I have literally been too angry, frustrated, and depressed to write this blog but it really is as necessary as breathing. Over the past month I have witnessed the blatant and vicious attacks of Black women both on their personhood and their bodies. The first example comes from the ridiculous and racist social media attacks on tennis super star, Serena Williams. Serena is “guilty” of one thing—beating the short pants off of every great White hope the tennis world puts up against her. Serena beat their darling, Maria Sharapova to make it to the finals of this year’s Wimbledon Tournament. In the finals Williams was up against Garbine Muguruza, another blonde from Spain who allegedly had the “athleticism” to match Serena. In the beginning of the match it looked like Muguruza was up to the task of upsetting Williams. But, the piece of tennis competition that the pundits never factor in regarding Serena Williams is her MENTAL strength! Serena knows what she is up against whenever she steps on a tennis court. She is playing a sport dominated by White people—the competitors, the fans, and the organization. Most of the spectators are rooting AGAINST her. But Serena (or Venus for that matter) has never worried about what the crowd was up to. She understands that tennis (like most competitive endeavors) is also a mental challenge. Winning tennis matches is Serena Williams stock and trade but often it is what happens OFF the tennis court that is infuriating to those of us who cheer her on.
This year Serena’s win was accompanied by a flurry of insults all over social media. She was castigated for “looking like a man!” Seriously? The same “Twitter-sphere” that celebrated Caitlyn Jenner and how great she looks claimed that Serena was unattractive and masculine. As we like to say, “haters gonna hate” because we realize how small the lives of most of these people are. They typically have accomplished nothing in their own lives so you can only look at them with pity. But, the final straw was tennis player Caroline Wozniacki playing a mock tennis match against Sharapova where she spoofs Serena Williams (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uTTWnoW5Mk). In her “imitation” of Williams, Wozniacki stuffed things in her top to show off exaggerated breasts and something else in her pants to create an out-sized butt. Some will claim it was “all in good fun” but “good fun” usually takes place in front of the person one is teasing. Instead, these two women who have struggled to compete honestly against Serena Williams figured out the way to ridicule her was at the expense of her body…her very Black body! Serena Williams strikes fear in the minds of racists because she has come to prominence on her OWN terms. She is not trying to imitate or embrace whiteness because her Black excellence is just that…EXCELLENT!
Serena Williams does not need me or any other blogger to defend her. My defense of her right to be herself is more directed at my lovely granddaughters who are athletes—one a basketball player at a Division I university and another a high school volleyball player. I don’t want them to believe that they have to re-make themselves in order to be accepted or successful. My defense is aimed at all of those Black girls who compete and want to compete in sports or anything else. I want them to understand how worthy they are on their own.
The other example of a fierce Black woman is a much more tragic case. Sandra Bland, as many people know, was stopped by a Texas police officer for “changing lanes without signaling.” This “terrible violation” soon escalated to a situation with Sandra Bland being slammed to the ground and being taken off to jail. Within a few days, Bland was dead. The autopsy report claims she committed suicide. How does a minor traffic stop (remember it was all about changing lanes without signaling) end up in death? How does a Black woman end up on the ground and carted off to jail because she failed to signal her intention to change lanes?
One of the talking heads claimed that Ms. Bland was at fault because of her “attitude.” He called her “arrogant.” This is reminiscent of Geraldo Rivera’s rant about Trayvon Martin’s hoodie being the cause of his death! Since when does asserting one’s civic rights make one arrogant?
Much of what happened in Sandra Bland’s jail cell may never see the light of day. But, we did see a police dash-cam where the officer asked Ms. Bland to put out her cigarette…a cigarette she was smoking in her own car. When Ms. Bland challenged the request by reminding the officer that she did not have to put out her cigarette, the policeman went ballistic. He demanded that she get out of her car, threatened to use a taser on her, and ultimately slammed her to the ground, despite her letting him know she was epileptic.
I can only surmise that Sandra Bland is no longer with us is because of the fear her fierce Black womanhood presented to this man. To be a Black woman in this society is to exist without any shred of protection, dignity, or respect. You can be the world’s BEST tennis player or a sister driving down the street changing lanes. In any circumstance it is your BLACKNESS that provokes fear in White people and apparently gives them license to act in ways designed to destroy you. The whole system fears a fierce Black woman!
Stay Black & Smart!