What We Can Learn From Venus and Serena
Giving up was never the plan
When it comes to Venus and Serena, there’s an abundance of love and admiration that inspires the need to periodically pay homage to the most famous sisters in the world, who have bravely dominated and excelled at an elite sport that tries and keeps failing to breakdown the soaring spirits of two Black women, who have been habitually brutalized based on their scrutinized templates.
I have written about the humble beginnings and steadfastness that was infused with the prolific anchoring of Richard Williams, the doting father and coach, whose influence and protectiveness was profound enough to warrant an upcoming biopic, that will hopefully shed more light on the fascinating tenacity of the New Orleans native, who produced first-class athletes from the enclave of Compton, USA, on the prayer of hope and dreams.
Our cultural landscape has been restructured in ways that can only accommodate a handful of superstars, simultaneously.
It’s quite tragic when you think about the languishing names that have to be dusted off after years or even decades of neglect, that reveal the shiny gems that have been criminally omitted from the conversations that only celebrate the “here and now.”
Watching Missy Elliot recently receive her long-awaited dues at the VMAs was a touching and endearingly nostalgic experience for a Gen-Xer, who will never be ready to accept the fleeting residue of prolific gems, that intoxicated participants of an era that was swimming in the wealth from ordained originators.
And while I have a fully stocked compartment that contains the beloved hits that still inspire and motivate, there’s always the need to continuously celebrate the victories of those who make the sacrifices for the permanent seat at the illustrious table that doesn’t grant admittance to mediocrity.
Well, that mantra isn’t always safely secure when you consider how Maria Sharapova, a certified doper, who spent her suspension from the sport of tennis attending Harvard Business School, is back again to reclaim what she never had and won’t ever find.
The imaginary rivalry between one of the most revered athletes in the world, and the woman who wrote a book about how White victimhood kept her at a disadvantage when engaging with the a competitor with superior skills, has been relentlessly championed by White sports journalists, who are infatuated with the ungraciousness of demeaning the physicality of Serena Williams when making comparisons to the more palatable contender.
Both Venus and Serena have weathered the offensively vile reception at various tournaments around the world, as deplorable spectators have been known to yell out racist jargon as the sisters dignifiedly enter the arenas for scheduled games.
In recent years, we can attest to the avalanche of abusive episodes that have plagued Serena’s triumphant return to the game she loves, after giving birth to her daughter.
The audacity of the French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, to demonically weaponize his formidable position by willfully shaming an accomplished and highly respected sportswoman for choosing to don a bodysuit for her matches at the French Open.
The criticisms were harsh and uncalled for, and there was undoubtedly a bigoted messaging behind the accusations that sought to highlight Serena Williams as the prime example of what’s deemed as the “inappropriate” presentation, that disrespects the statutes of the game and the venues that host racially-motivated climate, that well-positioned officials prefer to ignore.
There was no consideration for the fact that Serena was forced to wear her bodysuit because of past history with blood clots, and how her pregnancy and birth meant that she was at risk for another occurrence. And so to minimize the danger, she was instructed on how to be protected for the hectic calendar of tennis matches.
Of course if Maria Sharapova had been caught prancing around the courts with a bodysuit clinging to all the right muscles, her branding sponsorship would readily expand to include a new line of body conscious armor that promises to replicate the contours of their global ambassador.
And yet Serena’s stoic responses to the never-ending assault on her reputation and womanhood remains intact. She patiently tackles degrading inquiries from White males, who are so-called experts of their chosen field, but still possess the shallowness that demands to know whether or not a beautiful Black woman with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name is intimidated by the “supermodel looks” of a White woman who wasn’t expelled for cheating.
The mission of the media during coverage of notable tennis events is to ungraciously push Serena Williams to the limit with vicious jabs that are meant to provoke the traits of the “angry Black woman,” who is tough enough to endure the rounds of volatility in the interrogation room.
The latest coup by Serena has to be the crushing defeat of Maria Sharapova at the US Open 2019, that was orchestrated by a world champ who shouldn’t have to face off against an embattled doper.
