In the vast panoply of topics that are likely to spark my interest in a potential Ethics Alarms topic, the excerpts from a not-yet-released autobiography of a female Russian tennis player is somewhere on the list below the sex lives of pangolins. The Daily Beast headline, however was click-bait: Maria Sharapova’s Vile, Racially Tinged Treatment of Serena Williams.
Really? A 30-year-old fading female tennis super-star coming off a performance-enhancing drug suspension is making racist comments about Serena Williams, her longtime ( and unquestionably superior) rival? That kind of thing will grab my attention every time, not that I lack for Ethics Dunce candidates.
But it turns out that Sharapova is not the ethics dunce here.
Here are the “vile, racially tinged” comments from the book, according to African-American Daily Beast editor Ira Madison II:
“First of all her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. It’s the whole thing—her presence, her confidence, her personality. Even now, she can make me feel like a little girl.”
Serena Williams is, when in playing shape (she just had a baby), 5′ 9″ tall and weighs about 155 pounds. She is and has always been noticeably muscular, far more so than most tennis players (including her sister), and indeed most female athletes generally. Here she is in a representative, non-tennis photo:
Here is Maria Sharapova—she is five inches taller and weighs 25 pounds less. She is definitely not muscular; she is built like a fashion model….
Here they are, side by side, in tennis court shots:
Verdict: Serena could crush Maria like a bug, if she so desired. There is absolutely nothing racial about the Russian player’s visceral reaction to her stronger and more physically imposing rival. Nothing.
Here is the second “racially-tinged” excerpt, and the only other one:
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. I think she hated me for taking something that she believed belonged to her. I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”
Ah HA! There we have it, the ancient racial stereotypes: black women hate being beaten in tennis by skinny kids, hate having something taken away from them, hate being seen in defeat, and really, really hate being heard to cry.
What the hell is Madison talking about? With a few changes in context, that Sharapova quote could have been made about Hillary Clinton.
Again, those are the only “vile, racially-tinged” quotes from the book.
To be fair, while Madison does call the statements “vile”—there is absolutely nothing vile about them; petty, typical mean-girl trash-talking, but not “vile”—he never writes that they are racial comments. Then again, he’s an editor: surely he has some say when a headline is completely false and unfair and covers his own piece.
What’s going on here? The headline says what it does because the Daily Beast doggedly follows the cultural extortion strategy that any criticism of any prominent, semi-prominent or any other category of African American, for any reason, fact-based or not, is rooted in racism. This is explicitly designed and executed to make non-African Americans catch themselves and hesitate before engaging in any topic involving black Americans whatsoever.
It is, of course, part of the hangover from eight years of a trail-blazing African American President who was, tragically, lousy at his job, and thus had to be protected from accountability by, among other tactics, his allies intimidating and demonizing critics.
Like so much else wafting our way from the partisan left, this is a device to chill speech, marginalize critics, stifle political opposition, and silence dissent. It is vile, and it has to be stopped.