750 word reading response. Critical reflection on the readings. Use the readings in conversation with one another to discuss a current event/issue.

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II
26
Hennessy Youngman aka Jayson Musson, whose Art
Thoughtz take the form of tutorials on YouTube,
educates viewers on contemporary art issues. In one of
his many videos, he addresses how to become a
successful black artist, wryly suggesting black people’s
anger is marketable. He advises black artists to cultivate
“an angry nigger exterior” by watching, among other
things, the Rodney King video while working.
Youngman’s suggestions are meant to expose
expectations for blackness as well as to underscore the
difficulty inherent in any attempt by black artists to
metabolize real rage. The commodified anger his video
advocates rests lightly on the surface for spectacle’s
sake. It can be engaged or played like the race card and
27
is tied solely to the performance of blackness and not to
the emotional state of particular individuals in particular
situations.
On the bridge between this sellable anger and “the
artist” resides, at times, an actual anger. Youngman in
his video doesn’t address this type of anger: the anger
built up through experience and the quotidian struggles
against dehumanization every brown or black person
lives simply because of skin color. This other kind of
anger in time can prevent, rather than sponsor, the
production of anything except loneliness.
You begin to think, maybe erroneously, that this other
kind of anger is really a type of knowledge: the type
that both clarifies and disappoints. It responds to insult
and attempted erasure simply by asserting presence, and
the energy required to present, to react, to assert is
accompanied by visceral disappointment: a
disappointment in the sense that no amount of visibility
will alter the ways in which one is perceived.
Recognition of this lack might break you apart. Or
recognition might illuminate the erasure the attempted
erasure triggers. Whether such discerning creates a
healthier, if more isolated, self, you can’t know. In any
case, Youngman doesn’t speak to this kind of anger. He
doesn’t say that witnessing the expression of this more
28
ordinary and daily anger might make the witness
believe that a person is “insane.”
And insane is what you think, one Sunday afternoon,
drinking an Arnold Palmer, watching the 2009
Women’s US Open final, when brought to full attention
by the suddenly explosive behavior of Serena Williams.
Serena in HD before your eyes becomes overcome by a
rage you recognize and have been taught to hold at a
distance for your own good. Serena’s behavior, on this
particular Sunday afternoon, suggests that all the
injustice she has played through all the years of her
illustrious career flashes before her and she decides
finally to respond to all of it with a string of invectives.
Nothing, not even the repetition of negations (“no, no,
no”) she employed in a similar situation years before as
a younger player at the 2004 US Open, prepares you for
this. Oh my God, she’s gone crazy, you say to no one.
What does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body
in a historically white space look like? Serena and her
big sister Venus Williams brought to mind Zora Neale
Hurston’s “I feel most colored when I am thrown
against a sharp white background.” This appropriated
line, stenciled on canvas by Glenn Ligon, who used
plastic letter stencils, smudging oil sticks, and graphite
to transform the words into abstractions, seemed to be
ad copy for some aspect of life for all black bodies.
29
Hurston’s statement has been played out on the big
screen by Serena and Venus: they win sometimes, they
lose sometimes, they’ve been injured, they’ve been
happy, they’ve been sad, ignored, booed mightily (see
Indian Wells, which both sisters have boycotted since
2001), they’ve been cheered, and through it all and
evident to all were those people who are enraged they
are there at all—graphite against a sharp white
background.
For years you attribute to Serena Williams a kind of
resilience appropriate only for those who exist in
celluloid. Neither her father nor her mother nor her
sister nor Jehovah her God nor NIKE camp could shield
her ultimately from people who felt her black body
didn’t belong on their court, in their world. From the
start many made it clear Serena would have done better
struggling to survive in the two-dimensionality of a
Millet painting, rather than on their tennis court—better
to put all that strength to work in their fantasy of her
working the land, rather than be caught up in the
turbulence of our ancient dramas, like a ship fighting a
storm in a Turner seascape.
The most notorious of Serena’s detractors takes the
form of Mariana Alves, the distinguished tennis chair
umpire. In 2004 Alves was excused from officiating
any more matches on the final day of the US Open after
30
she made five bad calls against Serena in her semifinal
matchup against fellow American Jennifer Capriati. The
serves and returns Alves called out were landing,
stunningly un returned by Capriati, inside the lines, no
discerning eyesight needed. Commentators, spectators,
television viewers, line judges, everyone could see the
balls were good, everyone, apparently, except Alves.