Sharapova has brought nothing to the game of tennis except the assurance of how White women with viable features and limited talent will always have the privilege of being outshined by darker counterparts, who can’t be dopers and still miraculously retain global appeal with the endorsement of a biased federation.
It’s insulting to the magnificent station of Serena Williams that she’s being forced to compete against a drug offender, who avoids being crucified for her wrongdoing because of what she represents to those who are able to humanize her vulnerability in the same way that her Black “adversary” is caricatured as the villainess whose Blackness is a symbol of her thicker skin.
When you thoroughly examine the epic trajectories of both Venus and Serena, the sheer impressiveness of persistency, even through the tough times that should’ve engulfed their efforts is blindingly humbling, but beyond that, there’s so much that we can learn and apply to our own journey.
As the years accumulate, and with her younger sister’s major wins inevitably eclipsing her shining star, Venus Williams, who turns 40 in 2020, may fail to evoke the level of excitement and prestige that she’s more than earned with her 7 Grand Slam titles, and amassing the Women’s Singles title, twice in a row at the US Open in 2001 and 2002.
But we can’t deny the iconic status of a pro-athlete, at the top of her game, who never allows the disappointing results to denounce the allegiance to never giving up, even when the embarrassing aftermath of losing to a novice can derail the ego and shatter self-confidence.
Embodying this climate of “perfection,” that shames those of us who can’t keep up with the impossible schedule of never falling flat on our faces with scratches that heal us back to enlightenment, is a suffocating atmosphere that has to be counteracted by the gorgeousness of warriors who resemble our template.
Venus Williams doesn’t get nearly enough pampering from the outlets that are supposed to care because of who she is and how she flawlessly reps the beauty of our womanhood as it pertains to basking in our #magic, as we manage the treacherous paths that try to rile us up.
Worshipping Beyonce is necessary, but so is distributing those exact same sentiments to the Black women who need that extra love because of the vileness that greets their presence in the hostile spaces that resent the imagery of greatness in the form that threatens.
It’s no fun waiting until our heroines are no longer around to witness and absorb the festive adulation in their honor. That’s a ritual that needs to be replaced with the version that features the presence of recipients, who are bequeathed the adoration that aligns with lives well spent.
We can attribute the staying power of Venus and Serena to the false narratives by White people that utilizes failed science experiments as proof of how Black people are built to withstand the kind of torture that ordinarily paralyzes, but that would dehumanize the poetic fragility of two Black women who have been able to persevere with their open wounds.
When it comes to gracefully waging the senseless battles with assholish reporters in the war room, Serena’s episodes are more infamous, for obvious reasons. Her allies have to infuriatingly observe the combative temperament of White males, who refuse to acknowledge the authenticity and flawlessness of the Black woman with championships under her belt
Her measured and professional approach when dealing with vultures is praise-worthy, especially when you note her restraint, but the secret behind the stunning success of Serena Williams can be translated to how she strategizes to over-power and outsmart her detractors; on and off the courts.
It was always about the unyielding loyalty to the sport that shaped their lives and provided the livelihood that blesses with opportunities to populate their culture with systemic privileges that could produce future warriors.
We can’t downplay the fact that Black women are often touted as being inhumanly capable of digesting the shit without flinching because of the greater task at hand.
But those aren’t compliments because it devalues our worth by reducing us to products of the exposure that leads to denser layers.
Venus and Serena teach us about how the love for your life’s expectations based on the hunger that only you can feed, outranks the desire to be tortured by the institutions that are erected to thwart the mission to self-actualization.
The lessons for the sustainable feat that’s engineered by the quest to keep climbing that mountain past the top is greatly needed now more than ever for the benefit of generations to come, who have to comprehend the value of rising up after each fall, without the lingering sores of a bruised ego.
As the sisters approach the “twilight years” of esteemed sportswomen, we are reminded of how the rollercoaster of events, both personal and professional, have helped to cement the ongoing legacies that will record the signature feistiness that architected the mind-blowing catalogue of masters.
Giving up is never the plan, because fighting to be better than best is the weaponry that is attainable only if the love for your game leads the way.
For Venus and Serena, the illustrious and very White sport of tennis belongs to them.
And we love it!