Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Living Tennis Legend Serena Williams Wins Her 18th Grand Slam at the 2014 US Open And Solidifies Her Status As One Of the Greatest Players in Tennis History And As the Premiere Individual Athlete of the 21st Century



The phenomenal Serena Williams is not only the greatest and most accomplished female tennis player of her generation but is now only a mere four grand slam titles away from being officially crowned the greatest player in female tennis history.  The astonishing facts speak loudly for themselves.  Not only has Serena now won more major titles in her sport than either Roger Federer or Tiger Woods--both direct generational contemporaries of Serena who are widely considered the most iconic individual figures in their respective sports of tennis and golf--but she in my opinion must now be considered the greatest individual athlete of the 21st century as a result. Certainly her monumental achievements have been and continue to be just as impressive or frankly more so than theirs.  For example just consider what Serena has accomplished since January 2012 alone.  In the past 32 months she has won a jawdropping 93% of ALL the tennis matches she has played (he overall record is an incredible 181-14 in this span--a period in which she has also managed to win five grand slam tournaments as well a whopping 20 other tournaments in all. In addition her amazing lifetime career record against the top ten major female players following her in the rankings is a combined 95-8 or .922.  With absolutely dominant and otherworldly statistics like these one can only surmise just how far Serena will continue to go in the future, despite the fact that at the age of 32 (she will be 33 on September 26) she is already the highest ranked player --for the last three years she has of course been ranked  number one--of any player over the age of 30 in tennis history.  So fierce congratulations and many kudos to the beautiful warrior athlete I personally like to affectionately refer to as 'Da Gunslinger' Ms. Serena Williams and may her future be as luminous and inspiring as her past...



Williams, Queen of Queens, Embraces Elusive Milestone

U.S. Open 2014: Serena Williams Beats Caroline Wozniacki for 18th Major Title
SEPT. 7, 2014

New York Times
Serena Williams was asked last week what the number 18 meant to her.

“It means legal to do some things,” she said, laughing.

But she knew what the reporter was getting at.

“It also means legendary,” she added more seriously.

She would not go so far as to call herself legendary — “I’m just Serena,” she said — but she joined some elite company Sunday, when she tied Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with her 18th Grand Slam singles title.

The top-ranked Williams defeated Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-3, to capture her third United States Open final in a row and sixth over all.

Williams had not advanced past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament this year, and over the last two weeks she had expressed relief and excitement at her success at the U.S. Open. When Wozniacki’s final stroke went long Sunday, Williams collapsed on her back and started to cry. In a postmatch interview, she choked up saying the word 18.

“I have been trying to reach it for so long, since last year, well, since the beginning of the year,” said Williams, who received an 18-karat gold bracelet from Evert and Navratilova after the match. “I didn’t really think I would get there. I just felt so good.”

Williams survived a women’s draw decimated by upsets, the only player among the top nine seeds to reach the quarterfinals. Wozniacki, the No. 10 seed, was the highest-seeded player Williams faced, and even though she never lost more than three games in a set during the tournament, “it definitely wasn’t anything that was easy,” Williams said.

“It was a little bit more pressure on this Slam than the other ones because she hadn’t done well in the ones before,” said Sascha Bajin, Williams’s practice partner. “Especially the seeds going out early in the draw. The pressure just kept on rising. Everybody was expecting Serena to win.”

No one applies more pressure on Williams than Williams herself. But after a third-round loss at Wimbledon, Williams took a vacation with Bajin in his native Croatia, realizing, she said, “I just needed to relax a little more.”

When she returned to the tour, she won the tournament in Stanford, Calif., which helped her regain her confidence, Bajin said. She reached the semifinals in Montreal, then won again in Cincinnati.

By the time Williams arrived in Flushing Meadows, where she first won the U.S. Open in 1999 at age 17, she was back in the form that makes it “not fun to play her,” Wozniacki said.

Considering that, Williams seemed to be almost comically modest when she said before the match that she would “try to hang in there” against Wozniacki, whom she had beaten in eight of their previous nine meetings.

But that was what was required as both players made a mess of the first set. There were five service breaks in a row, with Wozniacki holding serve for the first time in the match in the eighth game, trailing by 5-2.

When Williams served for the set at 5-3, a fan in the upper deck felt the need to shout, “Settle down, Serena!”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Williams closed out the set, but it was not one either player will want to save for posterity.

Williams had 28 errors, Wozniacki 21. Williams got only 41 percent of her first serves in and won only 41 percent of her second-serve points. Wozniacki got only 58 percent of her first serves in and won only 27 percent of her second-serve points. Wozniacki had three doubles faults, Williams two. At least Williams had 15 winners; Wozniacki had one, an ace.

Williams settled down in the second set. In the first game, she won a 20-shot rally when a backhand clipped the net cord and dropped over to get two break points. She broke Wozniacki on the next point, and then started dominating service games. Williams lost only four points on her serve, one on a double fault, for the rest of the match.

Wozniacki was serving better, too, and relentlessly chasing down ground strokes.

“I think we both raised our level in the second set, and it was just a little too late for me,” Wozniacki said.

Williams broke Wozniacki one more time to end the match, winning a 26-shot rally to go ahead in the game, 15-30, and finishing it with a pair of forehands that Wozniacki could not handle.