No one could understand what was happening. Serena,
in her denim skirt, black sneaker boots, and dark
mascara, began wagging her finger and saying “no, no,
no,
” as if by negating the moment she could propel us
back into a legible world. Tennis superstar John
McEnroe, given his own keen eye for injustice during
his professional career, was shocked that Serena was
able to hold it together after losing the match.
Though no one was saying anything explicitly about
Serena’s black body, you are not the only viewer who
thought it was getting in the way of Alves’s sight line.
One commentator said he hoped he wasn’t being unkind
when he stated,
“Capriati wins it with the help of the
umpires and the lines judges.” A year later that match
would be credited for demonstrating the need for the
speedy installation of Hawk-Eye, the line-calling
technology that took the seeing away from the beholder.
Now the umpire’s call can be challenged by a replay;
however, back then after the match Serena said,
“I’m
very angry and bitter right now. I felt cheated. Shall I
go on? I just feel robbed.”
31
And though you felt outrage for Serena after that 2004
US Open, as the years go by, she seems to put Alves,
and a lengthening list of other curious calls and
oversights, against both her and her sister, behind her as
they happen.
Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage
hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold
across which each objectionable call passes into
consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and
unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived
through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly
optimistic, so ready to be inside, among, a part of the
games.
And here Serena is, five years after Alves, back at the
US Open, again in a semifinal match, this time against
Belgium’s Kim Clijsters. Serena is not playing well and
loses the first set. In response she smashes her racket on
the court. Now McEnroe isn’t stunned by her ability to
hold herself together and is moved to say,
“That’s as
angry as I’ve ever seen her.” The umpire gives her a
warning; another violation will mean a point penalty.
She is in the second set at the critical moment of 5–6 in
Clijsters’s favor, serving to stay in the match, at match
point. The line judge employed by the US Open to
watch Serena’s body, its every move, says Serena
32
stepped on the line while serving. What? (The HawkEye
cameras don’t cover the feet, only the ball,
apparently.) What! Are you serious? She is serious; she
has seen a foot fault, one no one else is able to locate
despite the numerous replays. “No foot fault, you
definitely do not see a foot fault there,
” says McEnroe.
“That’s overofficiating for certain,
” says another
commentator. Even the ESPN tennis commentator, who
seems predictable in her readiness to find fault with the
Williams sisters, says,
“Her foot fault call was way off.”
Yes, and even if there had been a foot fault, despite the
rule, they are rarely ever called at critical moments in a
Grand Slam match because “You don’t make a call,

tennis official Carol Cox says,
“that can decide a match
unless it’s flagrant.”
As you look at the affable Kim Clijsters, you try to
entertain the thought that this scenario could have
played itself out the other way. And as Serena turns to
the lineswoman and says,
“I swear to God I’m fucking
going to take this fucking ball and shove it down your
fucking throat, you hear that? I swear to God!” As
offensive as her outburst is, it is difficult not to applaud
her for reacting immediately to being thrown against a
sharp white background. It is difficult not to applaud
her for existing in the moment, for fighting crazily
against the so-called wrongness of her body’s
positioning at the service line.
33
She says in 2009, belatedly, the words that should have
been said to the umpire in 2004, the words that might
have snapped Alves back into focus, a focus that would
have acknowledged what actually was happening on the
court. Now Serena’s reaction is read as insane. And her
punishment for this moment of manumission is the
threatened point penalty resulting in the loss of the
match, an $82,500 fine, plus a two-year probationary
period by the Grand Slam Committee.
Perhaps the committee’s decision is only about context,
though context is not meaning. It is a public event being
watched in homes across the world. In any case, it is
difficult not to think that if Serena lost context by
abandoning all rules of civility, it could be because her
body, trapped in a racial imaginary, trapped in disbelief
—code for being black in America—is being governed
not by the tennis match she is participating in but by a
collapsed relationship that had promised to play by the
rules. Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the
context—randomly the rules everyone else gets to play
by no longer apply to you, and to call this out by calling
out “I swear to God!” is to be called insane, crass,
crazy. Bad sportsmanship.
