Tennis superstar, Serena Williams, made news recently at the U.S. Open women’s finals for yet again receiving unfair treatment. Williams believes the referee, Carlos Ramos, unjustly penalized her for getting coaching during the match and smashing her racket. When Williams confronted Ramos calling him a “thief”, she was penalized a third time for verbal abuse, amounting to $17,000 in fines. Meanwhile other (male) players have done much worse in the past and were not penalized.
From being criticized about her physique, to saying she’s been drug tested more than other players this year, to the U.S.Open deeming her (fierce) Nike catsuit disrespectful, Williams has faced harsh and imbalanced criticisms and disciplinary action throughout her entire career. Many say it’s sexist and many more say it’s racist. It’s a combination of both, but the overall issue is the resentment of black excellence.
There are many who just can’t stand it when we are great. When we are smart, do excellent work, confident and (sigh) “articulate”, there are some who become absolutely enraged with resentment and will do nearly anything to jeopardize us. Black women experience this every day. It’s been a constant in my life.
I always thought you were supposed to put your best foot forward. My most constant examples of black excellence were of polished, bright and articulate professional black women. And then I became one. From the time I was in school to entering to the workforce, I’ve encountered extreme resentment and hostility for my ability and presentation. Instead of being appreciated for my polished presence, confidence, intellect and communicative skills, I’m often deemed a threat. The other piece is that like Serena, I’m also extremely strong-willed and speak my truth.
Many don’t want us to feel empowered or act from our place of worth and demand our respect. Yes, part of the root cause of these hostilities is based in sexism, even though I’ve experienced them mainly from women. (A lot of women hate strong women. Reference the venom Hillary Clinton received during the Presidential campaign from other women.) But a great deal of it is steeped in racism. The intensity of the hostilities I have dealt with is because I’m black. Because when you are black you aren’t supposed be educated, poised, professional or love yourself. You’re supposed to believe you’re inferior and stay in your place. Well, f*ck that.
I have fought and continue to fight these issues of racist resentment when people try to come for me because they feel “triggered” by my black magic. And you know what? The magic will continue. I will not be less than myself for anyone. I suggest you don’t either. Let’s keep putting our best foot forward and those who appreciate excellence will embrace us. And those who are afraid of black excellence will try and continue to try and come for our life. Let ‘em. Stand tall.
I know there are times when to survive, we have to play the game. That means that sometimes we won’t show up as our full selves, but that also doesn’t mean we’ll completely betray our authentic selves and integrity. At times we may have to adjust our approach, but never abandon who we are.
I’m super proud of Serena for standing firmly in her truth and demanding her respect from the ref. She would not allow him to strip her of her integrity, or single her out for behavior others have performed unscathed. Serena told him, “There’s men out here who do a lot worse…but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right and you know it.” Well done Serena. Well done.
So if people can’t handle your intelligence, your poise, your strength, your abilities, your success, your courage, your shine…leave them in the dark. Continue to stand in your black excellence and stand up to those you try to cut you down. Thank you Serena for standing up for yourself and essentially all of us who have been unfairly targeted simply, for being black and being great.