Serena Williams’ C-Walk: Controversy or Culture?



Forget what Team USA did to Nigeria in basketball, what Serena Williams did to Maria Sharapova at Centre Court at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club to bring home the gold medal is easily the most dominant performance thus far in the Olympics. It’s just too bad that the thing that everyone is focusing on is the 30-year-old’s celebratory dance. As much as we enjoy individuality and are far from a detractor of celebrating, perhaps Ms. Williams crip walk was ill advised.

But was Serena Williams really paying homage to a gangster’s life?

Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke seems to think so, as he tweeted “Serena C-walking at Wimbledon only shows how long she’s been away from home, separated from violence and death associated with that dance.” However, as with most things that have spawned from urban America, the origins of the C-walk are far removed from the dance once it hit the mainstream. It doesn’t make it any better, but it also doesn’t mean that we should allow it to overshadow her complete dismantling of the Russian that has long battled Serena for the number one spot in the world tennis rankings.

Surely, she didn’t say to herself “let me pay homage to the villains from the hood” as she broke into the five second dance.  American swimmer Ryan Lochte probably never considered the origins of the grill he flashed after winning the gold medal for the 400m individual medley. Although both the crip walk and the grill have two vastly different origins, the pop culture desensitization of both are the same. When Brent Barry C-walked during the 2003 NBA All-Star 3-point contest, his dance was met with giggles and devoid of criticism. That was obviously because Barry wasn’t crip affiliated nor from Compton. Or maybe it’s because the dance is viewed today as harmless.

But when Serena Williams does it, it’s now serenading a murderer’s lifestyle?

The funny thing is that most observers who have been critical of Williams quick dance had no idea what she was doing until they checked out the explosion of social media. Once they became privy to the dance, they decided to trace its origins and saddle Williams with the unflattering “ghetto mentality” tag. Williams worked her ass off to get herself into a position to dominate the world in tennis. She comes from a city where her and her friends have done the dance without any inkling of being empathetic to gang culture. The dance originated from the inner city and is done by many who have no gang affiliation whatsoever. That’s just what happens when a dance permeates into the mainstream. The next time you watch MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, ask yourself if the multi-cultured dancers are sympathizing with gang culture when they bust out a C-walk.

Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock suggested that the dance was “premeditated” as a means to show out the “snobs at Wimbledon a taste of the Compton girl they fear.” Williams has already shown the world that she’s the baddest of them all. She was clearly exhilarated by her utter destruction of the then- number one tennis player in the world and opted to celebrate.

And what’s wrong with celebration? Apparently, to many it’s a disrespectful way to show up the competition. To some, playing the game like it was “meant to be played”  is the only way to go. No celebrating, no taunting, no dancing, no nothing. But the game is not just a game to the African-Americans that breakthrough in sports that they weren’t allowed to participate in years ago. The game is far more than points and trophies. It’s a way out.

Many  athletes from urban environments had to work their way through the impoverished confines of their city in order to punch their ticket out of the hood. When you listen to a story like the unbelievable tale of survival and struggle that retired NFL running back Curtis Martin delivered at his Hall of Fame induction, you can see why we celebrate once we get to the top. Success isn’t given to them, it is hard earned. And in a sport that was once considered an “all-white sport,” the fact that Serena Williams is one of four tennis players to achieve a Career Golden Slam (win all four Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympic gold medal) is even more reason for one to dance.

She earned the opportunity to dance for a few seconds. Get over it.

But the other side of the coin is that she unknowingly left herself open to criticism the moment that she finished her dance. After all, it is the crip walk and she knew that she may be in hot water the moment she sheepishly backtracked in front of the press during the post-match news conference.

“Actually, there is a name. But I don’t know if . . . it’s inappropriate,” Williams said. “It’s just a dance we do in California.”

As always, an African-American has to be aware that they are still African-American in the eyes of the press. As mentioned in the Gabby Douglas article, one misstep is magnified tenfold. The crip walk, although harmless in its 2012 intent, will be slammed because of the simple fact that it still has “crip” in the name. And mainstream America is deathly afraid of The Crips. And although pop culture borrows heavy from hip-hop culture that is produced in the inner cities, that doesn’t mean that they will criticize it any less and Serena has to be aware of that. It was a brief lapse of judgment that doesn’t need Serena to stand in front of a camera and deliver a public apology. Everyone should be aware that Ms. Williams isn’t going to celebrate a lifestyle that claimed the life of her older sister in 2003. No, this was just a moment of sheer joy.