Two years later, September 11, 2011, Serena is playing
the Australian Sam Stosur in the US Open final. She is
expected to win, having just beaten the number-one
34
player, the Dane Caroline Wozniacki, in the semifinal
the night before. Some speculate Serena especially
wants to win this Grand Slam because it is the tenth
anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers. It’s
believed that by winning she will prove her red-blooded
American patriotism and will once and for all become
beloved by the tennis world (think Arthur Ashe after his
death). All the bad calls, the boos, the criticisms that
she has made ugly the game of tennis—through her
looks as well as her behavior—that entire cluster of
betrayals will be wiped clean with this win.
One imagines her wanting to say what her sister would
say a year later after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s
syndrome and losing her match to shouts of “Let’s go,
Venus!” in Arthur Ashe Stadium: “I know this is not
proper tennis etiquette, but this is the first time I’ve ever
played here that the crowd has been behind me like that.
Today I felt American, you know, for the first time at
the US Open. So I’ve waited my whole career to have
this moment and here it is.”
It is all too exhausting and Serena’s exhaustion shows
in her playing; she is losing, a set and a game down.
Yes, and finally she hits a great shot, a big forehand,
and before the ball is safely past Sam Stosur’s hitting
zone, Serena yells,
“Come on!” thinking she has hit an
irretrievable winner. The umpire, Eva Asderaki, rules
35
correctly that Serena, by shouting, interfered with
Stosur’s concentration. Subsequently, a ball that Stosur
seemingly would not have been able to return becomes
Stosur’s point. Serena’s reply is to ask the umpire if she
is trying to screw her again. She remembers the umpire
doing this to her before. As a viewer, you too, along
with John McEnroe, begin to wonder if this is the same
umpire from 2004 or 2009. It isn’t—in 2004 it was
Mariana Alves and in 2009 it was Sharon Wright;
however, the use of the word “again” by Serena returns
her viewers to other times calling her body out.
Again Serena’s frustrations, her disappointments, exist
within a system you understand not to try to understand
in any fair-minded way because to do so is to
understand the erasure of the self as systemic, as
ordinary. For Serena, the daily diminishment is a low
flame, a constant drip. Every look, every comment,
every bad call blossoms out of history, through her,
onto you. To understand is to see Serena as hemmed in
as any other black body thrown against our American
background. “Aren’t you the one that screwed me over
last time here?” she asks umpire Asderaki. “Yeah, you
are. Don’t look at me. Really, don’t even look at me.
Don’t look my way. Don’t look my way,
” she repeats,
because it is that simple.
Yes, and who can turn away? Serena is not running out
36
of breath. Despite all her understanding, she continues
to serve up aces while smashing rackets and fraying
hems. In the 2012 Olympics she brought home the only
two gold medals the Americans would win in tennis.
After her three-second celebratory dance on center
court at the All England Club, the American media
reported,
“And there was Serena … Crip-Walking all
over the most lily-white place in the world…. You
couldn’t help but shake your head…. What Serena did
was akin to cracking a tasteless, X-rated joke inside a
church…. What she did was immature and classless.”
Before making the video How to Be a Successful Black
37
Artist, Hennessy Youngman uploaded to YouTube How
to Be a Successful Artist. While putting forward the
argument that one needs to be white to be truly
successful, he adds, in an aside, that this might not work
for blacks because if “a nigger paints a flower it
becomes a slavery flower, flower de Amistad,” thereby
intimating that any relationship between the white
viewer and the black artist immediately becomes one
between white persons and black property, which was
the legal state of things once upon a time, as Patricia
Williams has pointed out in The Alchemy of Race and
Rights: “The cold game of equality staring makes me
feel like a thin sheet of glass…. I could force my
presence, the real me contained in those eyes, upon
them, but I would be smashed in the process.”
Interviewed by the Brit Piers Morgan after her 2012
Olympic victory, Serena is informed by Morgan that he
was planning on calling her victory dance “the Serena
Shuffle”; however, he has learned from the American
press that it is a Crip Walk, a gangster dance. Serena
responds incredulously by asking if she looks like a
gangster to him. Yes, he answers. All in a day’s fun,
perhaps, and in spite and despite it all, Serena Williams
blossoms again into Serena Williams. When asked if
she is confident she can win her upcoming matches, her
answer remains,
“At the end of the day, I am very
happy with me and I’m very happy with my results.”
