The politics of Black athletic supremacy

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, Ph.D ow oped | 1/16/2020, midnight

Serena Williams (Mrs. Alexis Ohanian), last Saturday was voted the Associated Press (AP) Female Athlete of the Decade. She beat out other greats like world’s number one female gymnast “Super” Simone Biles; Katie Ledecky, Olympic multi-gold medal swimmer; long-time world skiing champion Lindsey Vonn; and newest super athlete, Mikaela Shiffrin, World Cup and double Olympic Alpine skier—and it wasn’t even close.

Serena won 12 tennis majors (Grand Slam tournaments) of her total of 23 this past decade, when none of her peers could manage more than three. She won AP’s Female Athlete of the Year five times, three times during the last decade, including 2013, 2015, 2018, all at ages most tennis players have already retired. She also made it to seven finals in majors this past decade, four between 2017-2019, when she’d already given birth, nearly died from blood clots, and gotten seriously past the age when any sensible, top tier tennis player would have long since retired from the game (although her sister Venus, a year-and-a-half older than her is still playing too, just not winning much).

Serena held the number one tennis slot for three straight years, tying her with Steffi Graf for that honor. She would have held it longer had not the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) taken that ranking from her because she got pregnant. By the way, she seriously and successfully fought for a rule change over that issue, so that in the future, pregnancy would not be treated like an injury in the women’s game, and one’s ranking would be frozen until one could return to defend it.

She also won gold in the women’s singles and the doubles (with sister Venus), both of which she will most likely try to repeat in 2020. That’s never been done in her sport.

In all, in 33 major tournaments, in the last decade, Serena won 19 of the 33, which is a victory rate of nearly 58%. Nobody else has even been close.

Of course, singing, dancing, acting and athletics are supposed to be the prime talents Black folk are destined to succeed in, so there are few surprises any more. But success and dominance are not the same thing, particularly in places in which we are not even supposed to be competitive. Simone Biles literally dominates competitive world gymnastics. Likewise, Lewis Hamilton does so in Formula 1 racing, in those 16 million-dollar cars. He recently won his sixth straight Driver of the Year award, only one behind the world leader in that category. And Serena dominates professional women’s tennis. Still.

She is to be congratulated and loudly lauded for her achievements. Even now, towards the end of her career, we should fully expect even more excellence from her.

In the next two weeks, the 2020 campaign on the courts begin with the Australian Open (in spite of the terrible fires). Go, Serena !!! You’ve already got three of these, you know the layout of the courts there. Get you one more before your light has to dim. And then there’ll be the French, Wimbledon, the 2020 Olympic Games, and the U.S. Open.

Keep shining, our great sister. Keep that light burning bright as long as you can, for as long as you want. Champion on !!

And we will well remember that bountiful Compton strut.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO).

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