Wozniacki, a 24-year-old Dane who held the No. 1 ranking for 67 weeks in 2010 and 2011, was in only her second Grand Slam final, having reached the U.S. Open final in 2009. She acknowledged being nervous and overwhelmed by the atmosphere at the start.

But Wozniacki’s appearance in the final capped a resurgent summer. Since losing in the first round of the French Open, her first tournament after the golfer Rory McIlroy broke off their engagement in May, Wozniacki is 25-6, three of the losses against Williams.

“I think I have definitely played better tennis these weeks than I have in the past,” said Wozniacki, who plans to run the New York City Marathon in November. “So it’s definitely a positive sign and a good sign for the future.”

Despite the on-court results against Williams, Wozniacki considers Williams one of her closest friends and has said she was a vital source of support during a difficult period in her life.

“You’re an unbelievable champion and an inspiration to me on and off the court,” Wozniacki said to Williams after the match, adding, “You definitely owe drinks later.”

Williams said she and Wozniacki would, in fact, be celebrating together Sunday night. But she did not allow herself to savor the moment too long, motivated as ever to move forward.

Williams, who turns 33 this month, is four major championships behind Steffi Graf for the Open-era record, and she was asked if she was thinking about 22.

“Hasn’t even been three hours, and I have already mentioned 19,” Williams said. “Oh, gosh. So, yeah, but not 22. I’m taking it one at a time.”

Ben Rothenberg contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on September 8, 2014, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Queen of Queens.

Why Serena Williams Is Now The Greatest American Tennis Player Ever

by Allen St. John

Serena Williams hugs the championship trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki during the championship match of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

I hope you were paying attention as Serena Williams won her 18th Grand Slam title against Caroline Wozniacki in Sunday’s U.S. Open Ladies Singles Final.

Why? Because with that win, Serena Williams became simply the greatest American tennis player ever. Male or female. No asterisks.

“I never dreamed that I could be compared to Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova,” Williams said in her post-match press conference. “I was just a kid with a dream and a racket living in Compton.”

Here’s how the numbers lay out. With her 18th major, Serena tied Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Evert, for all of her greatness and influence, isn’t quite a match for Serena. She did win her 18 majors in 56 majors for a .321 slam average, one fewer than Serena, whose Slam Average stands at .315. (Slam average can be computed by taking a player’s slam wins and dividing them by the total number of majors in which she competed)

But Serena has two important edges—Serena won 13 majors in doubles, compared to only three for Evert.  Even more importantly, Evert has been on the short end of a key rivalry. Williams has been the best player in the world for most of the past decade and a half. Her closest rival is either Justine Henin or her sister Venus, each of whom have 11 fewer slams. Evert, for her part, took a back seat to Navratilova, who held an 43-37 edge including a 10-4 in Grand Slam finals.

Speaking of Navratilova, she had even more doubles success than Williams, winning 31 titles. But she also took more time to win her 18 singles slams, playing 67 majors in singles for a slam percentage of .268 compared to Serena’s .315.

At this moment, Serena’s edge over these other two legends is real, but narrow. If she can continue to play at this level, she’ll widen the gap. Or if her game falls off suddenly, her case for supremacy weakens.

As for the Serena vs. the American guys, it’s really no contest. Pete Sampras was great. He won 14 slams in 52 tries for a .269 Slam Average.  But Serena’s better.  She won a career grand slam, including two French Opens. She’s held all four majors at once for a so-called “Serena Slam.” She won those aforementioned doubles titles.

To put this in some perspective, she’s got more singles wins than Jimmy Connors (8) and John McEnroe (7) combined.

What makes this exciting is Serena’s uncertain future. Serena’ is approaching 33, and Roger Federer (like Serena herself) has shown just how hard it is to play consistent tennis in the slams after age 30.  But her win over Wozniacki proved that she’s the game’s best player, so it would be a surprise (although not a shock) if she didn’t win another slam or two by next year’s U.S. Open.

If Serena can do that, we can shift our attention from her match-up with Evert and Navratilova, to her pursuit of the two (non-American) modern-era players in front of her.

(American Helen Wills Moody won 19 slams in the 1920s and 1930s, and Serena’s next victory will put these accomplishments in the spotlight for a moment. But tennis was different enough in the 1920s and 1930s that it seems unfair to both players to compare Williams with the great HWM.)

Steffi Graf won 22 slams, but her remarkable resume should carry an informal asterisk. Between 1990 and 1993, Graf’s main rival, Monica Seles won eight of the 11 grand slams in which she played. Then she was stabbed on court by a deluded Graf fan at a small event in Germany. Seles missed two years, and was never really the same again, winning only one major the rest of her career.

Ironically, this horrible deed did exactly what its perpetrator set out to accomplish. At the time of Seles’s stabbing, Graf had won 11 career slams. After Seles’s career was derailed by the attack, Graf would go on to win 11 more.  It’s only reasonable to speculate that if Seles hadn’t been attacked, she would have won many, if not, most of those 11 titles, and both Seles and Graf would have ended up somewhere in teens in total titles.