38
Serena would go on to win every match she played
between the US Open and the year-end 2012
championship tournament, and because tennis is a game
of adjustments, she would do this without any reaction
to a number of questionable calls. More than one
commentator would remark on her ability to hold it
together during these matches. She is a woman in love,
one suggests. She has grown up, another decides, as if
responding to the injustice of racism is childish and her
previous demonstration of emotion was free-floating
and detached from any external actions by others. Some
others theorize she is developing the admirable “calm
and measured logic” of an Arthur Ashe, who the
sportswriter Bruce Jenkins felt was “dignified” and
“courageous” in his ability to confront injustice without
making a scene. Jenkins, perhaps inspired by Serena’s
new comportment, felt moved to argue that her
continued boycott of Indian Wells in 2013, where she
felt traumatized by the aggression of racist slurs hurled
at her in 2001, was lacking in “dignity” and “integrity”
and demonstrated “only stubbornness and a grudge.”
Watching this newly contained Serena, you begin to
wonder if she finally has given up wanting better from
her peers or if she too has come across Hennessy’s Art
Thoughtz and is channeling his assertion that the less
that is communicated the better. Be ambiguous. This
type of ambiguity could also be diagnosed as
dissociation and would support Serena’s claim that she
39
has had to split herself off from herself and create
different personae.
Now that there is no calling out of injustice, no yelling,
no cursing, no finger wagging or head shaking, the
media decides to take up the mantle when on December
12, 2012, two weeks after Serena is named WTA Player
of the Year, the Dane Caroline Wozniacki, a former
number-one player, imitates Serena by stuffing towels
in her top and shorts, all in good fun, at an exhibition
match. Racist? CNN wants to know if outrage is the
proper response.
It’s then that Hennessy’s suggestions about “how to be
a successful artist” return to you: be ambiguous, be
white. Wozniacki, it becomes clear, has finally enacted
what was desired by many of Serena’s detractors,
consciously or unconsciously, the moment the Compton
girl first stepped on court. Wozniacki (though there are
a number of ways to interpret her actions—playful
mocking of a peer, imitation of the mimicking antics of
the tennis player known as the joker, Novak Djokovic)
finally gives the people what they have wanted all along
by embodying Serena’s attributes while leaving
Serena’s “angry nigger exterior” behind. At last, in this
real, and unreal, moment, we have Wozniacki’s image
of smiling blond goodness posing as the best female
tennis player of all time.
40
41
42

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Posted in Uncategorized

750 word reading response. Critical reflection on the readings. Use the readings in conversation with one another to discuss a current event/issue.

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

GET A 40% DISCOUNT ON YOU FIRST ORDER

ORDER NOW DISCOUNT CODE >>>> WELCOME40

II
26
Hennessy Youngman aka Jayson Musson, whose Art
Thoughtz take the form of tutorials on YouTube,
educates viewers on contemporary art issues. In one of
his many videos, he addresses how to become a
successful black artist, wryly suggesting black people’s
anger is marketable. He advises black artists to cultivate
“an angry nigger exterior” by watching, among other
things, the Rodney King video while working.
Youngman’s suggestions are meant to expose
expectations for blackness as well as to underscore the
difficulty inherent in any attempt by black artists to
metabolize real rage. The commodified anger his video
advocates rests lightly on the surface for spectacle’s
sake. It can be engaged or played like the race card and
27
is tied solely to the performance of blackness and not to
the emotional state of particular individuals in particular
situations.
On the bridge between this sellable anger and “the
artist” resides, at times, an actual anger. Youngman in
his video doesn’t address this type of anger: the anger
built up through experience and the quotidian struggles
against dehumanization every brown or black person
lives simply because of skin color. This other kind of
anger in time can prevent, rather than sponsor, the
production of anything except loneliness.
You begin to think, maybe erroneously, that this other
kind of anger is really a type of knowledge: the type
that both clarifies and disappoints. It responds to insult
and attempted erasure simply by asserting presence, and
the energy required to present, to react, to assert is
accompanied by visceral disappointment: a
disappointment in the sense that no amount of visibility
will alter the ways in which one is perceived.
Recognition of this lack might break you apart. Or
recognition might illuminate the erasure the attempted
erasure triggers. Whether such discerning creates a
healthier, if more isolated, self, you can’t know. In any
case, Youngman doesn’t speak to this kind of anger. He
doesn’t say that witnessing the expression of this more
28
ordinary and daily anger might make the witness
believe that a person is “insane.”
And insane is what you think, one Sunday afternoon,
drinking an Arnold Palmer, watching the 2009
Women’s US Open final, when brought to full attention
by the suddenly explosive behavior of Serena Williams.
