Why the Serena Williams Vanity Fair Cover Image Bothers Me

Aside from her bead- clad cornrow days, I have not seen Serena Williams on the court. Instead, I solely saw Williams on award shows where she seemed a caricatured version of a black female, clad in an unflattering, inauthentic hair fit for female impersonators and clothes that drew attention to her muscles, or physical hardness and not her soft feminine features. I now watch Williams play tennis at he lunch venue of which I dine a few times a week. The experience proved quite didactic, not of the game itself, but of Williams and her appeal.

It is over lunch, in thirty minute increments, that I get to gaze upon a woman I have heard so much about. She is statuesque, strong and focused. She is entrancing to look at. In fact, once setting my eyes on her I found myself enthralled by  an indistinguishable beauty and confidence that beams off Ms. Williams in a manner that makes it virtually impossible to look away. Ms. Williams is a powerful image of athleticism but also a powerful figure of Black femininity. Juxtaposed to her often thin blonde white female opponents on and off the court, she composes their binary opposite, ultimately proving superior time and time again. Her African origin as undeniable as her skill, Williams continues to dominate a game designed to exclude women of her hue and aesthetic.

Her victories made her a celebrated champion and hero in the black community. But this queen did not find a king in a man who looks like her father–but in a man who resembles those responsible for displacing her ancestors centuries prior. The news of their engagement and pregnancy bothered me but not as much as the nude portrait of Williams impregnated by the sperm of a racial psychopath featured on the most recent issue of Vanity Fair.

The image has crossed my path countless time since its conception, and each time I have tried my hardest to look away— its contents searing my peripheral vision with the visual stench of a walking death. The photo depicts Williams as alongside her ancestors, barefoot and impregnated by the benefactors to her hard labor. By birthing a white man’s baby, the black female body takes an integral step away from Africa into the quicksand of the western world.

Viewing the image is also much like quicksand, that spirals the conscious gaze into a brief blindness, prompted by an intense collective pain. This image exposes a deep-seeded black female hurt, a void, a gaping black hole, a vicious inner demon seemingly slayed by the phallic sword of a white man. The white man of course created this demon as a means to lure the black collective into the helplessness of inferiority. Therefore, he does not kill the inner-demons of his black female lover, he feeds it.

But perhaps most detrimental, this image proves a pedagogical discourse for determining beauty. To the western gaze, a woman with life is beautiful. The black female, a womanless figure, does not ordinarily earn a badge of beauty for her reproductive feats. Black female reproduction is often regarded similarly to the offspring of animals, uncivil but lucrative. Commonly labeled a welfare mother, or careless breeder of those supported by American taxes, the child bore from a black female womb is commonly regarded as a burden, and is far from beautiful. A black women birthing a biracial child, on the other hand, is not only beautiful but revolutionary in a world that wants its inhabitants to believe that watering down black genetics cures the color conflict birthed by whites to manifest a colonialized destiny.

This picture is beautiful to so many who have reproduced the Vanity Fair cover featuring Williams countless times throughout social media. This image is beautiful to black Women who find equanimity in a black woman ridiculed for her looks marrying a white man. The picture symbolizes a trophy desired by women who need to itemize their aesthetics by obtaining the pseudo appreciation of the white male gaze. To many this picture captures Williams’ greatest achievement and no it’s not Wimbledon.  Williams personifies a real-life version of Olivia Pope, a fictional black female figure celebrated for her relationships with white men. Williams, a non-fictional figure symbolizes the contemporary black female body who has consummated a journey to whiteness without long fine hair, small features, a petite frame or light skin. She functions to illustrate the consummation of an elusive whiteness, or dilution of a black psyche as attainable not only by those with passable features, but to any black female body willing to implement “passable” actions.

In writing this there is a slight reservation in each word that I type.  I know many will read and chastise my words. I know that many that know me personally would advise that I make note of Williams’ actions, and implement her taste into my own life eschewing what some label the “burdens of black love.”  Others will state that I should be happy for Williams, happy that she found someone who can “appreciate her beauty.” I suppose I am dutifully wrong in hoping that this someone would be Williams herself.