Margaret Court, of Australia, holds the all-time record, with 24 slams spanning the Open and pre-Open eras. But seven of those majors were won at the Australian championships during the 1960s. While Court’s streak is impressive, the tournament’s field was considerably weaker than in the other slams, with many top players choosing not to make the long journey to Australia in the days before Open tennis. But that’s a discussion for another day.

“I don’t think about it so much because I’m still playing,” says Serena.

Every year during the U.S. Open there’s a lot of talk about the future of American tennis. But the talking heads often miss greatness sitting right in front of them. On Sunday, Serena Jameka Williams made two things abundantly clear. That she’s the best American tennis player ever. And that she’s not done yet.

For the best-curated news about sports and entertainment, follow me on Twitter (@allenstjohn).

Allen St. John is the author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game


Serena Williams 'post embolism' record since June 2011:  26 titles - 17 losses!

Incredible stat via @StatsWTA:  Since her glorious return and tennis comeback began in June, 2011 following a year of health problems, Serena Williams has more titles (26) than losses (17)!

Including five Grand Slam titles and Olympic Gold in both singles and doubles

She is also an incredible 181-14 since January 2012 which means she has won 93% of all her matches over the past 32 months


(b. September 26, 1981)

With her 6-3, 6-3 victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the US Open women’s final on Sunday, Serena Williams accomplished the following:

She won her sixth US Open women’s singles title, which ties Chris Evert for the most in the Open era. The all-time record is eight, held by Molla Bjurstedt Mallory (1915-1926).

She won her 18th Grand Slam singles title, which ties Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth-most in tennis history (behind Margaret Court’s 24, Steffi Graf’s 22 and Helen Wills Moody’s 19) and is second in the Open era (behind only Graf).

She won the US Open without losing a set for the third time in her career (2002, 2008, 2014). That ties the Open era record held by Evert, who accomplished the feat in 1976, 1977 and 1978, though Evert played only six matches – not seven – in 1976 and 1978.

She won the US Open for a third consecutive year. The only other woman to accomplish that in the Open era was Evert, who won four titles in a row from 1975 to 1978.

With her victory on Sunday, she improved to 79-9 at the US Open, an .898 winning percentage that is the best in tournament history for a woman. (Bill Tilden holds the men’s mark at .910.)

She has now won her first and last women’s singles titles 15 years apart. That breaks a tie with Ken Rosewall for the greatest length of time between wins in tournament history. In the Open era, the second-longest time span between wins for a woman’s champion is eight years (Steffi Graf, 1988, 1996).

She matches Billie Jean King for third place in most overall US Open titles in the Open era, with nine. (Serena also won the women’s doubles in 1999 and 2009 and the mixed doubles in 1998). They trail only Martina Navratilova (16) and Margaret Court (10).



This a great and very insightful article that also happens to be 100% TRUE.  It also echoes what I've been saying outloud to many people across the country for the past decade now.  It's good to know that these truths about both Serena and Venus and their profound contributions are finally beginning to circulate much more broadly in the general culture in spite of an all too often racist, sexist, and indifferent media...Long Live the Williams sisters and a deeply heartfelt congratulations to Serena for continuing to make history in such an inspiring and typically dynamic manner...


Serena Williams Is America’s Greatest Athlete
The New Yorker
This week, as the sports world repays our slavish attention with more lousy, grotesque news, it’s worth noting that, on Sunday, the greatest American athlete in a generation won the U.S. Open, again, for the sixth time and the third year in a row.

Serena Williams’s victory over Caroline Wozniacki puts her in rarefied company in the history of women’s tennis. It was her eighteenth Grand Slam singles title, tying her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. (The pair welcomed her to the club by giving her an eighteen-karat gold Tiffany bracelet.) Even before Sunday, Evert had said several times that Williams is the best woman ever to play, despite the fact that she remains four major titles behind Steffi Graf (who, the argument goes, faced lesser opponents), and six behind the all-time record holder, Margaret Court (who played before the modern open era). Williams has been to twenty-two Slam finals and has lost only four times. At thirty-two, she is less than two months younger than Roger Federer, who is considered to be playing in the near-twilight of his career, and the oldest player to hold the women’s world No. 1 ranking. After the match, Evert said, “People kept asking Serena the last year, ‘How’s it going to feel to be in the same company with Martina and Chrissie?’ and I’m thinking to myself, Well, I’m the one who’s honored to have Serena in the same sentence.”

Forget tennis for a moment, though: when I say the greatest athlete in a generation, I mean the greatest in any sport. Sorry, LeBron. Sorry, Tiger. Sorry, Derek. For fifteen years, over two generations of tennis, Williams has been a spectacular and constant yet oddly uncherished national treasure. She is wealthy and famous, but it seems that she should be more famous, the most famous. Anyone who likes sports should love Williams’s dazzling combination of talent, persistence, style, unpredictability, poise, and outsized, heart-on-her-sleeve flaws.