Serena in HD before your eyes becomes overcome by a
rage you recognize and have been taught to hold at a
distance for your own good. Serena’s behavior, on this
particular Sunday afternoon, suggests that all the
injustice she has played through all the years of her
illustrious career flashes before her and she decides
finally to respond to all of it with a string of invectives.
Nothing, not even the repetition of negations (“no, no,
no”) she employed in a similar situation years before as
a younger player at the 2004 US Open, prepares you for
this. Oh my God, she’s gone crazy, you say to no one.
What does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body
in a historically white space look like? Serena and her
big sister Venus Williams brought to mind Zora Neale
Hurston’s “I feel most colored when I am thrown
against a sharp white background.” This appropriated
line, stenciled on canvas by Glenn Ligon, who used
plastic letter stencils, smudging oil sticks, and graphite
to transform the words into abstractions, seemed to be
ad copy for some aspect of life for all black bodies.
29
Hurston’s statement has been played out on the big
screen by Serena and Venus: they win sometimes, they
lose sometimes, they’ve been injured, they’ve been
happy, they’ve been sad, ignored, booed mightily (see
Indian Wells, which both sisters have boycotted since
2001), they’ve been cheered, and through it all and
evident to all were those people who are enraged they
are there at all—graphite against a sharp white
background.
For years you attribute to Serena Williams a kind of
resilience appropriate only for those who exist in
celluloid. Neither her father nor her mother nor her
sister nor Jehovah her God nor NIKE camp could shield
her ultimately from people who felt her black body
didn’t belong on their court, in their world. From the
start many made it clear Serena would have done better
struggling to survive in the two-dimensionality of a
Millet painting, rather than on their tennis court—better
to put all that strength to work in their fantasy of her
working the land, rather than be caught up in the
turbulence of our ancient dramas, like a ship fighting a
storm in a Turner seascape.
The most notorious of Serena’s detractors takes the
form of Mariana Alves, the distinguished tennis chair
umpire. In 2004 Alves was excused from officiating
any more matches on the final day of the US Open after
30
she made five bad calls against Serena in her semifinal
matchup against fellow American Jennifer Capriati. The
serves and returns Alves called out were landing,
stunningly un returned by Capriati, inside the lines, no
discerning eyesight needed. Commentators, spectators,
television viewers, line judges, everyone could see the
balls were good, everyone, apparently, except Alves.
No one could understand what was happening. Serena,
in her denim skirt, black sneaker boots, and dark
mascara, began wagging her finger and saying “no, no,
no,
” as if by negating the moment she could propel us
back into a legible world. Tennis superstar John
McEnroe, given his own keen eye for injustice during
his professional career, was shocked that Serena was
able to hold it together after losing the match.
Though no one was saying anything explicitly about
Serena’s black body, you are not the only viewer who
thought it was getting in the way of Alves’s sight line.
One commentator said he hoped he wasn’t being unkind
when he stated,
“Capriati wins it with the help of the
umpires and the lines judges.” A year later that match
would be credited for demonstrating the need for the
speedy installation of Hawk-Eye, the line-calling
technology that took the seeing away from the beholder.
Now the umpire’s call can be challenged by a replay;
however, back then after the match Serena said,
“I’m
very angry and bitter right now. I felt cheated. Shall I
go on? I just feel robbed.”
31
And though you felt outrage for Serena after that 2004
US Open, as the years go by, she seems to put Alves,
and a lengthening list of other curious calls and
oversights, against both her and her sister, behind her as
they happen.
Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage
hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold
across which each objectionable call passes into
consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and
unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived
through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly
optimistic, so ready to be inside, among, a part of the
games.
And here Serena is, five years after Alves, back at the
US Open, again in a semifinal match, this time against
Belgium’s Kim Clijsters. Serena is not playing well and
loses the first set. In response she smashes her racket on
the court. Now McEnroe isn’t stunned by her ability to
hold herself together and is moved to say,
“That’s as
angry as I’ve ever seen her.” The umpire gives her a
warning; another violation will mean a point penalty.
She is in the second set at the critical moment of 5–6 in
Clijsters’s favor, serving to stay in the match, at match
point. The line judge employed by the US Open to
watch Serena’s body, its every move, says Serena
32
stepped on the line while serving. What? (The HawkEye
cameras don’t cover the feet, only the ball,
apparently.) What! Are you serious? She is serious; she
has seen a foot fault, one no one else is able to locate
despite the numerous replays. “No foot fault, you
definitely do not see a foot fault there,
” says McEnroe.
