Dear French Open, Censoring Serena Williams Is a Transparent Move That’s Inherently Biased Against a Black Woman
Here’s the thing, I’m an avidly passionate fan of the greatest athlete alive, and the winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Serena Williams. And while my unyielding loyalty and adulation makes me quite biased when it comes to her defense — there’s never an opportunity that shows up that isn’t warranted.
The latest fiasco is courtesy of the French Open via the French Tennis Federation, that’s suddenly inspired to revaluate the rules for the uniforms that players are permitted to wear for the 2019 French Open.
According to President Bernard Giudicelli, it was Serena Williams that supplied the “light-bulb moment,” due to the provocative outfit she donned at The Roland Garros 2018 French Open, which was apparently the red flag that alerted officials of how players are “disrespecting” the game and the hosting venue.
According to Giudicelli, her black body suit was an indication that “things have gone too far.”
“Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted.“ You have to respect the game and the place.”
It’s interesting and infuriating that the Federation has chosen to shame Serena Williams by using her as the prime example of what will no longer be tolerated, without taking her reasons for wearing the suit into consideration.
The star athlete did express her glee at the prospect of wearing something that made her feel like the superhero she is, and of course it’s no surprise that she referenced the the movie of the year, Black Panther as an incentive, especially when it recalls the “warrior-like” reflexes that she’s mastered throughout her enviably star-studded career.
But for the sake of getting technical, there’s the more pressing issue of her near-death experience giving birth to precious daughter, Olympia, and how her history with blood clots haunted her into medical complications during pregnancy and recovery.
And so, it was necessary for her to take extra precaution to enable smooth sailing for her highly-anticipated comeback as a new mother. Earlier this year, Williams gave an in depth explanation of why her choice of attire was a non-negotiable deal.
“Yeah, the catsuit, I had a lot of problems with my blood clots, and, God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months.” “So it is definitely a little functionality to it. I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep, you know, the blood circulation going.”
“It’s a fun suit, but it’s also functional so I can be able to play without any problems.”
It’s quite clear that Williams being a Black woman who commands tennis courts all over the world, presents a habitual threat no matter what she does, and while her cool, calm and collected disposition deserves massive applause — there’s also the nagging fury of how she’s consistently battled discriminatory tactics from organizations that are relentlessly hostile.
Perhaps, Giudicelli was more inclined to laser his focus on the parts of the conversation that highlight Williams’ light-heartedness about her phenomenal cat suit — instead of paying more attention to the specifics of her medical condition, and how it could impact future performances if she’s not appropriately suited.
“I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of, queen from Wakanda maybe.” “I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero. I feel like a superhero when I wear it.”
As always, it’s the Black woman who has to take the fall, regardless of her immense accomplishments and the extra heat at her heels, since the beginning of a journey that she shares with older sister and tennis champ — Venus.
As young girls who matured into ultra-talented Black women with formidable skills that took them to the illustrious courts of public opinion, there was a constant virus of hate that assaulted the reception at matches, and even the consistent presence of their doting father and coach didn’t protect them from the fury of the fiery crowd.
The astoundingly potent bigotry has been on display all through the ups and downs, and the bedazzled moments of triumph, but the worst of the lot has to be the abhorrent treatment both athletes endured at the Indian Wells tournament back in 2001. As the young players made their appearance, they were greeted by a torrent of boos and chants of the N-word, and the torture included their father, who weathered death threats.
The Williams sisters made the decision to institute a 14-year boycott of the tournament, that recently came to an end when they re-emerged to compete against each other in early 2018.
There have been plenty other instances where Serena Williams has been subjected to demeaning encounters either by the organizations that are responsible for arranging her high-profile matches or media representatives who taunt her with insultingly silly queries, that are meant to provoke the Black woman who adamantly refuses to play the role that is inherently assigned for obvious reasons.
The fact that Williams is being chided for an ensemble that not only fits superbly, but is also sized for the benefit of easing her back into the business of sheer dominance is evidence of acute bias against a professional sportswoman, who keeps paying the ultimate price for excelling at an elite sport, that was supposed to be reserved for the comfort of White players and their audience of replicants.
It’s hard to imagine Maria Sharapova, the disgraced tennis star who was convicted of doping, but managed to revitalize her blemished and “barely-there” career after spending her forced hiatus attending business school at Harvard — being publicly called out for wearing an outfit that’s considered distractingly inappropriate.
Sharapova is known more for her plethora of endorsement deals, that rival any of her victories on the court, and prove how her globally viable template makes her skill level a non-factor, compared to the woman that media outlets like to dub her “nemesis”, who has to surpass great expectations.
And even those gleaming achievements don’t garner the respect that Sharapova is able to effortlessly amass.
This latest character attack on Serena Williams, is another stab in the back of a woman who continues to defy the odds without the encouragement and celebratory recognition that should ordinarily accompany such feats.
The urgent need to revise the rules for uniforms that will be deemed “acceptable” could’ve been announced without singling out the top performer in her field who happens to be a Black woman, with a body shape that evidently can’t be “appropriately” contained in a body suit — and so changes have to be implemented for regulatory measures.
Why does the physique of a Black woman have to regulated?
This is a huge cause for concern when you consider that if a player like Sharapova had been prancing around in the same suit, playing her heart out with passion and precision, after returning from maternity leave — not only will she be lauded for snapping back into shape in record time, but there would be a high demand for an endless supply of that “Black Panther catsuit” by high-end retailers — cashing in on the fashion frenzy of the moment.
Why do Black people have to be embarrassingly policed for their grooming practices by White officials stationed at positions of power?
Whether it’s a young Black boy with dreads, who is barred from entering the classroom as punishment for breaking the rules, or a stunningly accomplished world-class athlete, who is dressed for the win of a lifetime; the motive to intimidate is still the rulebook of White people who enjoy applying these historically vile tactics on command.
Serena Williams is simply the Greatest of All Time, and she looks damn good in a body-hugging ensemble that showcases the curves of her conquests as the badge of honor for the hurdles she’s overcome.
She’s the warrior who can’t be silenced or fucked with — despite the heights of disrespectful behavior thrown her way. And no matter what the “new rules” dictate, she will be ready to slay with her signature moves, and glorious spin on the bland instructions that will delivered.
Black women always know how to spice it up — and Serena Williams is absolutely no exception.