Let’s celebrate yet another African-American first and national victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics, rather than shroud her success in controversy.

  • Almas

    Great article, but here in the UK, it’s about class, not race. Remember the flack Andre Agassi received for this inappropriate attire at Wimbledon? Love this website – y’all are doing an AWESOME job.

  • Almas

    Great article, but it’s not about race, here in the UK; it’s about class. Remember the flack Andre Agassi received for his “inappropriate attire” at Wimbledon? Love this website, y’all are doing an awesome job!

  • Anonymous

    you’re making an excuse for a dance that glorifies a gang because of culture? If she had 5 seconds to dance and did something else no one speaks about it.

    Her sister was murdered in gang violence in Compton, you should add that into your article that glorifies the “harmlessness” of this.

  • Edson Selfmade Gabriel


  • Elliott LaRue

    “Every step you take, they remind you you ghetto” -Jay-Z

  • Nneka McDuffie

    Almas are you saying that she has no class or what are you trying to say? What does it matter if she did the c-walk or the b-walk she is a great athlete and everyone else celebrates why is it a big deal? It’s just a dance so what the crips made it up everyone at least all the black people I know including myself has c-walked and I’m not even from California.

  • Mouhamed Bamba

    I can sadly see that those stupid thoughts aren’t just happening in France

  • Mouhamed Bamba

    I can sadly see that those stupid thoughts aren’t just happening in France

  • Anonymous

    Really, is that all you have. man get real, her doing that dance shows no reflection on who she is as a Black Woman nor accomplished Tennis Star!! report some real news. How about what they’re doing about these high A** Gas prices or poverty in America!!!

  • Paul Suit

    Ummm..okay…please tell me you’re joking. THIS is what[‘s causing all the controversy?! THIS is what you actually spent time addressing?! *YAAAWN*

  • MacAttaq

    I generally agree – it shouldn’t matter. But the forum in which the event took place is the most important piece of the puzzle. It is telling that there is a comparison between the 2003 All-Star game and Wimbledon. In the former, one may argue that the C-Walk is likely accepted, or perhaps even accepted out of people that play basketball. Think of the stereotype of the typical professional basketball player – black, urban, uneducated. Compare this to Wimbledon – it is the whitest venue on the planet (literally and figuratively), played in by some of the most “cultured” individuals, who are overwhelmingly white. In that sense, the forum where the event took place suggests that the C-Walk was not acceptable, because it doesn’t fit within the expectations of the audience or participants to see it.

    If this is true, then despite what Almas has to say, it is in fact, more about race than it is about class. Remember, the brouhaha originated online, which transcends nationality. That means we absolutely have to consider the expectations of the viewers/participants in the event, and that definitely raises the question of race.

  • Jim Gray

    I really don’t think she meant anything by it. It’s a fun dance that she did for less than 10 seconds in a moment of excitement. People need to get over it. If it wasn’t called a crip walk, people like Bill Plaschke wouldn’t even know it’s origin. This is no worse than any other athlete’s celebration.

  • Anonymous

    Am I really reading this article right now?! Are we really wasting time with worrying about this?! OMG-get over it! WHO CARES what dance she did-she won the damn gold medal-I WOULD OF BEEN DOING FLIPS!!! really people-it’s not that serious-why don’t you write about the starving children in these third world countries-hell-the starving children down the street from me-now that’s an article worth reading! GEEZ!!

  • Anonymous

    Am I really reading this article right now?! Are we really wasting time with worrying about this?! OMG-get over it! WHO CARES what dance she did-she won the damn gold medal-I WOULD OF BEEN DOING FLIPS!!! really people-it’s not that serious-why don’t you write about the starving children in these third world countries-hell-the starving children down the street from me-now that’s an article worth reading! GEEZ!!

