That ‘dangerously' unifying “Black Panther” effect overcame me this week during the US Open’s Semi-Finals. Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all time, was back at it just one year after having a baby and one game away from possibly winning it all and I was planning on witnessing apart of history. Being almost 10 years older than most of her opponents, her unmatched levels of strength and agility made my US Open experience nothing less than inspiring to witness as a woman of color. But of course I couldn’t keep my wandering eye in check at this unfamiliar territory I was now in the heart of…..
At one point during the game, I said to my homegirl… “I’m surprised there aren’t more black people here supporting Serena?” I know that’s such a silly, borderline ignorant thing to say, especially out loud at the home base of the Sunken Place: Sports Edition, but I was really shocked. Frankly, that’s why I was there and I couldn’t tell you a single formal rule about tennis outside of mandatory mini-skirts. Serena even got the attention of young black hypebeasts by rocking her Off-White branded outfits all week. Thus, I couldn’t help but assume this would’ve been the perfect sporting event for everyone to flex their black and brown fists to the bigot white folks in their Mercedes Benz dad caps and espadrille wedges.
Before I knew it, Serena won (Thursday's Semi-Finals match) and I instinctively wanted to leave... until I saw the follow up opponents. Two women of color, new names to me, that I was now eager to learn. So my friend and I stayed a little longer to bask in all our bandwagoning, black fist pride and glory. Now, I'm a tennis fan.
Sadly, I got emotionally invested in the sport at the wrong time because the US Open Finals had me reallllly doing the Shiggy Challenge. What a memorable spectacle in the worst ways. No matter how well Serena handles something with grace and integrity or with natural human impulse to a situation I feel the odds are stacked against her (among most women/women of color) regardless of her being possibly the best athlete in tennis history. First, there were calls against Serena by the umpire for her receiving coaching help from the stands by Patrick Mouratolglou. Although Serena assertively denied it by saying, "I don't cheat to win; I'd rather lose," her coach later admits that he was helping, even though he didn't believe Serena was watching him.
"You owe me an apology!"— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2018
Serena was fired up with the official in the final set of the US Open final. pic.twitter.com/r6RSbrirnV
Then she gets another violation for calling the umpire a "liar" and a "thief" for 'stealing' a point from her. Which Serena elucidated by saying it’s unfair especially because men say MUCH worse and get away with it. That remark alone I definitely HAVE to agree with her on… hello!? Has anyone ever of John McEnroe and his plethora of famous meltdowns?! Has the sports arena turned a blind eye to the fact that it’s almost EXPECTED for managers in baseball to furiously yell and curse out umpires and then the following day ESPN will make light of them in highlights?
Now on the flipside, kudos and major congratulations to Naomi Osaka for winning - despite the surrounding Serena antics. But was it really necessary of Pam Shriver to make that (cough cough) racist ass remark…”Pass the Sake!” Word Pam? Pass the Sake? Shit, well instead of tomatoes, let’s just throw watermelons at Serena while we boo her off the court? Pass the Sake… or better yet… why don’t we just pass the Kool-Aid while we’re at it? Pam, why don’t you pass that nasty ass raisin filled potato salad that your people are so eagerly trying to make happen...right along with the word, “fetch.” It’s bad enough one of the announcers interviewing Osaka casually didn’t mention that she’s Japanese AND Haitian (which Osaka so politely reminded him) but wow tennis is clearly still a sport not ready for the unapologetic greatness of Black women.
I mean, was it ever ready for unapologetic blackness? I’m not joking, I was at Arthur Ashe Stadium giggling to myself losing count over how many highlighter blondes I saw with their Hermes bags and Rolex’s or the few white couples seeming as if this was just another casual date night for them in their boat shoes and matching searsucker outfits. Tennis is definitely a rich man’s, “What country club are you from,” “my kid got a full Ivy League scholarship playing water polo,” “I’m not racist because I have black friends,” type of situation.
I felt slightly displaced at the game but not for being a woman on man’s turf like at a football game or UFC match where testosterone thrives, but simply because I so transparently didn’t have an AMEX Black Card. This is a sport that was originally designed to illicit people of color, not coin them (insert a little Drake/Serena humor) the Best They Ever Had.
It’s just disappointing that everything about the media coverage during the US Open has been sprinkled with negativity… specifically as it relates to the greatest player of all time and freshly appointed women’s champion...who both happen to be black women. Media outlets bashing Serena for using “harsh” words like liar and thief to the umpire in the heat of defending her character is almost as pathetic as white people trying to steal back the N word so they can rap a full varse of Cardi B. Or casually making a remark on live National Television about celebrating Osaka’s win by telling her to “Pass the Sake” instead of Sak Passé.., you know a derivation of her mysteriously “all Japanese roots” but dark skin and kinky hair… is typical white people shit that keeps us in a belittling position to their superior [sport].
At the end of the day, regardless of how it went down, I’m glad I was apart of history and witnessed the greatness of two Queens, Williams and Osaka. I will forever drink the Kool-Aid and the Sake that us ethnic people so presumably indulge in. Let’s hope one day the media stops making black people look like monsters when they’re outraged and instead can celebrate their winnings. May the media highlight everyone’s success… without dismissing the fact that success can come from Black and Brown skin. Amen.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images