But not everyone loves her. Part of this is owing to the duelling -isms of American prejudice, sexism, and racism, which manifest every time viewers, mostly men, are moved to remark on Williams’s body in a way that reveals what might most charitably be called discomfort. What are they afraid of? The bodies of athletes, both male and female, are habitually on display, yet there has been something especially contentious and fraught about the ways in which Williams’s singular appearance—musculature both imposing and graceful—has been discussed. On Twitter, during the final, some people wrote admiringly about her obvious strength and fitness, but there were also observations about the size of her butt, her thighs, and suggestions that her toned arms made her look more like a male boxer or linebacker than like a women’s tennis player. Yet, while some fixate on what they see as Williams’s masculine traits, others seem to find fault in the parts of her that might be considered more feminine: her striking on-court outfits (and off-court interest in fashion) are criticized as flashy, unserious, and self-absorbed. No one, meanwhile, seems too upset by the beautiful mini-dresses worn by the likes of Maria Sharapova, and Federer’s Wimbledon cream-blazer frippery is admired as debonair.

When the culture at large grants athletic adoration to women, it is often of a temporary, fleeting kind directed toward teen-age American sweethearts at the Olympics. Williams has never been America’s sweetheart. She wasn’t when she won her first U.S. Open, at seventeen, in 1999, and she isn’t now, as she plays on into her thirties. There is concern on both the men’s and women’s sides of tennis about where the next generation of great players is: no one under twenty-five on either tour has become a proven winner, in a game once known for prodigies. (This year’s men’s final, won by Marin Čilić in straight, uneventful sets over Kei Nishikori, gave tennis fans a glimpse at what a landscape without Federer and Nadal might look like.) Yet there has, for years now, been a special eagerness to find the next young-woman breakout star, as if there were some dissatisfaction with Williams as the game’s untouchable queen. For a while, it was Wozniacki, and then it was the American Melanie Oudin. These days, hope has turned to the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. This year at the Open, eyes lit up as the fifteen-year-old American CiCi Bellis won her first-round match. Yet, through it all, Williams has shown that those pining for her replacement may be left waiting for a while still.

But it’s not enough to say that Williams would be more uniformly adored if she were a white woman, or a man. Instead, the failure to fully appreciate her importance is perhaps evidence of our inability to appreciate the stubbornly unfamiliar narrative arc of her career. Williams is underloved because, at times, she has been unlovable and, in the end, mostly unrepentant about it—something that might be admired as iconoclastic in a male athlete, but rarely endears women to a wide audience. As a younger player, she was criticized for being ungenerous to her opponents in interviews; despite all the evidence of her superiority, she was expected to be humble. But the great crisis in her public persona came later, in 2009, when she was penalized the final point in her U.S. Open semifinal against Kim Clijsters after berating a line judge over a foot-fault call on the previous serve. Williams is indeed singular: she is likely the only person ever to utter on a professional tennis court, “I swear to God, I’m fucking going to take this fucking ball and shove it down your fucking throat, you hear that? I swear to God.” (Of course, John McEnroe said things that weren’t so different, and he is beloved for it.) She eventually offered a full statement of apology, and her contrition seemed sincere. But, for such misbehavior, sports fans, the old-fashioned moralists that we are, might have expected Williams to apologize for the rest of her career (and, in so doing, to give us the pleasure of forgiving her).

Yet the past five years have not left Williams abject or cowed, or much more interested in mass approval. Her career story isn’t a straight line from brash youthfulness to somber and admirable maturity. When she won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, she danced exuberantly on the court, offending some stuffy folks who claimed that she was doing a gang dance. She has sniped at her competitors in the press. She stills puts in occasionally odd and maddening performances; her attention to tennis sometimes seems to wane.

This summer, after a disappointing showing in the three previous Grand Slam tournaments, Williams said that she adopted a new way of thinking about the game, to put less pressure on herself by appreciating what she had already accomplished. “That’s the beauty of my career,” she said before the Open. “I don’t need to do anything at all. Everything I do from this day forward is a bonus. Actually, from yesterday. It doesn’t matter. Everything for me is just extra.” This is surely wisdom, but it is also a form of sports sacrilege. I don’t have anything to prove; I have been great—so great, in fact, that at this point winning doesn’t even matter.

But Serena did win, and in dominating fashion (without dropping a set during the entire tournament), prompting Evert and others to note that Graf’s total number of Grand Slam titles could be within Williams’s reach. She remains the future of women’s tennis, at least the immediate one. After the final point on Sunday, she collapsed on her back in joy. Later, at center court, holding the trophy and wearing a ridiculous and fabulous black blazer, she jumped into the air, bending her legs underneath her, and smiled the same bright smile that she’s been giving us for fifteen years.

by Tiffanie Drayton
The Frisky

Articles chronicling the story of Serena’s 3rd consecutive U.S. Open win were accompanied with pictures of a smiling trophy-displaying Serena Williams standing in front of American flags as they wavered carelessly behind. For many, this photo represents the modern America we all want to believe in: One free of yesteryear’s discrimination and racism that would’ve disallowed Black access to the sport. Where a little Black girl from Compton, California, among America’s most impoverished neighborhoods, can ascend to the ranks of “the best in the world” worth over $50 million — all earned from hard work and dedication. And this is the America we display to the world.

However, a stark reality exists that Black people in this country are far too well-aware of. One where all Black accomplishment is met with condemnation and ugly racist remarks.

Buried within the comments section of such stories of American victory, tells the reality that a Black woman does not represent America to White Americans. Nor is she worthy of support or even much deserved congratulations. The general consensus by such White people? Serena Williams, like President Obama, should be dehumanized and ridiculed merely because of her skin color.

This paints a more clear picture of a modern White America that is not only racially intolerant but openly hateful. Through that lens, Serena’s strength cannot be appreciated as the strength of a woman because she is a Black woman — an animal at best and Obama’s son at worst. A vile, disgusting @+%*@% with an attitude problem. The racial stereotypes invoked within those comment threads are attached to names and faces of individuals who are real. People whose profile pictures are sweet images of little, innocent children and babies, soldiers, both young and middle-aged White men and women smiling at the world in simple head shots. White people who obviously do not view Black people as people.

To Serena Williams and her family, this racism would come as no surprise. Reports during the 2001 Tennis Masters Series tournament in Indian Wells, California, detailed the racial controversy that erupted after Venus Williams pulled out of a match against her sister only four minutes before it was set to start. The following day, the crowd booed the Williams family incessantly, and according to Richard Williams– the sisters’ manager and father– screamed racial epithets and slurs at them. In an excerpt from Serena William’s 2009 autobiography, On the Line, she recounts this experience:

“What got me most of all was that it wasn’t just a scattered bunch of boos. It wasn’t coming from just one section. It was like the whole crowd got together and decided to boo all at once. The ugliness was just raining down on me, hard. I didn’t know what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. What was most surprising about this uproar was the fact that tennis fans are typically a well-mannered bunch. They’re respectful. They sit still. And in Palm Springs, especially, they tended to be pretty well-heeled, too. But I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people—mostly older, mostly white—standing and booing lustily, like some kind of genteel lynch mob. I don’t mean to use such inflammatory language to describe the scene, but that’s really how it seemed from where I was down on the court. Like these people were gonna come looking for me after the match. … There was no mistaking that all of this was meant for me. I heard the word !#+$+% a couple times, and I knew. I couldn’t believe it. That’s just not something you hear in polite society on that stadium court. … Just before the start of play, my dad and Venus started walking down the aisle to the players’ box by the side of the court, and everybody turned and started to point and boo at them. … It was mostly just a chorus of boos, but I could still hear shouts of ‘!#+$+%!’ here and there. I even heard one angry voice telling us to go back to Compton. It was unbelievable. … We refused to return to Indian Wells. Even now, all these years later, we continue to boycott the event. It’s become a mandatory tournament on the tour, meaning that the WTA can fine a player if she doesn’t attend. But I don’t care if they fine me a million dollars, I will not play there again.”

Racism towards Williams is displayed both overtly and covertly in the media and during the game. A 2009 story published by ESPN detailed a match between Serena and Kim Clijsters, where a lines woman called Williams for a foot fault on her second game, even though replays did not conclusively support the call — costing her the match point. Serena marched over to the lines judge and allegedly angrily confronted her screaming expletives. When told by reporters that the lines woman complained that she felt threatened to the chair umpire, Williams responded, “She says she felt threatened? She said this to you? I’ve never been in a fight my whole life, so I don’t know why she should have felt threatened.” Ultimately, Serena lost that game because she lost her temper. In the ESPN piece, the author claimed that Clijsters “seemed destined to win the match anyways,” saying that the player powerfully returned “Serena’s savage strokes.”

This image of the angry, Black fierce Serena with “savage” strokes is widely popular, despite the fact that her outbursts are usually in response to poor line judging and bad calls. In the 2011 US Open, chair umpire Eva Asderaki penalized Williams with a point for violating the hindrance rule — a rule that is seldom enforced — for shouting “Come on!” before her challenger, Samantha Stosur, had a chance to return the shot, regardless of the fact that Stosur’s racket barely touched the ball when she attempted the return. Most tennis players yell, grunt or scream on every shot, so such rules are often neglected. In this instance, the penalty cost Serena the match point, prompting the athlete to express hostility towards the umpire. She was fined $2000.

Such are the realities of being Black in White America, especially while participating in spaces that had long been off limits to people of color. Constant battles with stereotypes and racism are a norm. The picture of Serena Williams, courageously displaying her trophy while Black, strong and woman is a symbol of how far African-Americans are willing to go to reclaim their humanity and dignity: To achieve and be successful against all odds. In spite of every racist jeer, taunt, or attempt at unfairness, Black success persists. However, that success should never be confused with equality and fairness for all. America is still struggling down that path

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dr. Beryl Satter And Darnell L. Moore On the Insidious Racial Politics of Real Estate, Segregation, National Housing Policy, And Gentrification on Urban Spaces And Their Direct Impact On the Violent Oppression and Exploitation Of African Americans in the U.S.

“This is what happens when you have massive racial change in a community and the power structure remains in the hands of whites and the police force acts as this sort of mediating force between the white power structure and what is now a black community and has very little empathy or knowledge about that community.”
--Dr. Beryl Satter 

The Price of Blackness: From Ferguson to Bed-Stuy
Friday, 05 September 2014
By Darnell L. Moore,
The Feminist Wire | Op-Ed
The unsettling image of the lifeless body of 18-year old Mike Brown, the unarmed teen shot six times by Officer Darren Wilson, which laid prostrate before family and neighbors for hours in a pool of blood in the sweltering summer heat in Ferguson, MO, will surely haunt the collective conscious of the US for years to come.

