Despite having won 21 Grand Slams and being an incredible superstar in the tennis world and beyond, Serena Williams continues to face racist and sexist remarks that attempt to undermine her talent. On Tuesday, The New York Times Magazine published a piece that highlighted and celebrated Williams' unapologetic attempts to be true to herself and challenge the racism and sexism in the public sphere head-on. Serena Williams' quotes from the the Times Magazine piece also explored how she lives out black excellence, and in discussing her strength and focus, the article made it clear that Williams has no desire to separate her identity as a black woman from her career as a tennis player.
Williams has, as the article points out, freed herself from the "white racist gaze." The term "white gaze" refers to a person of color's experience of being perceived as "different," "deviant," or even "dangerous" by a white person. In many ways, the white gaze is a form of violence and a form of "othering." Despite Williams' resilience, though, it is impossible to completely avoid the pain that comes with being scrutinized and fetishized as a woman of color. Nevertheless, Williams transforms that pain into power. She challenges the powerful spaces occupied by whiteness, and while she is ultimately playing for herself, she also does not attempt to detach herself from her culture. Through the following quotes, she challenges everyone to respect all facets of her identity, and leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that she will keep fighting long after she's left the court.
1. "Playing For Me"
I play for me, but I also play and represent something much greater than me. I embrace that. I love that. I want that. So ultimately, when I am out there on the court, I am playing for me.
2. Opening Doors
We have to be thankful, and we also have to be positive about it so the next black person can be No. 1 on that list. Maybe it was not meant to be me. Maybe it's meant to be the next person to be amazing, and I'm just opening the door. Zina Garrison, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Venus opened so many doors for me. I'm just opening the next door for the next person.
3. On Marketing & Working Hard
If they want to market someone who is white and blond, that's their choice. I have a lot of partners who are very happy to work with me. I can't sit here and say I should be higher on the list because I have won more. I'm happy for [Sharapova], because she worked hard, too. There is enough at the table for everyone.
4. Being Herself
But I'm always going to be myself. If anything happens, I'm always going to be myself, true to myself.
5. On Victory
You don't understand me. I'm just about winning.