Three days on, and I have read so much about Serena Williams and her historical win, and presence in tennis. Let me make this clear, I can read think pieces about Serena all day and night because she is a huge inspiration to me, women and black women across the world. Recently, a contributor offered to write a piece on Serena’s position in society, but I turned it down, as the internet is still saturated with Serena this, Serena that.
However, on Monday morning something happened. Serena Williams' success showed me how invisible my blackness is in the work space.
So, as I settled into my desk, I overheard three white colleagues, two male and one female, discuss Serena’s success. I felt that piece of honourary black girl pride, as I assumed they were going to sing her praises on accomplishing the Serena Slam or being the oldest player ever to be ranked No.1 in the world.
Instead, my dreams were dashed when the female in the conversation said something along these lines: “people need to stop writing articles about Serena not being as popular as Federer. She’s just not and just because she’s not popular, it doesn’t mean everybody is racist or sexist.” Then a male voice chimed in: “she’s just not charismatic.” All three agreed in unison. Finally, I heard muttering from the female voice that disregarded Serena's champion status with "women only play three sets in comparison to men, who play five sets." I felt like turning round and saying you try playing a game of tennis in that dirty heat like Serena did on Saturday.
In my 25 years of experience of being black, anyone who isn't of colour and ends a sentence with 'it doesn't mean me/them are racist" is conscious that their words do in fact sound incredibly racist. They are at the very least aware that their comments have subtle racist undertones.
Their comments got me thinking - what is worse? Being a visible black woman, the black woman that is out in the public eye, front and centre where people pick at your race, attitude and body? Or being the invisible black woman? The black woman who goes to work, sits in a predominately white office, a desk away from where thoughtless, careless statements are made about the intersectionality of your race and gender in the absolute open because no one cares about your presence?
What was fascinating to me was their opinion that Serena lacks charisma - eerrrr, have you seen the 7/11 video, done with Vogue, the standard bearer of mainstream beauty?