My Tribute to Serena Williams

5 Feb

My Tribute To Serena Williams    


There have been so many reminders in the past few months that racism remains alive in America that it is worth celebrating an occasion of its transcendence. I am referring to the announcement that Serena Williams,likely to be remembered as the greatest woman tennis player ever, has announced her return to the Indian Wells tournament after a 14 year boycott.Beyond her consummate skill and competitive exploits as a durable champion, I have always found Serena gracious, humble, generous to her opponents, full of fun, and as magnetic off the court as she is domineering and fierce while playing.


The boycott was her reaction to a hostile crowd reaction in Indian Wells back in 2001 when an injury to her sister, Venus, led to her withdrawal from a semifinal match in the tournament when they were scheduled to play one another. Many in the crowd assumed that the cancellation was arranged between the siblings, and shouted racist taunts from the stands during the finals that were directed at her father and then coach, Richard Williams and Venus when they entered the stadium to watch Serena play. Despite the taunting by the crowd, accompanied by racist slurs, Serena nevertheless prevailed in the match. She calls this experience one of the darkest in her long career, remembering the many tears that she shed after it was over, and being reminded at the time of her father’s stories of growing up amid a racist atmosphere in the South. She recollects her feelings with these words: “I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.” Her boycott of Indian Wells seemed both self-protective, and in a sense punitive, depriving this high profile tournament of two of its star attractions (as Venus also refused to play).


In a story in the NY Times (Feb 4, 2014) written by Christopher Clarey, Serena explains her decision as partly prompted by a film on the life of Nelson Mandela that taught her the healing benefits of forgiveness. It was this sentiment that she mentions as the basis of the decision, which was enthusiastically welcomed in the most affirming way by those tennis officials associated with the tournament, including its billionaire sponsor, Oracle chief Lawrence Ellison. Of course, a cynic would dismiss this kind of reaction as purely driven by commercial considerations, giving the tournament at Indian Wells to be played in March 2015 greater prestige and commercial success. Undoubtedly these motives were in the mix, but I believe that for mainstream America there has been an important shift away from the sort of racist responses that Serena Williams encountered in 2001. Call it ‘political correctness’ or a change of heart, but I believe it exhibits a deeper cultural appreciation that this form of racism directed at African Americans is no longer ethically, socially, and politically acceptable. Of course, to some extent this brand of racism has been displaced and replaced by a new racist menace, that of Islamophobia.


By returning to Indian Wells Serena Williams has made the double point of at once acknowledging the pain of her past victimization and the healing power of forgiveness. It is one more stage in her remarkable journey that started in the harshness of the racially segregated and impoverished Compton neighborhood Los Angeles. It is a journey that is personally moving for me. My mother was a highly ranked tennis player for fifteen years at a time when African Americans were excluded altogether, and also making me aware of the rigors of training and discipline that such a life of athletic dedication requires. Beyond this, for me tennis (and squash) was my daily therapy for many decades, and the source of several enduring friendships—certainly cheaper, more enjoyable, and even more effective than what most professional therapists have to offer. And so I take this moment to thank Serena Williams for who she is and what she has done for herself, and for all of us, especially for those of us who love the game of tennis.

20 Responses to “My Tribute to Serena Williams”

  1. Claudia Damon February 5, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    So well said. Serena’s decision is admirable. As for forgiving, studies have shown that just saying “I forgive…” creates the psychic benefits of forgiveness even among people who are not sure they actually feel forgiveness in their hearts.

  2. Gendzier, Irene L February 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Dear Richard, Thank you for your moving testimonial. We are becoming more aware but I’m not sure that we have become less racist toward African-Americans, and this remains a stain and a public shame. Irene

    • Richard Falk February 6, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      Dear Irene: Of course, agreed, although the tone has shifted, and African-Americans are in
      uncontested control of the discursive high ground. Regrettably, for many the behavior on the
      ground is as intolerable as ever. Hope you are flourishing. Love, Richard

  3. Kata Fisher February 6, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    A note:

    Have no regrets and be in self – forgiveness — when you are in self-forgiveness, then also you indeed are free from any need to be forgiven.

    Forgiving someone is neutral to the person who is administrating forgiveness:

    Tell me your sins and I will forgive you sins against “me” (personally). Alternatively you do not know your sins agains me?
    I tell you your sins — forgive your self. (Just in case that one may not know or be aware of their sins).

