This past Saturday, Serena Williams lost in the women’s single Wimbledon Tennis Final which is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments in the world. In total, she has won 23 Grand Slam titles, and of that, seven were titles from the Wimbledon tournaments. Serena Williams has shown herself to be a dedicated person in her sport always as her personal life, and she has received backlash from that.
During the post-match press conference, a reporter asked for Williams’ response to critics and their comments suggesting that for a year, the twin-sister should stop fighting for equality and focus on her sport. Williams’ responded to that question with the following statement: “Well the day I stop fighting for equality, and for people who look like you and me, will be the day I am in my grave.” Immediately following her response, she walked away from the cameras.
These comments come from a plethora of people but specifically from the world tennis icon, Billie-Jean King. At the end of June, King stated:
“She’s got business, a baby, she’s trying to help gender equity, particularly for women of color, she’s actually on the Billie Jean King leadership initiative, she and Venus are both advisors for it. [It makes winning a Slam] much harder. I would like to see her put everything else aside from that. She’s got people working on these things.”
King also suggested that if Williams wanted to beat Margaret Court’s singles record of 24, she needs to stop being a celebrity “because she’s trying to be everything.” Williams has been an advocate for marginalized communities and knows that her spotlight in her craft assists with her fight for justice.
This mother, who returned to sports, aims to neutralize the gender wage gap and mend racial barriers. In 2019, she narrated a Nike’s “Just Do It” ad showcasing the knowledge about women, their accomplishments and the stereotypes against them. In 2017, she was part of Nike’s Equality campaign bringing awareness to the influence of sports in one’s everyday community. This campaign is “to encourage people to take the fairness and respect they see in sport and translate them off the field.” Its main initiative is based on the power of sports to influence people to take action on the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in their communities. Williams understands that she is at the intersection of these two communities and identities.
Ronald L. Jackson II wrote about body politics in his book Scripting the Black Masculine Body: Identity, Discourse, and Racial Politics in Popular Media. In Chapter One “Origins of Black Body Politics,” it states that the black body is said to be political because of assumed identifiers. The reason for this is because of the white supremacist ideology of the black body being able-(appearing)-bodied of a difference creating a white societal detachment of black bodies as human. People who participate in the white ideology see the ideology as the only fact and not a possibility.
Serena Williams is just another person who understands that black bodies are not for awe gazing, but when showcased respectfully provides strength, determination and equality of values, identities and communities. She follows a long list of people who understand that this awareness is more critical than a platform and a game.
Let us know how you feel about Serena Williams, the press conference or the 2019 Wimbledon Finals. Tweet or comment, we want to hear your thoughts. And don’t stop reading here, read an update about another black woman.
[Originally posted on NerdyPoC.com on July 21, 2019]