Caroline Wozniacki, Race, Sports and Humor: Is It Funny Yet?

by Letisha Brown

While in Brazil for an exhibition match against tennis player Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki stuffed her bra and tennis skirt with towels in an attempt to impersonate Serena Williams. Since then, there has been quite the buzz. Online commentators, however, seem split, some arguing that the impersonation was “hilarious” while others define it as “out and out racism”. Whether or not Wozniacki intended for her impersonation to cause this much of a stir is irrelevant, as things seem to have hit the proverbial fan.

Taking the impersonation at face value, Wozniacki’s “transformation” is much closer to a blonde Jessica Rabbit than an actual representation of tennis star Serena Williams. Nevertheless, those who condemn Wozniacki believe that her actions were racist, and intended to make yet another public spectacle of the black female body. That said, regardless of Wozniacki’s intentions, her stunt (and the comments that have been made since) brings a host of intriguing questions to the table; especially in light of the recent reelection of President Barack Obama and the continued tensions surrounding the subject of race in America.

Insofar as we live in a “post/racial” society, to what extent can antics such as the performed by Wozniacki be read as racist? The real question is, when it comes to sorority girls dressing up as “illegal aliens” for Halloween, or white girls in black face just for fun, is the subject of race something that people will just “get over,” or move beyond?

Regardless of your stance on the way in which Wozniacki attempted to portray Serena Williams it is difficult to ignore the fact that when it comes to race in America, the subject is still a touchy matter. Nevertheless, it leaves room for sociologists, and human beings in general, to ask hard questions, seek answers and make change. My personal opinion on Wozniacki’s performance is irrelevant. There was no black face involved, and aside from the padding of certain areas of her body, her caricature of Williams is far from convincing. Nevertheless her intent is clear. So, what are we left with when we take stock of all that has happened, in the public eye, as well as in private when it comes to the discourse on race?

From where I sit, it all comes back to one question: is it funny yet?

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