“That’s overofficiating for certain,
” says another
commentator. Even the ESPN tennis commentator, who
seems predictable in her readiness to find fault with the
Williams sisters, says,
“Her foot fault call was way off.”
Yes, and even if there had been a foot fault, despite the
rule, they are rarely ever called at critical moments in a
Grand Slam match because “You don’t make a call,

tennis official Carol Cox says,
“that can decide a match
unless it’s flagrant.”
As you look at the affable Kim Clijsters, you try to
entertain the thought that this scenario could have
played itself out the other way. And as Serena turns to
the lineswoman and says,
“I swear to God I’m fucking
going to take this fucking ball and shove it down your
fucking throat, you hear that? I swear to God!” As
offensive as her outburst is, it is difficult not to applaud
her for reacting immediately to being thrown against a
sharp white background. It is difficult not to applaud
her for existing in the moment, for fighting crazily
against the so-called wrongness of her body’s
positioning at the service line.
33
She says in 2009, belatedly, the words that should have
been said to the umpire in 2004, the words that might
have snapped Alves back into focus, a focus that would
have acknowledged what actually was happening on the
court. Now Serena’s reaction is read as insane. And her
punishment for this moment of manumission is the
threatened point penalty resulting in the loss of the
match, an $82,500 fine, plus a two-year probationary
period by the Grand Slam Committee.
Perhaps the committee’s decision is only about context,
though context is not meaning. It is a public event being
watched in homes across the world. In any case, it is
difficult not to think that if Serena lost context by
abandoning all rules of civility, it could be because her
body, trapped in a racial imaginary, trapped in disbelief
—code for being black in America—is being governed
not by the tennis match she is participating in but by a
collapsed relationship that had promised to play by the
rules. Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the
context—randomly the rules everyone else gets to play
by no longer apply to you, and to call this out by calling
out “I swear to God!” is to be called insane, crass,
crazy. Bad sportsmanship.
Two years later, September 11, 2011, Serena is playing
the Australian Sam Stosur in the US Open final. She is
expected to win, having just beaten the number-one
34
player, the Dane Caroline Wozniacki, in the semifinal
the night before. Some speculate Serena especially
wants to win this Grand Slam because it is the tenth
anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers. It’s
believed that by winning she will prove her red-blooded
American patriotism and will once and for all become
beloved by the tennis world (think Arthur Ashe after his
death). All the bad calls, the boos, the criticisms that
she has made ugly the game of tennis—through her
looks as well as her behavior—that entire cluster of
betrayals will be wiped clean with this win.
One imagines her wanting to say what her sister would
say a year later after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s
syndrome and losing her match to shouts of “Let’s go,
Venus!” in Arthur Ashe Stadium: “I know this is not
proper tennis etiquette, but this is the first time I’ve ever
played here that the crowd has been behind me like that.
Today I felt American, you know, for the first time at
the US Open. So I’ve waited my whole career to have
this moment and here it is.”
It is all too exhausting and Serena’s exhaustion shows
in her playing; she is losing, a set and a game down.
Yes, and finally she hits a great shot, a big forehand,
and before the ball is safely past Sam Stosur’s hitting
zone, Serena yells,
“Come on!” thinking she has hit an
irretrievable winner. The umpire, Eva Asderaki, rules
35
correctly that Serena, by shouting, interfered with
Stosur’s concentration. Subsequently, a ball that Stosur
seemingly would not have been able to return becomes
Stosur’s point. Serena’s reply is to ask the umpire if she
is trying to screw her again. She remembers the umpire
doing this to her before. As a viewer, you too, along
with John McEnroe, begin to wonder if this is the same
umpire from 2004 or 2009. It isn’t—in 2004 it was
Mariana Alves and in 2009 it was Sharon Wright;
however, the use of the word “again” by Serena returns
her viewers to other times calling her body out.
Again Serena’s frustrations, her disappointments, exist
within a system you understand not to try to understand
in any fair-minded way because to do so is to
understand the erasure of the self as systemic, as
ordinary. For Serena, the daily diminishment is a low
flame, a constant drip. Every look, every comment,
every bad call blossoms out of history, through her,
onto you. To understand is to see Serena as hemmed in
as any other black body thrown against our American
background. “Aren’t you the one that screwed me over
last time here?” she asks umpire Asderaki. “Yeah, you
are. Don’t look at me. Really, don’t even look at me.
