Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Serena's Dance and Gabby's Hair

by Savannah


So some clown African-American sportswriter from Kansas City wrote a piece that was widely disseminated on the interwebs accusing Serena Williams of disrespecting Wimbledon by breaking out the dance known as the C-Walk. It's been done in public before by such known gangsta's as Brent Barry in 2003 and is a staple in hip hop dancing routines.

I don't pretend to be up on hip hop culture and was taken back when I heard what the dance was. I thought it was restricted to members of the organization that gives the dance it's name and wondered if given a second chance Serena would do another dance in celebration.

But what's done is done and since this dance has apparently been in youth culture mainstream for sometime what the hell is the big deal? Some players give salutes that border on neo fascism in my book but no one has ever debated that. I mean it's just a guy saluting his family's military heritage right?

For many Serena's dismantling of Maria Sharapova on a wider world stage than Wimbledon usually gets is what was offensive. It's easier to focus and discuss the supposed implications of a dance than focus on the miserable state of the WTA without Serena.

Yes I've softened my opinion of Sharapova and give her grudging respect for what she's done with her career of late. But the fact remains that without Serena Williams the WTA is made up of headcases who can sometimes play a good match, and sometimes don't. Depth? Let's not forget "Sunshine's" long hold on the top spot okay?

Commentator @AndreasHale, who has zero street cred - kinda like Ryan Lochte and his $25,000 diamond encrusted grill - puts things in perspective.

...as with most things that have spawned from urban America, the origins of the C-walk are far removed from the dance once it hit the mainstream. It doesn’t make it any better, but it also doesn’t mean that we should allow it to overshadow her complete dismantling of the Russian that has long battled Serena for the number one spot in the world tennis rankings.

Surely, she didn’t say to herself “let me pay homage to the villains from the hood” as she broke into the five second dance. American swimmer Ryan Lochte probably never considered the origins of the grill he flashed after winning the gold medal for the 400m individual medley. Although both the crip walk and the grill have two vastly different origins, the pop culture desensitization of both are the same. When Brent Barry C-walked during the 2003 NBA All-Star 3-point contest, his dance was met with giggles and devoid of criticism. That was obviously because Barry wasn’t crip affiliated nor from Compton. Or maybe it’s because the dance is viewed today as harmless.

But when Serena Williams does it, it’s now serenading a murderer’s lifestyle?

The funny thing is that most observers who have been critical of Williams quick dance had no idea what she was doing until they checked out the explosion of social media. Once they became privy to the dance, they decided to trace its origins and saddle Williams with the unflattering “ghetto mentality” tag. Williams worked her ass off to get herself into a position to dominate the world in tennis. She comes from a city where her and her friends have done the dance without any inkling of being empathetic to gang culture. The dance originated from the inner city and is done by many who have no gang affiliation whatsoever. That’s just what happens when a dance permeates into the mainstream. The next time you watch MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, ask yourself if the multi-cultured dancers are sympathizing with gang culture when they bust out a C-walk.

(African American) Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock suggested that the dance was “premeditated” as a means to show out the “snobs at Wimbledon a taste of the Compton girl they fear.” Williams has already shown the world that she’s the baddest of them all. She was clearly exhilarated by her utter destruction of the then- number one tennis player in the world and opted to celebrate.

And what’s wrong with celebration? Apparently, to many it’s a disrespectful way to show up the competition. To some, playing the game like it was “meant to be played” is the only way to go. No celebrating, no taunting, no dancing, no nothing. But the game is not just a game to the African-Americans that breakthrough in sports that they weren’t allowed to participate in years ago. The game is far more than points and trophies. (...)
She earned the opportunity to dance for a few seconds. Get over it.

But the other side of the coin is that she unknowingly left herself open to criticism the moment that she finished her dance. After all, it is the crip walk and she knew that she may be in hot water the moment she sheepishly backtracked in front of the press during the post-match news conference.

...It was a brief lapse of judgment that doesn’t need Serena to stand in front of a camera and deliver a public apology. Everyone should be aware that Ms. Williams isn’t going to celebrate a lifestyle that claimed the life of her older sister in 2003. No, this was just a moment of sheer joy.

Let’s celebrate yet another African-American first and national victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics, rather than shroud her success in controversy.



