Is it me, or does it seem like Serena Williams can’t ever catch a break? Oh, she wins, of course. She’s a smart and powerful tennis player, and over the weekend she beasted opponent Maria Sharapova at the Olympics to capture the gold in women’s singles. On Sunday, Serena teamed with big sister Venus to win the women's doubles title. But it seems like no matter how many accolades or medals Serena racks up on the court, the critics will find something negative to say.
Serena’s most recent win against Sharapova — Serena has defeated her seven times in a row — garnered Williams a career Golden Slam, making her just the second woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal. (Steffi Graf completed the feat in 1988.) Her Sunday win made her tennis' first double gold medalist since Venus won singles and doubles at the 2000 Sydney Games.
But the big story over the weekend isn’t about Serena’s near flawless game or how she dominates on the court. It’s that she did a giddy C-walk to celebrate her victories. This “controversy” has become, as Clinton Yates put it so well over on The Root DC, “a firestorm that is misguided and dripping with racist, patronizing overtones.”
Yes, she did the C-walk, as in Crip walk. Let’s not tiptoe around its origins, which are L.A.’s Crip gang. The “walk” has dirty roots, but in the decades since its debut on L.A. streets in the '70s, it has gone pop (thanks, Snoop). The dance appeared in You Got Served, a cute but also corny dance-off movie featuring once-popular Black boy group B2K. On YouTube, there’s 2006 video of the yellow Teletubby — you know, one of those colorful alien-looking things from the BBC children's television series — appearing to C-walk. That video has nearly two million views. There are also multiple instructional videos on how to C-walk as well, a way to help uncoordinated viewers rotate and pivot properly so they can get their dance on.
Leave it to Fox News to blow the whole thing out of proportion. While acknowledging “[Serena] didn’t do it on purpose. It was a moment of unbridled joy,” and that the “dance itself is now distanced from those gang roots,” writer Reid Forgrave still manages to disparage Serena as “she walked all over her crowning moment.” Forgrave, skipping farfetched and hurdling toward outlandish, actually argues that the American flag that blew from its awning as Serena received her medal and the national anthem played was a “proper British slap on the wrist” for dancing.
I giggled when I watched the YouTube clip because it was a cute moment. And I sighed when I heard that at a press conference Serena was asked about her dance and demurred to name it. “There is a name. But I don’t know if... it’s inappropriate,” Williams told reporters. “It’s just a dance we do in California.” Right then, she knew — and I did, too — that this would become “a story,” even if there’s very little to tell.
Serena danced and it signified nothing more than a really happy woman celebrating a career highlight in a silly way. I might buy the idea that she was celebrating her L.A. roots, a visual shout-out of sorts to her hometown and an acknowledgement of how far she’s come from it. But even that’s a stretch. Sometimes, it’s just not that deep, and this would be one of those times.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk