Last week was a bad week for black people. First of all, tennis titan Serena Williams suffered a very public meltdown. Wow! Serena lost it, metaphorically and literally, big time. For some reason, at match point at the US Open, during her semi-final against comeback queen Kim Clijsters, she saw fit to launch a verbal tirade against a line judge who rightly called a foot fault against her.
Williams, who was defaulted from the match thereby handing victory to Clijsters, was furious, foolish and plain wrong, wrong, wrong! Even if the line judge had been incorrect in her call, Williams should’ve known better. Yes, people do crazy things under pressure and even crazier things under the spotlight. But there was no justification for Williams’s unwarranted attack.
Firstly, she’d more or less lost the match anyway and secondly, just why? There was no need for her eruption. The fact that she didn’t feel the need to apologize for her behavior in the immediate aftermath makes matters worse and weakens her later show of remorse in which she apologized for, among other things, bringing the game in to disrepute.
Next up was Kanye West. Man, oh man! Let me put my cards on the table. I love Kanye and consider myself to be one of his biggest fans. But even I couldn’t condone his antics at the VMAs. Yes, everybody knows Kanye loves attention and regularly courts controversy. That’s his thing. But that doesn’t excuse him from ruining a teenager’s moment in the sun just because he felt like it. Before anyone says anything, yes, maybe Beyoncé did have a better video and, yes, maybe B should’ve won the award. Maybe ‘the r word’ did play a part in B’s loss. But how, then, do the skeptics explain B winning in other categories, beating out equally popular, non-black artists? Kanye’s actions had nothing to do with Beyoncé or taking a stand against industry racism and everything to do with his huge ego, which, admittedly, is an intrinsic part of his appeal. But on this occasion he simply got it wrong and he apologized for his idiocy almost immediately.
That doesn’t justify President Obama taking a swipe at the self-proclaimed ‘Louis Vuitton Don’. There was a time when it seemed that Uncle Barack could do no wrong. And I’m not talking about his plans for healthcare reform.
I’m lucky enough to live in a country where free healthcare is enjoyed by all and I would hope that everyone, wherever they are in the world, could benefit from the same privilege. Even in my native Ghana, there’s a National Health Insurance Scheme where citizens can pay a small annual fee and benefit from free care and medication at the point of need. So healthcare is not the issue here.
Rather, why President Obama saw fit to comment on the Kanye West/Taylor Swift controversy, let’s call it Westgate, I’ll never understand. I was more than a little disappointed that Obama, whether for popularity’s sake or to show that he can be impartial in the face of a race-laced debate, decided to pass comment on this insignificant affair. Shouldn’t he have bigger things to worry about than Kanye West storming the VMA stage? What with healthcare reform, Jimmy Carter and Van Jones, you’d think President Obama would be too busy to tune in to MTV. I’d rather Obama talk about climate change and international security than concern himself with calling Kanye West a jackass.
Needless to say, everyone, including me, has an opinion on the events of last week and, after these three incidents, the Internet was on fire with the vitriol of racists who felt the need to come down hard, not only on the individuals concerned but on the entire black race. In this post-color world of ours it seems that, as blogger TheGrio wrote,“racism hasn’t gone away, it has just gone online”.
Whether we like it or not, the reality is that black people are expected to live up to higher standards in our public lives than our non-black counterparts. It’s also an unfortunate truth that the actions of one black person indict the actions of the whole race, which, rightly or wrongly, isn’t the case for any other ethnic group. So, while Serena and Kanye acting out was their own private issues and nothing to do with you or me, we know only too well that we’re being judged by their actions as much as they are.
I go to work everyday knowing that, no matter how much I know or how much I do, I have to be one step ahead of my white colleagues and work twice as hard to get half as far. That is why black women like you and me get better educated and better qualified in order to achieve a level of relative success. We should all take responsibility for our individual actions but we should also bear in mind that we’re under greater scrutiny. And I, for one, relish this challenge with grace under undue pressure.