to avoid dipping into waters of controversy even as she’d ascended to the top of her sport.
The face of Serena, especially, seems to draw this inner turmoil with white people and proper Negroes (like Fox Sports writer, Jason Whitlock). Their insides get contorted and they turn lobster red when she pulverizes her lily white competitors over-and-over again. The titles of some of these stories should have read “Serena Williams Yells I’m C-Walking on these Bitches” because that is the air that some folk want you to believe.
I can recall in my research on racism and news in the early 20th century, the images that newspapers would paint of black people as apes, animalistic, violent, uncouth, uncivilized, in order to create and maintain a debased representation to validate future acts of terror upon black communities. Today, in Corporate America, they call that building a case trail right before you get fired.
But eff’em, let me unpack this complex cultural moment that has contributed to this shift in Olympic culture.
In an unconscious moment of resistance, Serena Williams, in her own way, threw up her own black fists. While NBC covered her matches at ungodly hours, and did very minimal in highlighting her slaying top players, Williams decided to be unapologetic for the on-court beat downs with a victory dance from her own ethos.
And by the way, she is one of the few black women to win golds, and one of three African-American women—her sister Venus, and trailblazers Wilma Rudolph who won three individual golds share this history.
Williams who is a huge hip hop fan, and a product of a hip hop generation, did what emcees do when they win, they celebrate in a braggadocio manner.
And as a child who grew up about a 10 minute drive from where Serena was reared, I know exactly Serena’s POV. It has nothing to do with gangs. This is our native American black Angeleno war dance, a dance of strength and champion.
For several seconds, she displayed her connection with an aspect of black American culture and defied the Euro/Amero Bourgeois expectations of the lily white culture of tennis player. She bowed in victory with grace and swagger.
She has never apologized for her grunts, flashy outfits, and assertive court behavior. She and her sister were booed for years, their appearance has been scathingly critiqued, and oft times, US announcers imply their favor towards a Williams opponent.
Serena, no matter how many titles and now a gold that you win, you will be accepted as an extraordinary player no earlier than 2073. This is just institutionalized hate crimes. So in the meantime, hop, step, hop. I celebrate you.