WWhat people don’t understand about strong black women is that we were raised strong. We have a different experience. All I remember is my dad always telling me, ‘Hey, you’re good, but you have to be better than everyone else.’ That’s what Serena Williams represents to me. What sets them apart is their perseverance to keep going and keep going, no matter what the obstacle, to reach that higher standard. be undeniable.
It’s just harder for us. We all know that. Racism is the dumbest thing I’ve ever dealt with. That she grappled with it and still made it to #1 and never used it as an excuse is something else. We know her as a black phenomenon but she just wanted to go into her field like we all want to go into our field as actresses or comics or tennis players. We don’t want to be the first Black this, the first Black that – it’s great when it happens, we’re not afraid to be the first either – but what stands out is how hard she had to fight to get a spot The table.
When I got here, I went to Lynwood High School in South Central Los Angeles. And there’s a tennis court at Lynwood Park. I don’t remember Compton having tennis courts so I think Serena and Venus had to come and train there. I remember hearing them play a few nights walking through the park on my way back from basketball practice. We used to laugh at those tennis courts in Lynwood. Who will play tennis in the hood? People would play backhand there, but it was like, why are they there?
Turns out that’s why. That is why they were there Those Lynwood dishes we used to laugh at, against all odds, produced two phenomena.
Serena and Venus brought a very different audience to the sport. It’s like what Tiger Woods did for golf: it could have been some Blacks who looked before Tiger Golf but I can tell you the percentage was probably very small. The day I got Saturday Night Live I was in a parking lot next to Crenshaw and Adams. This is the hood. And I screamed, “I have SNL! I have SNL!” None of these motherfuckers knew what SNL was. But now they do. A whole different audience now knows what SNL is, just like a whole different audience knows what tennis is.
There’s also the way Serena embraces her femininity and how beautiful she is and how strong she is. I remember my best friend telling me once when I was crying about how big my feet were: So what are you gonna do? Are you just going to cut them off, have foot surgery or something? She said if someone wants 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 completely wrong for tennis. Serena accepted who she was, who she would be and just went through with it. This message reached many people whether they realized it or not.
And she did it all with taste and swag. Those tutus and all those outfits. I’ve never seen another tennis player dress like that. The shoes, the glitter, the braids. It’s like a whole culture radio. They brought that Flo-Jo vibe into it. That’s just the Black Girl Magic that brought her to court. That’s just her.
Sport has always been a male-dominated field, as has comedy. I hate to say it, but so many men—instead of looking at a woman and acknowledging her talent and ability—would rather say it fuck her instead of giving them their rights. That’s their insecurity coming out and it’s just so dated and old. Serena has dealt with it her whole career.
When I think of all the ridiculous criticism she’s faced, it reminds me of the old Michelle Obama adage: When they’re low, you go up. Eventually it’s really going to be like this: I already know you’re going to call me a bitch. I already know you’re gonna call me a nigger. I already know that you will call me less than It’s like the last fight in 8 Mile when Eminem does the rap where he just says all the shit they wanted to say about him. If Serena goes out there, she doesn’t give a damn. Her parents, her family, her life have taught her to keep her head up and play through. And these are the best players in all sports who don’t come up with anything.
I know Serena’s father told her what my father told her: be undeniable. If you’re that good, nobody can contradict you. At the end of the day, not even her biggest critics could deny what she has become. I hope that I can have the same strength as her. I hope everyone sees the same strength that I see in her. I hope years from now they’ll know we’ll still be talking about Serena Williams.