Serena Williams’ success and its trickle down effect
Serena Williams is undoubtedly one of the best tennis players to ever step on the court, not because some would have her labelled ‘strong’, an ugly trope used for black women as a way to put them in their ‘place’. And for all her phenomenal achievements on the court, it still remains that her greatest contribution has been outside the tennis courts than inside. For the millions of young and highly impressionable black girls, every trophy that Serena has lifted is again affirmation that everything is possible for people who look like them.
It’s easy to assume that the feat Serena Williams has achieved in her tennis career is just one more female athlete breaking boundaries in her chosen sporting code; and this is partly true, except that there has been no other tennis player of color that has achieved a level of success even remotely close to that of Serena. So invariably, she breaks more than just the boundaries within her sports and among her peers but also deeply entrenched racial boundaries. And by breaking these boundaries the symbolism of her successes shift how little black girls and other little girls of color see themselves, and especially what they are capable of.
Serena Williams represents more than just raw skill and athletic prowess, she represents more than just what the US has to offer the world in terms of athletic achievement. Serena Williams represents what is possible for those who come from nothing and what they can accomplish when they set their sights on something bigger than their circumstances and categorically refuse to ‘stay in their place.’