The beauty the image affords a black female body pregnant with a biracial child proves counterproductive in exposing its subject’s vulnerability not as an expectant mother, but as a black women struggling with self love. It is through this exposition, that betrays Williams as one of many black female bodies who wish to not pass on their skin to their children. The picture unveils a black female body lynched by a system who told her that despite being a “magical negress” who can win the highest honors in a sport dominated by thin, blonde white women— that she would and could never be beautiful.

But you are beautiful Miss Williams. While the masses celebrate your pregnancy as a pending improvement on a design, the conscious gaze knows that this perfection was initial not acquired.  You, black woman are perfect.

May the young black female gaze who looks at this picture eschew the seduction to acquiesce to the fantasy of a white prince–and join hands, and lives with a king who mirrors their strong nose, full lips, wooly hair, sun- kissed skin, and rich lineage.

Black power.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Lena says:

    Yea… I agree. I guess in the end it doesn’t matter if you were raised by a strong black man (her father)… I mean, idk. I don’t know anymore lol.

    I hear what you’re saying : white acceptance is a hell of a drug. But damn! Not Serena

    I’m curious to know what her parents think? If they care? Or love is love?

    Anyway, I’m new here. I read your articles often. Hi! Also have you seen American Gods, a show on starz? I think you will find it ….uhhhh interesting lol. Especially episodes 1,2 and the finale.

    1. Hi Lena! Thanks for your comment!

      I’ll check out this show, I hadn’t heard of it. Thanks for putting me on!

      Hmmm… Amos Wilson’s The Psychology of the Black Child is next on my reading list and I hope to pair his teachings with my ideology to continue explicating the questions you posed

      Do you blog? I’d love to read your posts! .

      1. Lena says:

        Oh no, I don’t blog– I don’t have a way with words like you do ! I love to read though. Lol.

        I’m Currently reading : Yurugu by Dr. Marimba Ani – she explains the psychology of Europeans and its origins of thought. Have you read it?

        Yesss please check out American Gods. There’s an African goddess character that I’m sure you will have a field day on.lol. She depicts everything that you mention about the black female body. It’s a new show– the finale was a few weeks ago.

        I wonder if Serena will marry him? Or if it was all about having HIS baby….

      2. I haven’t. I will put it on my list. Thanks for the referral.

        Let’s hope Serena doesn’t end up like Halle, paying her white lover (who she never married) child support while he tries to unblacken their child…

      3. Yurugu is in my top 5 favorite books for becoming less confused about the system of racism white supremacy! I think this book should be required reading for every black person, the first 150 pages or so are tough reading after that the book really flows once you have taken your time to learn the terms, excellent book!

      4. Is this the title or the author?

      5. Yurugu is the title and the Author is Dr. Marimba Ani, really help to deactivate my white chip 🙂

      6. You are most welcomed!!!!

      7. Lena says:

        Ha! Exactly!

  2. “But you are beautiful Miss Williams. While the masses celebrate your pregnancy as a pending improvement on a design, the conscious gaze knows that this perfection was initial not acquired.  You, black woman are perfect.
    May the young black female gaze who looks at this picture eschew the seduction to acquiesce to the fantasy of a white prince–and join hands, and lives with a king who mirrors their strong nose, full lips, wooly hair, sun- kissed skin, and rich lineage.”
    You said it all CC. I have always like Serena. She’s a beautiful woman with amazing talent. Most of the white women in tennis are envious of her God given ability. But I think she fell for the trap. We are taught to need white acceptance. So by laying with her oppressor she feels this will let her in the “white club. But she will have a rude awakening. They will never accept us because are not THEM. No amount of integration will change that fact. It doesn’t matter if we let them sexual sewer us in the bedroom. I have a post on Serena too. When I saw that Vanity Fair cover I almost gasped!!!

    1. You may remember this, but years ago there was a picture of Williams in jet magazine in a bikini with a white man running behind her. The picture was disgusting but I guess it was foreshadow…

      1. Really??? No I don’t remember seeing that. And I’ve read a lot of Jet magazines.lol But as you say I guess it was a sign of things to come.smh

      2. Wow!! I am speechless.

  3. Serena and Venus are beautiful. It’s sad that they both met the fate of the Tragic Arrangement, even after having a strong black Attempted Father. Richard Williams wrote a fabulous book all about Racism White Supremacy Black and White The way I See It. There is a huge disconnect is passing this life saving information to the next generation. I do not know if it’s religion or what that is causing the disconnect but we must figure this out.

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