Sunday, January 1, 2017

Serena Williams Won't Apologize For Being Black And Confident & We LOVE Her For It!

Christopher Griffith for The New York Times

(Greetings, All! This is a piece I originally wrote for Rickey Smiley's blog, "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show" that I thought I would share with you here. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments!)


At 35 years old, this little Black girl from Compton has become one of the most decorated and accomplished women in all of professional sports. No one has matched her fierce work ethic, unstoppable drive, and sheer competitiveness—not even her big sister Venus. This winner of 22 Grand Slams has been ranked #1 in the world on 6 different occasions. She finished 2016 as the highest-paid female athlete earning $28.9 million. She is confident. She is Black. She is a living legend in the world of sports. She is Serena Williams and she offers no apologies for that. And why should she?

Recently, Serena sat down for a conversation with her good friend and former beau, Common, for ESPN's "The Undefeated" interview series. They discussed what it means to walk in her shoes against the current social landscape. Serena believes that she and her sister were misunderstood early in their careers. From the first moment they stepped on a tennis court, they knew that they were Black and that they were different. They let that reality fuel their efforts rather than stall them.
At very young ages, Venus and Serena's father (and coach) stressed the importance of knowing the history of their people. This knowledge instilled in them a sense of pride. The Williams sisters understood that they stood on the shoulders of their predecessors like Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. Their focus, competitiveness, accomplishment, and tenacity were unfamiliar to their opponents, but they were able to shake off racist insults and focus on being the best. Serena explained, "We came from Compton. We came from nothing. We just wanted to play tennis."

Serena has always been true to herself and acutely self-aware. She thrives on being different and always looks to discover her own path. To stay focused on her craft and being her very best, Serena insulates herself against all negativity. At age 17, she decided to stop reading all press, good and bad, to keep her ego in check and the critics at bay. Her dad taught her to believe that she could be the best. When she first articulated those goals, Serena was often met with resistance from those who just didn't understand her empowered mindset. You see, little Black girls from the hood aren't supposed to speak in those terms.
Serena acknowledges that there is pressure when she is on the court to represent her race well but, when she considers her accomplishments, she accepts that the pressure is par for the course. The racism Serena has encountered spans from the crowds to tournament organizers, to advertisers, and even opponents. She has becoming painfully aware of the pressures that Black men face every time they get behind the wheel of a car, as evidenced by a Facebook post she wrote about her nephew. While opening doors for other Black tennis players and becoming a role model was hardly on radar at the start of her journey, it is now something she embraces. Serena wants to use her platform to make real change regarding race relations.
Serena embraces her physical and mental strength. Both have enabled her to become the greatest tennis player to ever hold a racket. Her beauty, grace, and her bold Blackness have earned the respect of those who once hated her solely for the color of her skin. So, if anybody owes anybody an apology, it is those people who owe you, Serena. Keep doing what you are doing. We see you, Sis.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

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