Mike Brown’s murder, and the brutalizing way his killing was turned into a public spectacle, has much to do with the ways Black lives are literally and symbolically devalued in neighborhoods throughout the US The image of his lifeless body publicly displayed on the street is a heartrending reminder that Black bodies in the US are rendered valueless—so much so that even in death, particularly the kind sanctioned by the state, Black people, like Mike Brown and his family, are not afforded the right to humane treatment.
When commenting on the demographic changes in Ferguson for CNN, Beryl Satter, author of Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America, noted, “This is what happens when you have massive racial change in a community and the power structure remains in the hands of whites and the police force acts as this sort of mediating force between the white power structure and what is now a black community and has very little empathy or knowledge about that community.”
Ferguson, like many municipalities across the US, has experienced a dramatic shift in its racial composition. The municipality of roughly 21,000, which, according to the US Census, was comprised of a majority White populace (73.8%) in 1990, is now home to a majority Black populace (67.4%). Ferguson, thus, is more than the subject of a black teen’s death. It is the product of over five decades of “white flight.”

Changes in the racial composition of towns precipitate changes in the ways Black bodies are policed and valued in many neighborhoods. Anti-blackness—as evidenced through the enactment of inequitable laws, discriminatory policing practices, and economic exploitation disproportionately impacting Black people—is one of the threads that connects an individual tragedy, like Mike Brown’s death, to the broader structural issues of White racial supremacy, global capitalism, and gentrification impacting Black people and the working poor to middle class communities they hail from across the US Black lives and White lives are differently valued and are, therefore, differently impacted under the conditions of White racial supremacy across the country.

My brief time in Ferguson prompted me to consider the many ways Mike Brown’s death, and life, was warped by the structural conditions mentioned above—all emanating from what scholar George Lipsitz aptly calls the “possessive investment in whiteness.” Such investments in whiteness, which impacts everything from access to housing markets to points of educational access for Black people within communities across the country, must also be considered alongside the mundane incidents of police violence and hyper criminalization in the US.

Black death at the hands of the state is a consequence of the precarious structural conditions restricting Black life from Ferguson to Flatbush, Brooklyn. Flatbush is the neighborhood where 16-year old Kimani Gray was shot and killed by NYPD in March 2013. I live a short distance from Flatbush, in neighboring Bed-Stuy. Unlike Ferguson, which was a predominantly White space that experienced a decrease in its White populace, traditional black neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy are now experiencing an increase in its White populace.

Bed-Stuy is evidence that the investment in whiteness and divestment in blackness shapes the conditions in which Black bodies engage, and are engaged in, geographical spaces. White bodies in Bed-Stuy now seemingly signals safety and welcome, which is to say: White folk who would not otherwise perceive “Do or Die BedStuy” as safe and welcoming begin to finally perceive it as such because of the presence of other White people. Race shapes perceptions of space.

The problem with this misperception has less to do with the brutal truth that Black spaces like BedStuy or Ferguson are typically deemed “the hood,” as spaces that lack or are wholly violent until White folk increasingly begin trekking into, or back into, the very communities many people, white/black/brown/otherwise, imagined as terrifying. The more insidious problem is the belief that whiteness at all times and in all places signifies safety and bounty and, therefore, represents a site of investment: new stores selling expensive items begin emerging; the same stores stay open (the doors and not just side windows) twenty-four hours; realtors finally begin to take an interest in property sales; nameless and faceless “investors” begin leaving cheap flyers on stoops or in mailboxes promising cash for homes. Safety becomes a relative experience when gentrification occurs. The presence of White people almost always guarantees the increased presence of resources, like police, which does not always guarantee safety for Black people in those same spaces.

And here is what distinguishes the movement of White people into Black and Brown spaces from the movement of Black gentrifiers into those same spaces. Those Black folk, like me, who are afforded the privilege of choosing some of the locations we live are still considered valueless bodies in the same spaces we gentrify. Our presence does not always bring healthy food stores, cute eateries, and hospitable police; on the contrary, we are embattled by the very structural forces of White racial supremacy and capitalism that actually benefit White gentrifiers. And some of us might easily be stopped by police, harassed, or even shot whether we appear respectable or not in those same spaces.

So, if we are to ensure the end of state-sanctioned violence against Black people, we must be ready to think through and redress the socioeconomic and class underpinnings of anti-blackness and White racial supremacy. Until we do, whether we are bodies left to die without compassion in the streets or bodies read as deficits in communities across the US, Black people will continue to be treated as something other than human as whiteness continues to function as a sign for possession and asset.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America
by Beryl Satter
Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Company)


How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America

“Gripping . . . This painstaking portrayal of the human costs of financial racism is the most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North.”
 —David Garrow, The Washington Post

The “promised land” for thousands of Southern blacks, postwar Chicago quickly became the most segregated city in the North, the site of the nation’s worst ghettos. In this powerful book, Beryl Satter identifies the true cause of the city’s black slums and the ruin of urban neighborhoods throughout the country: a widespread institutionalized system of legal and financial exploitation.
(b. 1959)

Part family story and part urban history, Family Properties is the riveting account of a city in crisis, involving unscrupulous slumlords and speculators pitched against religious reformers, community organizers, and an impassioned attorney—the author’s father— who launched a crusade against the profiteers. Satter shows the interlocking forces at work: the discriminatory practices of the banking industry; the federal policies that created the country’s shameful “dual housing market”; the economic anxieties that fueled white violence; and the tempting profits to be made by preying on the city’s most vulnerable population.

