WThe hat people don’t understand about strong black women is that we grew up strong. We have a different experience. The only thing I always remember my father saying to me was, “Hey, you’re good, but you have to be better than everyone else.” And that’s what Serena Williams represents me. What sets her apart is her endurance and persistence regardless of the obstacle to reach this higher level. undeniable.
It’s more difficult for us. We all know this. Racism is the dumbest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. The fact that she dealt with that and kept getting to #1 and never used it as an excuse is another thing. We know her as a black phenomenon, but she just wanted to get into her field like we all want to go into our fields, as actresses, comedians or tennis players. We don’t want to be this first black, first black – it’s great when it happens, we’re not afraid to be first either – but what stands out is how hard it is to fight just to get a seat at the table.
When I was coming, I went to Lynwood High School in south central Los Angeles. There is a tennis court in Lynnwood Park. I don’t remember Compton having tennis courts, so I think Serena and Venus should have come and train there. I remember some nights hearing them play when I’d go to the park on my way back from basketball training. We used to always laugh on those tennis courts in Lynnwood. Who will play tennis in the cover? People were going to play backball there, but it was like why are they there?
This turned out to be the reason. this Why were they there. The Lynwood pitches we used to laugh at have given birth to two phenomena, against all odds.
Serena and Venus have brought an entirely different audience to the sport. It’s like what Tiger Woods did to golf: There might have been some Black people who watched golf before Tiger, but I can tell you the percentage was probably pretty low. The day I got on Saturday Night Live, I was in the parking lot off Crenshaw and Adams. This is the cover. And I was screaming, “Got SNL! Got SNL!” None of those fuckers knew what SNL was. But they do now. Now a completely different audience of people knows what SNL is, just like a completely different audience of people knows what tennis is.
There’s also the way Serena embraces her femininity, how beautiful she is, and how powerful she is. I remember my best friend telling me once, when I was crying about the size of my feet: So what will you do? Are you just going to cut them, are you going to have foot surgery or something? She said that if anyone is going to accept who you are, you have to start accepting yourself. And that’s what Serena did when people were told her body type was wrong for tennis. Serena accepted who she is, who she will be and she went through that. This message has reached a lot of people whether you realize it or not.
It was all done with flavor and swag. Those tutus and all those outfits. I’ve never seen another tennis player dress like them. Boots, glitter, braids. It’s like a complete cultural funk. They brought Flo Joe’s flair to her. That’s just a black magic girl brought to court. This is just her.
Sports has always been a male-dominated place, just like comedy. I hate to say it, but many men – instead of looking at a woman and recognizing their talent and abilities – would rather say Damn them Instead of giving them their due. This is their insecurities and it is very old and outdated. Serena has dealt with that throughout her career.
When I think of all the ridiculous criticism I’ve faced, it reminds me of Michelle Obama’s old saying: When they’re low, they get high. At some point, it really becomes something like: I already know you’re going to call me a bitch. I already know you’ll call me a nigger. I already know you’ll call me less than. It’s like the last fight in 8 Mile when Eminem raps where he says all the shit they’ll ever say about him. When Serena walks in there, she doesn’t care. Her parents, family, and life taught her to hold her head high and play through it. And these are the best players in any sport, who never let anything go through their heads.
I know Serena’s dad told her the same thing my dad did: Don’t deny it. If you are so good, no one can deny you. Ultimately, even her biggest critics couldn’t deny what she had become. I hope to have the same strength as you. I hope everyone sees the same strength that I see in her. Hopefully they’ll know years from now, and we’ll still be talking about Serena Williams.