  • AGDM

    I am glad she did it. She earns the right to celebrate however she’d like. The real issue is that they rather she had not won as she did or at all. She is probably the best tennis player there has ever been. I could think of other dances she could have done… equally black that they might not have liked just as much… such as The Electric Slide, the A Town Stomp or maybe the Pepperseed for my West Indians. Bottom line, haters gonna hate.

  • Mike Smith

    The article actually says “And mainstream America is deathly afraid of The Crips.”… opposed to the rest of America? Have they taken up arms against the Crips? Newsflash, so is the rest of the country, Andreas. Before writing this article, you should’ve done your homework. EVERYONE fears people toting guns willing to shoot anyone including kids. It’s not a “mainstream” issue & your implication as such completely discredits any validity this article; or you “may” have had. Please go back to covering stories you know about, political nonsense seems to be right up your alley.

  • Brandon Shockley

    Great article. Although 1 i didnt realize it was a big deal in the media. 2 Mainstream america is afraid of the crips along with the rest of america. 3 you can say crip walk is desensitized from its origin like the n word but its not acceptable for any other ethnicity to say the n word or do the c walk. This is way I think it may bother some non black people. 4 I genuinely believe doing this regardless if you think its separated far from its origin is still a symbol of ignorance we are ambassadors to the world we should show a little more class. I highly doubt anybody would crip walk up to barrack obama or martin luther king jr. and try to make the argument that this isnt a big deal or crip walk up to all the families that have been hurt in gang violence.

  • Kayode Oke

    she did a crip walk so!! Its her way of celebrating and if anyone has a problem with it they can hang off a cliff

  • Anonymous


  • Rose Renee

    give me a break. it’s a dance get over it……mainstream is more upset that she beat their golden white girl and is using the dance as an excuse to hide behind…..

  • Rose Renee

    no one said anything about it when beyonce did it in one of her videos……white america picks on certain people and serena and her sister have been under attack since they took over woman’s tennis….

  • Larry Mitchell

    Uhm, the only people who should be scared of the Crips are rival gang members. Mainstream America fears them because mainstream America likes to have things to fear. It helps them buy and sell. To say that all of America should be afraid of a nearly neutered gang with very little real power left in the 816 area code is ridiculous. She did a dance. Get over it.

  • Mohammed Asim Jr.

    Cuzzo was a crip, said it was a C thang. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Look folks there are some things in society that are just associated with lowlife scum. Adolph Hitler’s moustache, the “Heil Hitler” salute and the crip dance. All stem from predatory scum in this country. Serena was a representative of the greatest country there is; for her to acknowledge such lowlifes by doing the dance they brought about is a shame to say the least. Even sadder is so many African Americans agree but won’t speak for fear of being seen as “White”…? Cowards for failing to speak up. No wonder black communities are imploding. After all Cowards Run In Packs……

  • Peter Andre Torres

    Its only entertainment!

  • Tangi Gulley

    I agree with my beautiful sister, Ms. Rose Renee!!! Its a dance, and a dance only. I am so sick of America and their tactics to undermine our successful Black People!! If I am not mistaken dancing doesnt kill, its guns that do!!! She won, she danced, get a life people!!!

  • Tangi Gulley

    I agree with my beautiful sister, Ms. Rose Renee!!! Its a dance, and a dance only. I am so sick of America and their tactics to undermine our successful Black People!! If I am not mistaken dancing doesnt kill, its guns that do!!! She won, she danced, get a life people!!!

  • Crystal Hickson Hailstock

    Why can’t the media stop the drama. Serena is an American Champion and we need to concentrate on her accomplishments instead of taking things out of context. Serena was dancing for joy, just celebrating her victory and everything she went through to get to that point. We can’t allow society or the world to distract our focus for success. We are a victorious people no matter what others say or do. Serena did nothing wrong. Only being the champion that she is. We honor her for stepping up and showing the world she still got it in her to bring America into victory. Stop being hatters.

  • Kellie Asher

    No one out of america would of known what that dance meant and honestly its sad to be educated what the meaning of that dance is. I have been to America a couple of times and it still shocks me how racist people are and how certain parts of the country looks 3rd world for a 1st world country. There is a cultural view point that it is okay to neglect others in the guise of “If you work hard you will be rich, every man for themselves”, there doesnt seem to be any kind of mateship there. Celebrating when athletes make it out of the hood and become megastars is one thing, the real celebration should kick in when America doesnt have hoods or any cultural dances that refer to killing people. Good on Serena for winning BTW =)

  • Chizoma

    @ Brandon Shockley Did you not read the article? What color is Barry Brent? White people do the C-walk ALL THE TIME. In fact, go on Youtube and look up C-Walk. The C-Walk cease to be about gangs after countless white upper middle class children in locations like Beverly Hills and Potomac, Maryland started doing it at dances.