A monumental work, this tale of racism and real estate, politics and finance will forever change our understanding of the forces that transformed urban America.


Beryl Satter is the author of Each Mind a Kingdom and the chair of the Department of History at Rutgers University in Newark. She was raised in Chicago, Skokie, and Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and the Yale American Studies program. For her work in progress on Family Properties, Satter received a J. Anthony Lukas citation. She lives in New York City.

Race, Family, and Real Estate: Beryl Satter's Family Properties -

See more at:

In her new book, Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America (2009), historian Beryl Satter puts a human face on the often told story of racial discrimination in urban housing by following the career of her father, Chicago attorney Mark J. Satter, who was both an ardent defender of his mostly black clients who had been severely exploited by real estate speculators, and a property owner in an increasingly black neighborhood who some later accused of being a slumlord himself. Her account is a cautionary tale that reminds us that the ghettos of America's largest cities are the consequence of large impersonal economic forces and of hundreds of individual decisions driven by self-interest and, on occasion, by selfless motives as well.

Family Properties deals with one of the most contentious questions of recent American history –- why so many urban neighborhoods changed so rapidly from white to black, and then decayed into slums. Yet the book originated in something very personal -- my curiosity about my father, Mark J. Satter.

He was a Jewish Chicago attorney with a largely black, working-class clientele. He was 49 years old when he died from a heart ailment in 1965; I, the youngest of his five children, was six. As I grew older, I picked up oddly mixed messages about him from my relatives. They told me he had been a well-known crusader for the oppressed. But they also spoke in more whispered tones about properties he had owned in what was now a black ghetto. He’d hoped that they would provide for his family. Instead, they had become worthless. They were sold shortly after his death. By then they were worth so little that their sale hadn’t even covered that winter’s coal bills -- and I understood that somehow, my relatives felt that he was to blame.

There was a mystery here, and so, a decade ago, I finally decided to investigate my father’s story. I began by reading my father’s papers, which had been saved by one of my brothers.

I was shocked by the stories they contained.

I learned that my father had represented scores of African-Americans who had been unconscionably mislead and grossly overcharged by the real estate agents they’d turned to for help in buying homes. A typical example: in 1957 a white real estate agent, Jay Goran, bought a building for $4300. Soon after, Goran sold it to a black couple, Albert and Sallie Bolton -- for $13,900.

Goran never told the Boltons that he was actually the building’s owner. The Boltons signed some complicated documents that said that the building would remain the legal property of its current owner until they paid off the property in full. They made their high monthly payments for a year; they also spent a considerable sum for repairs. Then they missed a payment, and were evicted. Goran was now free to resell the property, keeping all that the Boltons had invested in it.

In part, the Boltons lost their home and their savings because of the policies of the Federal Housing Administration, which redlined -- that is, refused to insure mortgages -- in neighborhoods that contained even a few black residents. As urban historians have shown, FHA redlining made it impossible for most African Americans to buy homes with a mortgage. Instead, they were forced to deal with speculators, who bought low from whites and sold high to blacks. But these historians missed a critical point. Given that blacks could not get mortgages, how were they able to buy high-priced properties?

The trap that caught my father’s clients provides the answer. Unable to get a mortgage, the Boltons bought their building “on contract,” that is, on an installment plan. They made a down payment. They were also responsible for taxes, insurance, maintenance, and interest. However, they couldn’t get title to the building until the purchase price had been entirely paid off. With just one missed payment, the speculator could reclaim the building. If housing prices were inflated, a missed payment and subsequent quick eviction was practically guaranteed. And prices were wildly inflated. Speculators routinely sold to African Americans at double their properties’ values, but sale prices of triple to quadruple the properties’ values were not uncommon. The fact that approximately 85% of the properties sold to black Chicagoans were sold on contract – and that there were close to a million black people in Chicago by the mid-1960s – gives a sense of the scale of the exploitation.

Why were black Chicagoans willing to buy overpriced properties on contract? Consider the fact that between 1940 and 1960, Chicago’s black population almost tripled, from approximately 278,000 to 813,000. Most were squeezed into the South Side Black Belt -- a neighborhood that had been severely overcrowded even before World War II. Essentially, they were trapped. While homes were for sale at decent prices in nearby white areas, black people could not get mortgages to purchase property there. Landlords in surrounding white neighborhoods usually refused to rent to them as well. Those few black families who did escape the South Side ghetto and move to a less crowded white area were often attacked by their white neighbors, who would mass in front of their home, breaking windows and shouting death threats.

At the same time, black incomes rose nationally in the 1950s; the rise was particularly pronounced in Chicago, where tens of thousands of middle-income black people were paying high rents for inadequate spaces in the South Side Black Belt. Given this context, when a contract seller offered them housing outside of the ghetto, it made sense for them to grab it. Although the prices that the contract sellers charged were high, monthly payments often weren’t much higher than the rents that black families were already paying. Given the redlining policies of the FHA, buying on contract was one of the only means of escape from the high-rent, overcrowded ghetto.

