The abundance of racist tears could fill up a bathtub every time Serena Williams wins.
Like clockwork, the hate rolls in like a bustling tornado. Racially-coded descriptors like “savage,” “arrogant” and “beastly” are used to describe her dominance. Her Black features are misogynistically called manly; her beauty likened to that of a gorilla.
We are only left to conclude that the critics are mad because she’s the G.O.A.T.
Mad that the girl from Compton, who used public tennis courts to hone her greatness, is better than their favorite.
Mad because an unapologetically Black woman refuses to “humble herself,” win after win.
On Saturday, the tennis champion won the French Open title for the third time. Williams won her 20th Grand Slam title by defeating opponent Lisa Safarova. The night before, she was too ill to get out of bed due to the flu. Winning while sick is a testament to her skill and dedication as an athlete. And still, she finds herself facing a long list of critics who refuse to recognize her greatness.
Black excellence is a peculiar thing, you see. While it is celebrated by us, it is, oftentimes, met with vile hatred, questioning and even outright denial by others. Those unable to accept that Williams is simply better than her peers, and in a traditionally White space nonetheless, cannot give her her just due. One commenter noted she had an “unnatural advantage.” Williams is unfortunately no stranger to this dangerous rhetoric.
Then there’s the silly critique that Williams is arrogant. This demand for humility also has a deep racial context. It translates to: “Be grateful for us allowing you to play.” But why would America’s greatest athlete be humble? No one demands Tom Brady to tone down his arrogance. Williams continues to break records; she is simply better than everyone else.
Her sportsmanship is often called out for being déclassé. When she dropped a number of F-bombs to the line judge in 2009, she was disqualified. Williams later apologized, but it wasn’t good enough for those hellbent on hating her regardless. Professional hockey players literally get into melees during games. I’ve never heard anyone call them rude, unruly or lacking class for fighting. For them, it’s called sports and passion. But because Williams is a Black woman, her competitiveness is stamped with the ‘unprofessional’ label at best and ‘Angry Black Woman’ at worst.
Both sexism and racism are at play when critics comment on her curvaceously muscular body. Black women’s bodies have a long history of being hypersexualized. Saying she looks like a gorilla is the work of society deeming only European standards of beauty as beautiful. We know this is a lie because Serena can slay with the best of them. Williams can’t even catch a break from her friend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who padded her shirt and skirt on the court to mock Williams’ curvaceous figure in 2012. Black folks collectively side-eyed Wozniacki, while Williams gave her a pass. The racial implications were not lost on us.
Williams continues to defy all odds and soar, despite all of the hatred she receives. She’s unapologetically herself and will celebrate a victory with a Crip-walk on the court, whether people are here for it or not. For over 14 years, she boycotted the Indian Wells tournament due to the entire crowd booing her and calling her and her family N-words. Certain people cannot stand that she’s audacious enough to be comfortable in her Black skin and refuses to follow the appease-the-White-folks program.
And we love her for it.
Critics can stay mad while she keeps crushing her competition. And as long as they’re mad, we’ll continue to collect their racist tears in our mugs as we cheer, “Slay, Black girl, slay!”