    However, forgiveness is not just a word-void that may and may not act just as a band-aid that has to be exchanged with a new on — or is applied to the fatal wound…and really how well does that work at all?

    Authentic forgiveness upon anyone is “manifested” in signs of the Spirit — or is manifested in the “Works of the Faith.” (From the Church prespecive)

    And no, “Forgiveness” to one (or corporate) is conditional. It does not take place when sins are just dismissed and ignored — judgment, and often irrevocable judgment applies.
    Sins against the Church and Spirit the, especially are not under any lose ‘forgiveness’ at all.

    Unless, I may be wrong that psychological evil is just added on and on?

    The theological principle would be the primarily issue which is to set yourself apart from anything that is idolatry, anything that has the power to separate one from God and the relationship with Him. Christianity follows only One God and rejects all other gods, otherwise fellowship is broken off.
    Christ teaches that He has fulfilled the law and Paul teaches that for those who are under the Law of the Spirit, obey being under the Law of the Spirit, and the work of Christ; therefore, obedience to the law is directly in relationship with Law of the Spirit. We learn in Matthew that those who practice lawlessness will not inheriting the Kingdom of God; therefore, we rest on the Scriptural truth that Christ has fulfilled the Law for us. Therefore, for Christians it will be only possible to have fellowship with Christ, by whom they keep the law of the Spirit (as required by God).

    Removing yourself (and your children) in spiritual and natural from evil people / society / evil country/nation is the Law of the Spirit.

  4. Kata Fisher February 6, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    I have a reflection:

    Those who separate mother from a child are of devil, and shall remain to be in devil.

    • Richard Falk February 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

      Kata: Try to be relevant, or at least give some indication of why such a ‘reflection’ as this
      is any kind of helpful response or comment in relation to the post. It now seems that whatever
      preoccupies you at the moment is what you write about. Richard

      • Gene Schulman February 9, 2015 at 5:19 am #

        Richard, what you do with your blog is none of my business, but I just can’t understand how you allow Kata so much air time to express her gibberish. She is chasing regular readers of your work away, which I find a shame.

  5. Kata Fisher February 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    Professor Falk:

    There is so much to it — and I really am not moved to say anything further about it. (Domestic, and international (church) crimes against children and their moms…).

    There are some illegal Laws that are applied here in US against US and non-US citizens concerning the “child – rights.”

    But I do think this:

    – about my uncle Gunther Dlugos half-sister Martha. One time I asked my aunt “What happened to Martha?” and she said, “You know what — we do not know.” She was totally disabled person after she was found at Frankfurt Airport. She lived in a home that nuns were running — something like nursing home. I remember going there few times, as a child during 80’s.

    That was must have been way, way, way before 1990’s (Martha was in her late fifties, I think, at that time). And she was there for many, many years..

    I bet Church Catholic / diocese would know exactly what happened to her? We could ask Pope.

    She had some kids here in US (at that time they must have been very small kids). Also, there was another sister that lived in Topeka, Kansas. She was divorced (for years) at that time. She told me about it, and it was unbelievable. I visited her once, I think in 1997 — I think…but I am not sure when that was because it could have been another year, as well.

    I myself did not move here until 2005…

    But here is something else. And I am thinking this: “Is this for real?”

    Yousef has been detained by Egypt Air in Cairo Airport without food or clean water and has nowhere to sleep or wash. He has no change of clothes or phone
    Long Description
    Yousef and I married in Gaza in 2012. In order to apply for a visa to join me in the UK he had to pass an English test.
    The test is not available in Gaza so he applied for visas to Malaysia, Thailand and China.
    When Egypt opened the border in October 2014 Yousef left to go to Thailand.
    He spent 2 weeks in Thailand and then on 20th October entered Malaysia where I joined him.
    While I was with him we read in the news that Egypt had closed the Rafah crossing after violence erupted in Sinai.
    I returned to the UK where I am a teacher. Yousef sat the exam on 15th October and waited for the border to Gaza to reopen. When his visa expired on the 20th and the border had not opened he secured an extension to stay until 20th December. The visa was stamped ‘no further extension’ so when it expired he managed to get a visa to Indonesia where I joined him again.
    His visa ran out on 20th January and he returned to Malaysia on the 17th January when he heard that the Rafah crossing would open for 3 days namely 20th/21st/22nd January 2015
    He went directly to the Egyptian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and was issued with a visa on the 21st of January 2015 for travel to Cairo.
    I booked the next available Egypt Air flight which left KL at 01.00 22nd January 2015 and landed in Cairo at 05.47 on 22nd January 2015.
    Yousef discussed with Egypt Air staff in Kuala Lumpur, before boarding, the issue of time remaining to reach Rafah before it closed on the 22nd.
    They reassured him he was in good time and he proceeded to board.
    The flight, according to records, arrived on time in Cairo. Egypt Air did not let Yousef proceed through immigration. He had a valid visa and the border was open. He had ample time to reach Rafah before close of day.
    The next time I heard from Yousef was Friday 23rd January 2015 when I returned a missed call from Egypt Air in Cairo. They told me Yousef had been detained, gave no reason and demanded I buy a ticket to Amman.