    Was it inappropriate when the women’s soccer team carried on after scoring a goal in injury time? They went bananas and that wasn’t even for a gold medal. When swimmers win and start splashing around (probably getting chlorine pool water in their neighbor’s lane or worse in their neighbor’s face), is that inappropriate? When Bolt ran an extra lap around the track after winning the 100 meters, was that inappropriate? Are you telling me, that if you just won a competition that determined that you were the best in the world at something after dedicating a lifetime to being your absolute best physically and mentally, you would only smile and walk away? Please! Who are we to say how Serena should of behaved? Until I win a Gold medal, I wont pass judgement on anyone else’s choice of celebration.

    You think the dance was classless? Fine. She earned the right to crip walk all over that tennis court after having countless racist comment being thrown at her while she played in Europe (including Great Britain). Maybe they need to learn that yes, she is the best in the world, and yes she came out of the rough streets of Compton. Get use to it. Just because everyone before her has been stale and expressionless doesn’t mean that she has to be. You know, it use to be expected that you would be white/European to play in Wimbledon, too. If everyone always did what was expected out of them in particular forums, women or black people wouldn’t be able to exercise their right to vote and Serena would not even be playing tennis. How do people not understand that your reasons based on “class” and “appropriate behavior” is really just an underhanded comment about her upbringing/race/culture?

  • Joey Stixx

    Just an opinion, but doing the “c-walk” during an NBA all star event, not even the actual game, and as a celebration in the Olympics are two completely different things. First of all, every Olympian is a representative of their country. Serena may be a great athlete, but the dance was in poor taste. Especially with America recently making world headlines with it’s latest violent massacre in Auroa, CO. It’s great seeing hip hop’s cross culture appeal, but sometimes it’s better left in hip hop.

  • Jay Reid

    People find a fault in everything, Serena you go girl!! Dance for Joy…no matter what

  • D_K_

    In 2012, when you think the “I am black, I must be aware at all times” mentality was slowly slipping away in this “post-racial” america. Small simpleminded unintelligent statements and issues like this are repeatedly here to remind us that we still live a separate but equal society.

  • Nancy Scott

    Before you call it a C Dance, please know your facts we were doing this dance in church long before you decided it was part of some gang dance we celebrated the love of our God being in our lives and the spirit of the Holy Ghost entering our bodies bring joy adn happiness.. The Holy Dances take many forms of moving the feet as long as you do not cross them. If you who point fingers would just stop covering up your racist beleifs and admit that you do not like BLACK PEOPLE to suceed in any form or fashion.

  • Almas

    Nneka, I was referring to the UK commentary; they’re classist here, race doesn’t matter in the UK as much as it does in the USA. But class does – here we’ve got the “Royal Family” Lords, Baroness, Duchesses etc. And it had nothing to do with my opinion. If you want my opinion, I think she Serena is awesome and she could do flying windmills for all I care – it wouldn’t tarnish her high style. :)

  • Christin Scott

    wow…what’s with all the complaining????Gabby’s hair !!! Serena’s crip dance !!!! Let them be….leave them alone and let them celebrate the way they choose too. Why does everyone have to find something negative????

  • Life Apprentice

    All the criticisms is just a tactic to overshadow the outstanding performance of these amazing black women who don’t fit the mold (they destroy it) and perhaps dissuade those who follow their steps and are inspired by them.

    The fact and the matter is SERENA AND GABBY ARE AMAZING! THEY ARE THE BEST IN THE WORLD. They have a right to be joyful. Seriously, it’s just dancing. If it was someone from another race it would not have been an issue, it would have been fun.

    I choose to ignore these ridiculous comments and be happy for them, inspired and motivated as we all should be. Let’s not give the haters the time of day and focus on celebrating these women’s achievements. They deserve it. :D

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