Thursday afternoon, the internet was flooded with reports that Serena Williams had announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, to the surprise of just about anyone who read it.
The relationship, which had pretty much been a secret to most, quickly went viral for all public consumption. A moment that should have been met with congratulations for the greatest athlete of all-time soon was hit with the shattering sound of angry keystrokes of black men as their egos and fragile masculinity crashed at the intersection of Twitter and Facebook. One headline even read, “Drake and Common’s ex gets Engaged.”
Apparently, the fragility of black masculinity happened to forget the name of the most decorated woman in sports history, as her engagement, for whatever reason, seemed to be a direct attack against their manhood.
If you haven’t guessed it already, Alexis Ohanian isn’t black, and black men made their grievance clear: their ‘Black Queen’ had betrayed them. These are probably the same black men secretly living under the Kanye West motto of “And when you get on, he’ll leave your ass for a white girl.” Somehow, these men felt as if Serena Williams, the embodiment of the black woman, had not done her due diligence in giving enough black men a chance to be her Prince Charming.
When a celebrity gets engaged, it’s likely to be met with commentary from the peanut gallery from all sides. But the underlying factors in the racial comments directed at Williams’ engagement are problematic, and in hotep fashion, lack context around her blackness and how she can be pro-black and yet have a white fiancé.
Williams is no stranger to racism, and her career has often seen her fight against it.We’re talking about a woman who for 15 years boycotted a tournament in her hometown of Indian Wells, California, after being booed and targeted with slurs by a racist crowd.space“> A woman who consistently spoke out about police brutality against black men in America and uses her platform and voice to push social justice issues to a larger stage in an effort to make a greater impact on her community.
The black feminism she has displayed throughout her career — even further cemented by her cameo in the epic Beyoncé‘s visual album LEMONADE — proved she wasn’t scared to stand up for what she believes in despite the racism and sexism she could, and would face.
The most decorated woman in sports history has time and time over proved her ‘blackness’ (even though she never had to), including showing her appreciation for black culture and the importance of its preservation. Serena Williams has stood defiant as a black woman, even when black men disrespected her with sexist, misogynistic, transphobic remarks over her looks or for simply being a passionate, bossed up black woman. The double standard against black women who date outside their race has once again reared its ugly head, and questioning her loyalty is unfair.
When a person deemed ‘pro-black’ is found out to be in an interracial relationship, it can be jarring for some. Why that is so is a very layered thing. Whether spoken or unspoken, many of us have attempted to have this conversation to only be met with surface level analysis that treats race as a monolith with no understanding of how one can fight for their own people while loving the race they are seemingly ‘fighting’ against.
The easy answer is love is love.
The interesting point in this whole situation is that this isn’t the first time Serena Williams has been linked to dating a white man. Even more, Williams has very publicly dated black men. It would be one thing if we were talking about “preference,” but in this case, some black men’s reaction to Williams’ engagement fall into the dangerous territory of feeling like they have ownership of her.
Indeed, Serena Williams is a black queen. But she isn’t YOUR Black Queen. No one has ownership of Serena Williams, or any black woman for that matter. There is a double standard of sorts when black women date outside of their race, and we’re seeing it in true form in the responses to Williams’ happy announcement. The language being used suggests she has been “stolen” from us, primarily from black men who never had a chance at being with Serena Williams in the first place!
It takes a lot of gall for a group of men, who constantly disrespected Williams over the years, to all of a sudden be shocked when she decides to marry a white man. When will black women ever just be able to be?
During a recent interview, Williams argued that if she were a man, she would be considered the “greatest athlete of all time.” Unfortunately for her, if she were a man, her engagement would be celebrated and would probably be met with comments like, “black women better step their game up.”
As the late great Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” and the black men who are mad at Williams only prove this to be more true.
But guess what? She ain’t sorry.