Serena Williams and the Double Standards Women of Color Face

Jake Neher/WDET

Kim Trent (right) with Stephen Henderson (left)

Over the weekend, tennis superstar Serena Williams lost the final match of the U.S. Open after a dispute with the umpire that cost her points and a game. Williams used stern language with the umpire and cracked her tennis racket on the ground out of frustration. Her reaction wasn’t out of the realm of professional sports, but it cost her a grand slam title. This was just weeks after she was publicly ridiculed by French tennis officials for wearing a bodysuit on the court at the French Open.

On Monday, a cartoonist from an Australian newspaper drew a caricature of Williams as a hulking, fat lipped, angry brute of a woman, stomping in rage alongside her competitor — a Japanese-Haitian tennis player depicted as a white, lithe, blonde woman.

The treatment of Williams in recent weeks reminds us not only of the pressure that top performing athletes face, but also the expectations our society places on Black women to behave and look a certain way in order to be considered acceptable.

David Dennis, senior culture editor at Interactive One, is the author of a recent article titled “Serena Williams, Cardi B, and a Weekend of Telling Black Women How to Behave.”

Dennis joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to speak about the double standards that Williams, and other Black women, face in society.

Black women unfortunately get the worst of how society treats African-Americans and the worst of how society treats women,” says Dennis.

Serena (Williams)…is, you know, a millionaire. She’s sports royalty. She is…somebody who is revered across the world, but when she expresses herself, when she shows passion, when she shows, you know, sports spirit that we see every Sunday in the NFL…we see what happens. We see that she’s being seen as threatening,” he adds.

Kim Trent, a Detroit-based writer, communications consultant, and sitting member of the Wayne State Board of Governors, also joins the program.

It’s really difficult to know how to be as a Black woman in this culture,” says Trent.

Trent also points out that the confrontation over the weekend between rappers Cardi B and Nicki Minaj is not the first time there’s been confrontation in hip hop.

Let’s not act like that’s outside of the scope how hip hop artists have behaved,” she says. “For some reason when Black women engage in that level of confrontation, then…it’s, kind of, a mark on all of black female humanity.”

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 

Image credit: Jake Neher

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