The events of the last couple of months have brought on so many emotions for me. Sadness, alarm, anger, and hope coupled with hopelessness. As an African American, my hope and thought was that with each and every day, week, month, year, decade and generation racism would gradually cease and African American people would rise. Americans together would rise, and we would rid ourselves of the unreasonable and ignorant hate for our fellow human being because of the color of their skin.
What I hadn’t realized until the recent protests was how hopeless, unconsciously, I had become. It’s hard to really understand how I had let that happen. I am a positive person. I am filled with hope. I am strong, I am a fighter. I never accept no for an answer and I finish things on my own terms. I've fought for equality for women, I’ve fought through injuries and health challenges. I've fought against the odds of making it to the top of a professional sport.
How in the world did I not catch myself becoming hopeless?
When the public outcry first started this Spring I had a lot of soul searching to do and feelings to work though. Would this be like 1992 when Rodney King faced senseless violence, cities burned and the brutality continued? Was this just a fad that would end in a few days? Would anyone truly believe that racism is a real problem in America and not just a figment in the imagination of minorities?
It’s hard to stay hopeful when no one believes racism exists. Racism was the reality of an unpopular truth. No one wanted to deal with it. It’s an age old problem that was supposed to have been solved with the civil rights movement and with the passing of the civil rights act and the end of Jim Crow. In the majority’s mind, civil rights was over, hands had been wiped clean and they had moved on. The story’s over, nothing to see here, everyone go home. But for an African American, racism exists everyday. And there is nothing more frustrating than being endlessly marginalized. I have sat in press conferences where I was asked if there was racism in tennis. How do you respond to that? Especially when the question is just a dare, just daring me to say something controversial so it can become a hot headline. Not because they cared, or that anyone cared if they read the article. Racism was irrelevant because up until recently, it didn’t really “exist.”
My journey to hopelessness wasn't overnight. It took years. It took being a 12 year old girl watching Rodney King beat within inches of his life with no convictions for that atrocious crime. It took me having to work twice as hard to get to the top of my game only to still be criticized for being strong, BLACK and unafraid to be unapologetically confident. It takes time to lose hope, even when you don't know you are losing it.
But we cannot be hopeless.
I cannot be hopeless.
We have to stand tall and strong and fight until we receive equality on our terms. We have to be strong and stronger. Stronger, just as Martin Luther King was strong and stood up. Stronger, just as Malcom X was strong.. Black lives matter has been on the lips of African Americans for years. It wasn't until recently that it has become mainstream. This recent worldwide movement has allowed me to rediscover hope. The turning point for me happened one afternoon last month when I drove home from practice. On the corner of one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Florida, if not in America, stood residents protesting.. They held up signs that read ‘Black lives matter” and “ Equality for all.”
None of them were black...
Some had silver hair...
All stood in solidarity.
It brought tears to my eyes. It made me believe that it wasn't just a trend. People really cared and wanted to stand up for what was right and hated seeing their neighbors and fellow Americans being treated unjustly. I kept driving. On the next corner at an even more exclusive community there stood another handful. My heart swelled, and finally, I am full of hope. With all of us standing together, there will be equality, and much sooner than I had ever thought.
Here is some suggested reading on the history of racism and oppression in America. My passion is with the youth and working at a grassroots level to help young people gain confidence and skills through sports and tennis. Here are the organizations I support and a few extra that are doing amazing work. There are so many ways to support. Please, create hope and change. Everyone can help.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Racist America: Roots, Current Realities and Future Reparations by Joe Jeagin
- New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures by Watchtower and Bible Tract Society
Suggested Organizations to Support:
- The Equal Justice Initiative
- Southeast Tennis and Education Foundation
- First Serve Miami
Protest image by: Ashley Dorcé