A few weeks ago, I had been at my nephew's 8th grade graduation. The Valedictorian and Salutatorian were two black girls who, while not being sisters, resembled each other in the fact that they both had their hair washed and set similarly; the lenses of their glasses were both held in place by black frames; and they both were constantly being called, in tandem, to the stage for awards. Before either of them had a chance to sit down after being acknowledged for their exceptional performances in one subject, they were summoned back to the stage to be recognized in another. Victory laps were being ran in the auditorium. The audience, assembled of parents and grandparents , siblings, cousins, close friends, teachers, and security guards, were in rapturous applause. But after the third lap, something changed: Hands got heavy; palms got sore; and cheers were slowly being overshadowed by shade. In any subject their names hadn't been called, the applause roared then immediately whispered when they were called again. Silent hands and malicious mouths became acts of retribution on two girls whose only crime that day was being better: "They could've at least gave some of these awards to other kids;" "I didn't come to watch someone else's kid win." Those naive enough to believe that this could only occur in an auditorium full of white bodies severely underestimate the human condition's oldest and most beloved hobby: hating. This hobby is most intense in those who recognize that part of themselves on the stage at the expense of them realizing that part that isn't. Adults and children alike recognized probably for the first time what they should've been doing and hadn't. That envy dictated the atmosphere up until the ceremony ended. That envy is dictating the current atmosphere surrounding Serena. That envy is calling her womanhood into question. That envy is using the plumpness of her ass to shade the rigor of her accomplishments. That envy is accusing her of steroid usage. But most of all that envy is unwilling to admit, like that auditorium, that the only real crime Serena, or those two girls, committed is showing us that we could all be better.
Yahdon Israel is a 50 Shades of Black featured writer. Read his exclusive essay THE TRANSATLANTIC.