As for the non controversy about Gabrielle Douglas' hair I think it shows how far African-American's have to go. Gabby has worn her hair like that for as long as I've been watching her compete. I'm sure many of the haters are seeing her for the first time. The criticism she got is why many African American women do not work out. We spend tons of money on our hair - Google the stats on the amount of money African-American women spend on hair care - and after spending that kind of money we are not going to "sweat it out" keeping ourselves healthy.

While the controversy's are different - I do wish Serena had done any dance but that one - they still allow both Serena's and Gabby's accomplishments to be lost in what are in effect cultural issues.

I really wasn't going to talk about the dance or the hair but as my daughter always says until we step out from behind the veil of secrecy with which we shroud our culture we can't advance. Most non African American's had no idea what the hair controversy was about. That should tell us something right there.


Karen said...

If they are so fired up about a dance, then I wonder what they will think about Bolt's gully side dance and know of its implications in Jamaica. What amazed me about this whole thing is the way how Sharapova was described. Words such as barbie doll, statuesque, blonde beauty etc. etc. as if trying to show that this black gangster murdered this pure white girl. Yeah, racism, still alive and well. As to the neo-fascist salute (youzhny), I am still wondering how come no one saw the heil hitler when the German delegation walked past in the opening ceremony. There was a member of the German delegation in the stands doing the heil hitler salte.

Savannah said...

Girl you know damn well that non European cultural references aren't worth talking about! Get with the program.

I did see the Nazi salute. And I did notice not one word was said about it.

And what does the gully side dance mean? Pwease?

Karen said...

LOL. There was a time not so long ago in Jamaica when fans of the dance hall genre were at war with each other. You were either Gaza (Vybz Kartel) or Gully Side (Mavodo). There were knifings, shootings, killings and young people, including students died or were seriously injured as a result of this so-called war. When Usain Bolt did the dance at the Beijing Olympics, many people in Jamaica were upset because he had chosen a side by doing the dance on the world stage. It did not help that Movado had actually done a song saluting Bolt. Bolt is a fan of the dancehall. He can be seen at clubs and dances all the time. The symbol that he shows (the to the world stance) is a sign that he is still on the gully side.

Both artistes (Movado and Kartel) are very talented. One is now in prison awaiting murder charges. The other one is still out there doing his thing

Randy Burgess said...

What the white world doesn't know about the non-white world in America is huge (I am white, BTW). But it still baffles me that anyone would think Serena was espousing a gangster attitude by dancing a popular dance.

Tangentially related to this, I have for years found it disturbing that both the NBA and NFL treat their players (largely black, esp. the NBA) like children who must be disciplined, rather than as adults.

E.g. the NFL has fines for "excessive celebration" and the NBA is famous for gratuitous discipline against players in all sorts of demeaning ways. The only celebrations in the NFL that bother me are those which involve taunting - I dislike taunting in any sport. But celebrating? If someone wants to do a dance, let them do a dance. I sometimes get the impression that the leagues are afraid that too many African American cultural nuances will interfere with selling the product to white America.

Back to Serena - I think Bodo has written some pretty strong comments on how Serena, when she is healthy & comes to play, makes the rest of the WTA something of a joke. Other writers have picked up on the same thing. It's too obvious to miss.

Savannah said...

Thank you Karen.

Randy I think you've hit the nail on the head. Sad isn't it?

Karen said...

Randy in continuing what you just mentioned about celebrating, it goes back to the whole policy of being politically correct and raising our children not to be competitive but to be sporting. Gone are the days when you were children and you were out on the playground playing to win. Now, these days everyone is a winner and no one is a loser on the playground. As far as I am concerned losing builds character. If your child knows the value of winning, then they will step it up when they are losing and they will learn how to enjoy their achievements.

Randy Burgess said...

Karen - Maybe you are right. Not being a parent I don't know. And also, as a kid on the playground myself, I was always one of the ones who got chosen last for . . . oh, I don't even remember what the games used to be called - "dodge ball," that was one. Ouch!

Karen said...

Randy, funnily enough I was also one of those who got chosen last for a Jamaican game called dandy shandy. A bit like dodge ball as well. I was also always chosen last for skipping, hide and seek etc. Looking back I was chosen last because I was a sickly child and no one wanted someone who looked like they could collapse at any given moment.

The upside of that is that I was the best reader in my year group and on graduating from elementary school I was chosen to read the scripture lesson and gave the valedictory address. In addition, fellow students also sought me out when it came time for spelling bee competitions as they always wanted me on their team.

Parents need to learn how to build confidence into their children and to show them that not because you were not picked first does not mean that you are not deserving of other honours.