    I spoke briefly to Yousef and the Egyp Air officiual said that it was normal praactice to send Palestinians to Jordan. I arranged for someone to meet him at Amman airport and bought the ticket.
    Yousef called me from Amman airport and said they had refused him entry and were sending him back to Cairo. That was Friday 23rd at approximately 11pm GMT
    On Saturday morning at 11 am GMTI received a call from the Egypt Air number (0020222677793) and spoke to Yousef briefly where he told me that the police had not arrested him, he was not under suspicion of anything and it was Egypt Air that was holding him.
    I told him I will try to find the best solution and not to worry it must be a mistake.
    I have heard nothing since than and when I call the Egypt Air number it is voicemail or the person hangs up.
    I contacted the emergency UNCHR number in Geneva. The duty officer said the sistuation is very bad and they do not allow UN officials in to the airport. She said she would inform the right department and they would call me. No one has called.
    I have emailed the Egyptian Embassy in London (phone did not connect).
    The Palestinains Embassy in Cairo is non operational- all numbers dead.
    The Palestinian consulate in London did not answer so I emailed.
    I asked Egypt Air London to investigate since the only person I was able to speak to in Cairo Egypt Air office denied all responsibility.They said it is not their jurisdiction.

    • Kata Fisher February 7, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

      Thank you Clive… I just forgot about it…

  6. Kata Fisher February 8, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    This is my Favorite priest – but Pope’s policy confiscated his stuff…and here he is…once again!

  7. rehmat1 February 11, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    Serena Williams seems to be full of contradictions. While she claims she learned “forgiveness” from Nelson Mandela who is accused being a “Jew hater” by Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan – but then she visited Israel in 2012. While there, YNet published photos of her mingling with European Israeli Jews who hate Black people living in Israel.

  8. give February 11, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    When hate crime is committed against Muslims, will not get coverage in the American media.

    I am sure the American media and USG will not call this killer a terrorist, instead they use the desired word ‘insane’.

    {Why is this story huge in all international media but not in American media? Three Muslim students killed in NC.}

    • Kata Fisher February 12, 2015 at 7:17 am #

      You write:

      Actually, there is – but I guess it is more developed one:

      But I thin that “hateful neighbor” is a good definition for insane / terrorist “insane-terrorist!

      I heard my friend Renee say, “There is no hope for us here.” She is African-American. She has college degree and is sitting in office of her husbands (who is dentist) as Administrative Assistant.

      She sees no purpose in doing anything at all. She is Charismatic and is waiting for a call from God — but does not have one.

      It’s best to kick back and relax and do nothing, at all. The culture is so structured that will only yield destruction and death for anyone of good will and intention.

      The cause to the relationship to the effect is long-joined at the ground, and is irrevocable.

      When you are Charismatic — you really feel viciousness on the ground — you just can’t have any part in it.

      Youth can be decided and start to believe in good deeds – Church Charismatic does not believe in such thing.

  9. Kata Fisher February 11, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    Professor Falk,

    All my love-notes are gone — but Genes love-notes have gone nowhere, at all!!! (Smile).

    Now, I do not know if I am to feel dismissed — or relieved

    I usually do not do very well with confusion…at all.


    • Richard Falk February 11, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

      Kata: I have tried to encourage you to send responsive and relevant comments, and
      would welcome your participation, but you seem to submit these comments that have
      no connection with anything that is being reflected upon on this site. I think it
      is my responsibility to limit participation if no effort is being made to submit
      relevant comments. At least, I wish that you will continue to smile!! Richard


  1. TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » My Tribute to Serena Williams - February 9, 2015

    […] nevertheless prevailed in the match. She calls this experience one of the darkest in her long career, remembering the many tears that she shed after it was over, and being reminded at the time of her […]

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