Don’t look my way. Don’t look my way,
” she repeats,
because it is that simple.
Yes, and who can turn away? Serena is not running out
36
of breath. Despite all her understanding, she continues
to serve up aces while smashing rackets and fraying
hems. In the 2012 Olympics she brought home the only
two gold medals the Americans would win in tennis.
After her three-second celebratory dance on center
court at the All England Club, the American media
reported,
“And there was Serena … Crip-Walking all
over the most lily-white place in the world…. You
couldn’t help but shake your head…. What Serena did
was akin to cracking a tasteless, X-rated joke inside a
church…. What she did was immature and classless.”
Before making the video How to Be a Successful Black
37
Artist, Hennessy Youngman uploaded to YouTube How
to Be a Successful Artist. While putting forward the
argument that one needs to be white to be truly
successful, he adds, in an aside, that this might not work
for blacks because if “a nigger paints a flower it
becomes a slavery flower, flower de Amistad,” thereby
intimating that any relationship between the white
viewer and the black artist immediately becomes one
between white persons and black property, which was
the legal state of things once upon a time, as Patricia
Williams has pointed out in The Alchemy of Race and
Rights: “The cold game of equality staring makes me
feel like a thin sheet of glass…. I could force my
presence, the real me contained in those eyes, upon
them, but I would be smashed in the process.”
Interviewed by the Brit Piers Morgan after her 2012
Olympic victory, Serena is informed by Morgan that he
was planning on calling her victory dance “the Serena
Shuffle”; however, he has learned from the American
press that it is a Crip Walk, a gangster dance. Serena
responds incredulously by asking if she looks like a
gangster to him. Yes, he answers. All in a day’s fun,
perhaps, and in spite and despite it all, Serena Williams
blossoms again into Serena Williams. When asked if
she is confident she can win her upcoming matches, her
answer remains,
“At the end of the day, I am very
happy with me and I’m very happy with my results.”
38
Serena would go on to win every match she played
between the US Open and the year-end 2012
championship tournament, and because tennis is a game
of adjustments, she would do this without any reaction
to a number of questionable calls. More than one
commentator would remark on her ability to hold it
together during these matches. She is a woman in love,
one suggests. She has grown up, another decides, as if
responding to the injustice of racism is childish and her
previous demonstration of emotion was free-floating
and detached from any external actions by others. Some
others theorize she is developing the admirable “calm
and measured logic” of an Arthur Ashe, who the
sportswriter Bruce Jenkins felt was “dignified” and
“courageous” in his ability to confront injustice without
making a scene. Jenkins, perhaps inspired by Serena’s
new comportment, felt moved to argue that her
continued boycott of Indian Wells in 2013, where she
felt traumatized by the aggression of racist slurs hurled
at her in 2001, was lacking in “dignity” and “integrity”
and demonstrated “only stubbornness and a grudge.”
Watching this newly contained Serena, you begin to
wonder if she finally has given up wanting better from
her peers or if she too has come across Hennessy’s Art
Thoughtz and is channeling his assertion that the less
that is communicated the better. Be ambiguous. This
type of ambiguity could also be diagnosed as
dissociation and would support Serena’s claim that she
39
has had to split herself off from herself and create
different personae.
Now that there is no calling out of injustice, no yelling,
no cursing, no finger wagging or head shaking, the
media decides to take up the mantle when on December
12, 2012, two weeks after Serena is named WTA Player
of the Year, the Dane Caroline Wozniacki, a former
number-one player, imitates Serena by stuffing towels
in her top and shorts, all in good fun, at an exhibition
match. Racist? CNN wants to know if outrage is the
proper response.
It’s then that Hennessy’s suggestions about “how to be
a successful artist” return to you: be ambiguous, be
white. Wozniacki, it becomes clear, has finally enacted
what was desired by many of Serena’s detractors,
consciously or unconsciously, the moment the Compton
girl first stepped on court. Wozniacki (though there are
a number of ways to interpret her actions—playful
mocking of a peer, imitation of the mimicking antics of
the tennis player known as the joker, Novak Djokovic)
finally gives the people what they have wanted all along
by embodying Serena’s attributes while leaving
Serena’s “angry nigger exterior” behind. At last, in this
real, and unreal, moment, we have Wozniacki’s image
of smiling blond goodness posing as the best female
tennis player of all time.
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