There it was. I got my run in early because Wimbledon was coming on at 8 a.m. Central Time. Serena Williams was vying for her second “Serena Slam” in her career (winning the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments consecutively.) She is also on schedule to win all four in the same calendar year if she wins the US Open tournament in September.
There on center court, in the privilege of the privileged, in jolly old England, in exclusive aristocratic Britain, was this inner-city African American woman, who along with her sister, Venus, was coached by their father on broken glass-ridden outdoor courts in inner-city Los Angeles. Richard, their father, had no pedigree in tennis; he had checked out books and videos from the public library. However, there Serena was, vying to win her sixth Wimbledon, (Venus has won five, as well).
Exactly 40 years ago I had watched Arthur Ashe become the first African American man to win the male championships at Wimbledon. (The US Open stadium is named in his honor.) Mr. Ashe, who died from HIV AIDS due to an improper blood transfusion, would be quoted when asked during his battle with that disease, “Is this the toughest challenge you have ever faced in your life?” “No,” replied Ashe, “being a black man in America is the toughest challenge I ever faced.”
Alas, but that was 40 years ago. Since then, we have had Denzel Washington, Ben Carson, President Obama, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and hundreds of other successful African Americans in every walk of life imaginable.
But there we were, center court, the pundits subtly sniping, “She’s just athletic.” That’s what they said was the reason blacks couldn’t play quarterback in football. “She’s not really a good example of sportsmanship.” REALLY ?!!! Ironically, John McEnroe, who during his playing career cursed out umpires and threw outlandish tantrums on a regular basis, was now serving as an expert commentator for this very event!
Here we are, center court, a thirty-three-year-old Grand Slam champion, having accomplished this feat 20 times, never once embroiled in any kind of scandal, misconduct or impropriety on or off the court. But we can’t measure her accomplishments honorably.
The Bible calls this an abomination, and though the context is merely sports, the fabric of double standards has permeated our history in areas of economy, education, judicial systems and social inequities for centuries.
Here we are, center court, Serena faces a valiant opponent. Serena prevails 6-4, 6-4. Incredibly at the obvious match point, time goes into a capsule…the umpire gives no call, the opponent looks uncertain, Serena actually prepares to keep on playing. Then after a 15-second pause, the announcer states, “Champion Ms. Williams.” The crowd courteously acknowledges.
But the real excitement is reserved for the glass-ridden courts across inner-city America!!! Congratulations Williams family!! A human chronicle of dedication, giftedness and triumph.
Redeemed from the ash heap,
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A white woman who wants to understand …