A pair of misguided television announcers working Serena Williams‘ U.S. Open victory on Wednesday night gave their viewers a real-time reason why there’s such an outcry over the lack of diversity and cultural awareness in media.
As a camera panned across the crowd, the announcers marveled over the number of celebrities attending the must-see event at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City.
But as legendary singer Dionne Warwick came into view, one of the announcers felt obligated to send a shout-out — only it was to the wrong person.
“Oh!” one of the announcers exclaimed, “Got some more stars!”
That announcer’s commentating partner quickly chimed in: “Gladys Knight!”
That prompted the first announcer to seemingly offer her confirmation by singing, “Hel-lo!”
The unfortunate case of “no, all Black people don’t look alike” played out on live TV over the course of about three painstaking seconds total, but that was likely enough time for every single Black person watching — and, probably, many, many others — to raise their collective antennae and wonder if they just heard correctly.
That question was quickly answered with a social media video clip showing the fateful moment the announcers confused one famous Black woman for another despite the absence of any shared resemblance beyond their brown skin. The brief 8-second footage quickly went viral.
Notably, Warwick sports a bright head of hair, striking a contrast with the jet black tresses of Knight, who was also in attendance Wednesday night (and looked like she may have gotten wind of the announcers’ faux pas…).
Of course, Thursday night was far from the only time a major media outlet confused one Black person for another.
One glaring example was in 2018 when the New York Times misidentified one dark-skinned famous Black woman for another in a photo caption. A photo that showed Angela Bassett on stage at the Emmys that year somehow confused the Academy Award-nominated actress with her polar opposite, All-American villain Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
Again, the only common denominator between the two misidentified women was the color of their skin.
Last year, an internal report produced by the New York Times found the famed newspaper’s coverage had been rooted in a white perspective, something that is often times the harsh consequence of a clear lack of cultural knowledge and awareness among staff of major media outlets.
In Wednesday night’s case, it very well could have simply been an innocent case of mixing up two legendary Black singers, both of whom were on hand to watch Serena beat Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in three sets. However, if history is any indication — and it usually is — these announcers were just the latest in a long line of major media mouthpieces guilty of thinking all Black people look alike.
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