As the Olympics wind down, many Black athletes have triumphed, winning medals in multiple categories. Black American athletes currently hold 17 medals in total including swimming, tennis, gymnastics, fencing, and track and field.
However, in some cases, much of the spotlight has been shifted away from their athletic talents and onto more controversial topics, specifically Serena William’s C-Walk victory dance and Gabby Douglas’ hairstyle.
After Williams won the gold medal in the Women’s Singles in tennis, defeating Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1, she did the C-Walk, also known as the Crip Walk, as a celebratory dance. It was met with much criticism, because of the dances’ gang-related roots.
Famous blogger Debbie Schlussel referred to Williams’ dance as “unclassy” and said, “Yup, that’s what we need representing America, a gold medalist who, upon winning, glorifies hardened criminals who murder each other and innocent Americans for sport.”
“What Serena did was akin to cracking a tasteless, X-rated joke inside a church” said Jason Whitlock, a Black writer for Fox Sports. “Serena deserved to be called out. What she did was immature and classless.”
During a news conference, when asked about the type of dance, Williams said, “Actually, there is a name. But I don’t know if I-it’s inappropriate … It’s just a dance we do in California.”
During another interview, Serena commented on her dance saying “It’s getting so much attention …It just happened. I was so excited that it just came out.”
Other critics in support of Williams mentioned that her dance paid homage to her Compton roots, pointing out that the dance has become popularized over time.
Author and Essence magazine contributor, Demetria L. Lucas commented on Serena’s dance saying, “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.”
Although much of the criticism comments more on William’s five-second dance than her recent achievements, it does not erase them. Just before the dance, she won her first Olympic gold medal and became the second woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments–the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. The next day in the Women’s Double, she and sister Venus won another gold medal, defeating a team from the Czech Republic.
Similarly, gymnast Gabby Douglas was also judged for something other than her athletic achievements. Just shortly after Douglas helped her team win the women’s gymnastics team gold, a few Black women on the social networking site Twitter, began criticizing her hair.
Comments such as, “So for real though, nobody wanted to go to London to do Gabby Douglas’ hair?” and “Gabby Douglas is cute and all … but that hair … on camera.”
“I don’t think people should be worried about that. Nothing is going to change,” Gabby said in response to the critics. “I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.”
Despite the criticism, with her winning performance, Douglas became the first Black gymnast to win gold in the women’s all-around.
Beyond Williams’ and Douglas’ medals, many other Black women have been victorious in the Olympics. So far, Sonya Richards-Ross, Deedee Trotter, Carmelita Jeter, Maya Lawrence, and Lia Neal, have all won medals. In the next few days, more compete in women’s boxing, taekwondo, track and field, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. And some are sure to win more medals–a real testament to why they are in London in the first place.