But that didn’t mean that contract sellers weren’t wreaking havoc, fomenting racial division, and exploiting their black customers. “Blockbusting” contract sellers terrorized whites by going door to door, telling homeowners that “the blacks are coming.” If a white person’s house was worth, say, $8,000, they’d offer $7000 – adding that if the homeowner didn’t want to sell, the speculator would be back in month, but this time would offer $6500 – and if that wasn’t adequate, he’d offer the homeowner $6000 shortly after that. Facing this kind of pressure, the white homeowner would sell to the contract seller at $7000 – and the contract seller would then sell that property, on contract of course, to a black buyer – often a person of middle-class income – for, say, $15,000.

But even for a middle-income person, being forced to pay double or more than a property was worth hurt. In addition to being grossly overpriced, the buildings that contract sellers sold were often riddled with code violations. Some black buyers managed the payments and the high repair costs – others did not. And remember, if a contract buyer fell behind on even a single payment, he or she was out – the property reverted to the contract seller, who would resell it to another victim.

What happened to “racially changing” areas where contract sellers were active? While contract sellers became millionaires, their harsh terms and inflated prices destroyed whole communities. Because black contract buyers knew how easily they could lose their homes, they struggled to make their inflated monthly payments. Husband and wives both worked double shifts. They neglected basic maintenance. They subdivided their apartments, crammed in extra tenants, and, when possible, charged their tenants hefty rents. Indeed, the genius of this system was that it forced black contract buyers be their own exploiters.

The resulting decline of racially changing areas fed white racism. White people observed that their new black neighbors overcrowded and neglected their properties. Overcrowded neighborhoods meant overcrowded schools; in Chicago, officials responded by “double-shifting” the students (half attending in the morning, and half in the afternoon). Children were deprived of a full day of schooling and left to fend for themselves in the after-school hours. These conditions helped fuel the rise of gangs, which terrorized shop owners and residents alike. Ultimately whites fled these neighborhoods not only because of the influx of black families, but also because they were upset about overcrowding, decaying schools, and crime. They also understood that the longer they stayed, the less their property would be worth.

My father’s immersion in the heartbreaking details of his clients’ lives led him to embark on an impassioned crusade against Chicago’s real estate speculators – and against the white professionals, mortgage bankers, and politicians who enabled those speculators to thrive. He tried numerous cases against the city’s worst contract sellers, and gave countless speeches to any group that would listen denouncing their practices. At the same time he was also managing his own properties, four buildings that he had purchased in the 1940s and 1950s. All were located in Lawndale, a formerly Jewish neighborhood (my father was born and raised there) which was rapidly becoming black, and which also contained a high concentration of overpriced contract sales.

It was ironic but not surprising, then, that as my father urged others to protect their investments, his own deteriorated. He poured his money into maintaining the properties, but eventually it became nearly impossible to find either honest building managers or responsible tenants. His building managers stole from him. Some of the tenants they let in severely vandalized the property. The repair bills grew higher until they wiped him out financially.

Indeed, as my brother David later told me, that my father was “caught in his own trap.” When he rented to black tenants, he was called a “blockbuster.” If he were to refuse to rent to them, he would be a racist. Given his public posture, my father could not sell his buildings as blacks were beginning to move in; that would make him a hypocrite. If he sold after the neighborhood had become all black, he’d find no buyers except the speculators he was denouncing. Of course he would not participate in the plunder engaged in by these men and women. He decided to hold on, and try his hardest to maintain his properties while the surrounding area crumbled. But if his efforts to maintain them failed, then he was a slumlord. If tenants damaged the buildings, he would be called a slumlord as well.

Although the ironies were greater, my father’s situation differed little from that of any other white landlord in a “changing” urban neighborhood. Their choices were 1) to become contract sellers themselves; 2) to sell their property to a real estate speculator; or 3) try to “do the right thing” – that is, do what the liberals were preaching and stay in the neighborhood. But more often than not that meant to watch as one’s neighborhood became overcrowded, neglected, and crime-ridden, and to watch in horror as one’s property decline dramatically in value – until, defeated at last, the remaining whites exercised the one option that many of their black neighbors did not have – the option to leave.

My father died before he had to face the final indignity of selling his properties for nothing, but in the final months of his life, he suffered because of his powerlessness. There are lines from Herman Melville’s novel Pierre that perfectly express the tragedy of my father’s final year. Melville wrote that “in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril;--nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown.”

I had thought that my father’s untimely death in 1965 was also the tragic end of the battle against exploitative contract selling in Chicago. I would learn, however, that the battle he’d tried to ignite did finally take off -- but only after his death, when a black-led community organization called the Contract Buyers League arose to battle that practice. The struggles, losses, and ultimate triumphs of Chicago’s black contract buyers was a gripping drama that my father’s story led me to uncover, and one that would grant a measure of closure to what I had initially believed to be the tragedy of my father’s lonely battle.


The above material is adopted from “Race and Real Estate,” a précis of Family Properties that was published in the July/August 2009 issue of Poverty & Race, the bimonthly publication of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council in Washington D.C. ( and from the book Family Properties: How the Struggle over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America by Beryl Satter. Copyright © 2009 by Beryl Satter. Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company LLC.


Satter, Beryl
Rutgers University, Newark

See more at: