The truth behind Serena Williams and The Crip Walk

The truth behind Serena Williams and The Crip Walk

After Serena Williams' gold medal singles victory against Maria Sharapova on Saturday, she took a moment to do a celebratory dance. Through the power of Twitter, it soon became public knowledge that the dance was The Crip Walk, created in the 1970's by gang members from Compton. American media began reporting on it, with many speaking against her choice of dance moves. After her subsequent women's doubles win alongside her sister Venus, many news outlets readdressed the dance, expressing that they were relieved that she did not do it again.

Most of the news outlets reporting that Serena's victory dance was the gang affiliated Crip Walk failed to provide basic facts that would have alleviated concerns over the dance being gang related. It is hard to determine if this is a race issue or just another case of generational gaps causing confusion among well-meaning Olympics' fans.

As I stated before, The Crip Walk originally had gang ties. However, it hasn't been relegated to gangs since it got nicknamed "the C-walk" and became a mainstream phenomena years ago. It was so mainstream that even Justin Timberlake did it at a 2007 show at the Staples Center.

The Crip Walk has no gang affiliation when it is done solely as a dance, mostly because Crips use the dance to spell out the name of their set with their feet. Serena only did the dance for a few seconds, which means she didn't even have time to spell out "USA."

Further, her dance could also have fallen under the category of The Clown Walk or The Crown Walk, both of which are evolutions of The Crip Walk but without any gang ties.

I think the bigger issue here is the fact that America seems to have a problem with African Americans who are in esteemed positions embracing any aspect of urban culture. The reality of the situation is Serena Williams won a gold medal for her country, and the neighborhoods in which she learned this dance move are a part of that country. Personally, I have a hard time understanding why any die-hard Olympics fan in America would be more concerned about her dance than they are about the gold medal she won for our country.

 

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    Having still not seen the video (but heard about it) I'll say the following.

    Yeah I sort disapprove of c-walking after winning the gold, not because it implies she's part of a gang, that's insanely stupid but because that's sort of like becoming the president and then throwing back a 40oz at the club (which while possibly still a stupid opinion is much less so). I just don't think c-walking is the classy move to do after winning an olympic gold. That's just my opinion.

    Even though I 'disapprove' I still haven't cared enough about the olympics to watch the video. I got more important things to do. Even if I did watch I wouldn't disapprove so much that I'd still be annoyed 3 minutes later. After all she just won a Gold Medal. Skill gets respect. Besides it's not like she ripped off her shirt.

  • In reply to ramdomwolf:

    The word "classy" is subjective. What makes her doing the C-Walk tasteless, the fact that it is an aspect of the young urban culture that she is a part of OR the fact that it evolved from a gang, which is itself a consequence of the disparities facing the Black community?

    I think it is arrogant that we, who are NOT qualified to be Olympic athletes, think we can judge her and assign her our opinions on what it is or is not appropriate to do.

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    In reply to ramdomwolf:

    I don't see why an Olympic Gold medal winner even needs to be "classy" in her celebration. I agree that how one might define something as classy is totally subjective. Why is hugging, high-fiving, or screaming in celebration any more "classy" than a little dance? Swing dance, tango, and jazz music were considered obscene and obnoxious back in the day because of their "unclassy" associations, but no one is claiming that those roots define it now.

    I think in a general U.S. perspective, that "classiness" and what is considered appropriate is too often equated with cultural behaviors associated with White people and not with those of people of color.

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    "many news outlets readdressed the dance, expressing that they were relieved that she did not do it again."
    - NL

    From the looks of the photo, people probably think she dances like I play tennis.

  • It has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with her lack of respect and class in this particular venue. She knew full well that it is a dance that was originally affliated with a gang.

    She could have celebrated her victory in any number of ways. However, because of her choice to do this particular gang-affiliated dance (regarless of how far removed from the dance's origin) she will not be remembered for her stellar playing - she'll be remembered for her association with the "crip dance". And that is unfortunate.

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    Anyone who remembers her for a dance instead of her accomplishment is a petty and contrite person who's opinion on the matter is invalidated by their subjectivity. She'll go down in history as a champion.

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    Dont you worry about Sarena having class...most of America is lacking class. Do you live in a hole?...Do you see whats going on around you?...Looks like a lot of classless shit going on to me. Just make sure whats in the mirror has "class"...judgeth not less ye be judged. When she or any other black public figure starts smoking crack and robbing banks,then holla at me. Until then all of the haters can shut the hell up!!!..I bet they aint talking about those millions of dollars she gives away to charity.

  • I dont know whats in the water in this country but we have become so judgemental and sensitive. And the fact that Sarena is African American makes it worse. They were even on Ryan Lochte for wearing his grill which..even though it was made by white rapper Paul Wall,it is traditionally a black urban fashion accessory. And when he wore that grill and took a pic with one of the cast members on Love an Hip Hop Atlanta dont you know it,the racial comments flooded about how is is a N lover etc. Now they are on Gabby Douglas's hair. We cant win for losing and damn if we do or dont they will find something to complain about Im going to say it and I dont apologize.."WHITE AMERICA GET OVER YOUR FUCKING SELF"....!!!! As much as you dont want it to be about race..lets be real..with them it's always about race. And they always bring up the comment.."get over the past and lets move on". Hell,we are trying but it's hard when it keeps getting thrown in your face. It's our culture,we are who we are..we dont walk around with a stick up our ass everyday and as much as they try to make us the bad guys we are the most kind and forgiving people on earth. We will always be flamboyant and colorful and not straight laced,stuck up and snooty...Sarena or any of us aint changing to please them or apologizing so deal with it. The earth is getting hotter,everyone is getting darker..evolution is taking place..someones about to be extinct....call me crazy but the evidence is all around you.

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    I enjoyed the piece.

    I would like to address one thing. You write, "I think the bigger issue here is the fact that America seems to have a problem with African Americans who are in esteemed positions embracing any aspect of urban culture."

    Something about this statement seems too broad for me. I remember Oprah playing a 50cent song and dancing -- along with a very diverse crowd during an episode of her show. There are just too many aspects of urban culture that have been embraced by people not only in this country, but around the world. Instead I think the issue for some who found fault with Serena is that Serena herself is hard to contextualize. There is simply no other female athlete at her level of fame, wealth and dominance. When something is hard to label or pin down, we sometimes relate it to categories or labels by default. I do feel sorry for them, but not for Serena. She's been dealing with ignorance since the nineties and thriving at it's expense.

  • A lot of whining about Ms. Williams dance where was the whining when Brent Barry did it 9 Years ago? In case you don't know who he is, he is a former NBA player and white.

  • Great piece.

  • Gurl! Including that Timberlake video was genius! I'm still laughing!

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