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When will white people stop feeling so inadequate compared to Serena Williams?

Serena Williams literally cannot do anything without white folks (and cishet Black men) tearing her apart. Williams is a gifted, talented and successful Black woman, so it isn’t surprising that everything she does is heavily scrutinized by intimidated and spiteful people.

When folks ask me what intersectionality means, I use the vitriol directed towards Williams as an example of why intersectionality matters; it isn’t simply because she is a woman, it is her gender intersecting with her race which makes her the target of so much hate.

On Thursday the French Newspaper, Le Monde, published a piece by a salty white journalist, Henri Seckel who wrote about how the tennis tournament, Roland Garros was better without Williams because it gave other players the chance to shine without Williams “stealing focus”.

Seckel is happy that Williams is six months pregnant, and therefor not playing and crushing all the white lady tennis players at Roland Garros, but instead of minding his own business and writing a piece simply about the women who are there, he writes about the one who isn’t.

Why? Why bother to do so? Because he’s racist, because even when Black women don’t do something and take time off for themselves, white folks gotta flex their white fragility and project their insecurities onto them.

In the piece, Seckel describes her as an “American Diva” and details how it’s refreshing to not have to deal with Serena’s “diva-like” behavior off court. Black women can’t just be without being painted as difficult. When has Williams demonstrated anything but professionalism and passion?

No matter how Black women are, no matter how they act, white people see them through a racist lens. If we’re excited, white people see it as loud and obnoxious; if we’re assertive and no-bullshit, white people see it as being angry or aggressive. Our happiness is too loud, our justified anger is too frightening.

This isn’t even the first incident of racism against the number one tennis player in the world–far from it. Ever since the beginning of her career at 14-years-old, Williams has faced racist micro and macro-aggressions from the general public, tennis officials and reporters. Here’s a sampling of just a few of these incidents:

  • In 2015, thousands were upset that Sports Illustrated had named Williams Sportsperson of the Year over a fucking racehorse, American Pharaoh.
  • In the lawsuit filings of a racial discrimination case in May, the managers of a high-end shoe company, Gianvito Rossi are reported to have called Williams “disgusting” and refused to give her the same discounts as white celebrities.
  • In April, a retired Romanian tennis player, Ilie Nastase made hyper-racist comments to a journalist about Williams’ pregnancy. Nastase compared Williams’ unborn baby to “chocolate with milk”. Williams’ fiancé, Alexis Ohanian is white and apparently comparing biracial children to food is still a thing.

Seckel is currently on Twitter defending his piece and asking folks what white fragility means, so feel free to head over and explain to his racist ass why he shouldn’t come for Queen Williams. We ain’t gonna take any of that bullshit.

 
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Lara Witt is an award-winning feminist writer who primarily writes about feminism, racism, pop-culture, mental health, and politics. Witt received her BA in Journalism from Temple University and interned for Philadelphia CityPaper’s arts and entertainment section and the Philadelphia Daily News covering local news, court stories, and crime. Following her graduation, she became increasingly committed to writing about gender, race, and queer identity by using Black and brown feminist theory to analyze current news and politics. Witt freelanced for national and local publications, which led to her working with Wear Your Voice Magazine eventually becoming their EIC and rebranding the site to focus primarily on using the analytical framework of Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality. Witt’s goal is to provide platforms for marginalized voices with a focus on having other Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) writers tell their own stories and explore their own narratives. Witt has spoken at local Philadelphia events, such as the March to End Rape Culture (2017) and curated a yearly series of events called The Electric Lady Series. These events highlight women of color in Philadelphia by exploring gender, rape culture, entrepreneurship, art, self-care, sex, and culture.

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