During the US Open final against Naomi Osaka, tennis player Serena Williams was fined and docked points for her reaction of the referee’s calls. Williams received code violations for breaking her racquet and penalties for calling the umpire a “thief”. Williams was ultimately slapped with a fine of $17,000. This outburst was no different from other reactions from players – the way she was punished was.
This is not William’s first negative depiction. It is just another stroke on America’s modeled painting of William’s aggressive, uncontrollable anger.
What makes this outburst any different than other athletes’ outbursts?
In an article by The Men’s Journal, they ranked the top ten “bad boys of tennis”. Each listing supported bragging rights of aggressive acts. Tennis player, John McEnore, called officials ‘jerks’ and even hit a ball towards the umpire.
However, a black woman taking her frustration out on her own racquet and calling someone a “thief” brings a sudden uproar and depiction of Williams as an uncontrollable, angry black woman. William’s triggered a perfect storm of stereotypes during the disagreement.
The angry black woman stereotype is everywhere. In movies, it is easy to portray black woman as sassy, with quick wit. In America, the stereotype clashes due to issues throughout the social and civil issues of race.
It is socially acceptable to call black women aggressive, yet the angry black woman stereotype serves the purpose to disparage black women.
Black women are not allowed to be angry – they are condemned, shut down all the time even in the face of injustice. Men are allowed to show anger and are applauded for their showcase of masculinity.
Society denouncing William’s frustration is a highlight of what black women face everyday in their workplace. Social media rushed to give their account on their personal experiences of being a black woman with emotions.
Christiana Mbakwe tweeted, “If you work with a black woman it’s likely she’s censoring herself most of the day. Everything from her hair, attire, tone of voice, hand gestures, accent etc is being internally policed. Most of us don’t get to be ourselves at work… Serena can afford to speak up. This debacle will fade and she’ll be ok. The average black woman can’t afford to speak up and if she says something she won’t survive the consequences.”
Instead of being alarmed of black women’s anger, we must listen to her to see why she is angry. The woman could be fumed by racial injustice, political standpoints or even just simply having a bad day.
The cause of the anger aside, black women are humans and have the right to have feelings and the absolute right to express those feelings. It is time to set stereotypes aside for the bettering and empowerment of those women.