Friday, July 10, 2015

In Homage to the Inspiring Greatness of Serena Williams--Both On and Off the Court

Serena Williams

Serena Williams' grace helps us escape the banality of racism ... for a while
by William C Anderson
The Guardian  (UK)

The African American tennis powerhouse maintains professionalism and poise in the face of racism on and of the courts. And then she goes out and wins

Serena Williams at Wimbledon 2015
She’s so good, you have to watch. I always do. Photograph: BPI/REX Shutterstock

Thursday 9 July 2015

Growing up, my entire family used to sit around the television watching Serena Williams play tennis. We were always glued to the screen studying her every move with concern and dedication as if she was related to us. Any fictive kinship or close tie we felt to her was centered on her blackness in a sport we all played, but rarely saw ourselves represented in.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Williams reminisced about the significance Arthur Ashe, the first African American man to win Wimbledon and the US Open, held for her during her childhood. “Being African-American and when I was coming up in the late 80s, it wasn’t many African Americans playing, so it was like, you wanted to learn the history of all of them,” she said. “Reading stories about how Arthur wasn’t able to play when he was 12 motivated me because I thought, ‘Wow, because of what he went through, because of what he did I have an opportunity to play. I have an opportunity to be the best that I can be because of him.’ So because of him I’m going to try to be better for him.”

I felt the exact same about Williams as a kid. The experience of being a working class black kid in predominantly white country clubs playing tournaments and taking lessons was often awkward, to put it politely. It seemed as if I magnetically attracted the gaze of intrigued onlookers as the anomaly. The connection I felt to Serena and Venus Williams was racial, political, and economic. They are black like me, an identity that is, to me, both political as well as racial. They came from a working class background like I did. I was also “supposed” to be playing basketball (according to many people I encountered), but I liked tennis. And though some of my peers thought it was weird that the person to whom I related to most in my favorite sport was a black woman, I not only didn’t let go of my admiration for her achievements, I was forced to reconsider at an early age notions of traditional gender roles and racial expectations because of her.

I have been watching Williams compete again at Wimbledon yet again this year; she’s still regularly victorious and now she’s only two titles away from matching tennis legend Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grand slam titles. After winning the French Open last month, she may complete another “Serena Slam” – when you win all four major tennis titles in a season. Her focus and her determination consistently astonish audiences: Williams is good, she’s black, and she knows both of those things ... and the importance of her race on the court.

Her understanding of how race affects her professionally doesn’t just come from reading the histories of other African American players and the racism they endured, it also comes from her lived experience as a black woman in America. Williams has constantly had to confront racism throughout her career. Deplorable comments are hurled at her online, from officials and sometimes from sports commentators – every time she wins another match. Even her adversaries have resorted to racist stereotypes.

Despite the invective she must face to stay at the top, Williams continues to maintain professionalism and poise by often addressing the racism against her in a calm and assertive manner. Her actions to rise above the ignorance all but embodies “the talk” many black American children are given by concerned parents about being twice as good and not letting it – “it” being the racism you’ll inevitably encounter – get to you. While it’s not mandatory to react to ugliness with elegance, Williams exemplifies the art.

Serena Williams is crucial to black America because she provides an escape from what’s become the banality of racism through her performance of the fantastic; her exemplary skills are a sight for sore eyes during times of highly visible social inequality. Her black athletic exceptionalism reminds us of our survival and resilience; her black womanhood only underscores that she’s stronger and better than most – and keen to take what’s rightfully hers.

In this life, many of us should be open to what Serena’s playing has to offer us. Sometimes it’s best to win by serving up aces – don’t offer your opponent the chance to even engage. Whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough to be there. Come in, win and leave with your head held high.


The Astonishing Greatness of Serena Williams

After winning her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title on Saturday at Wimbledon, the tennis star has become one of the most accomplished American athletes of all time.


Serena Williams of the U.S.A lifts the trophy after winning her Women's Final match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 11, 2015. Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

by Matt Schiavenza
July 11, 2015
The Atlantic


No major sport—with the possible exception of gymnastics or swimming—worships youth like tennis. The best athletes in basketball, soccer, football, and baseball tend to reach their peak in their mid-20s, an age when experience, physical strength, and wisdom converge. But the arc of a typical professional tennis career tends to resemble that of a pop star: Ascendant at 17, dominant at 21, washed up and finished by 30.

Serena Williams, too, was a teenage tennis prodigy, a precocious girl following her older sister Venus from Compton, California, to the sport’s greatest stage. In 1999, the 17-year-old Williams won her first Grand Slam title, defeating Martina Hingis at the U.S. Open. More championships would soon follow, and before long Serena was mentioned in the same breath as the sport’s greats. King. Navratilova. Evert. Graf. Williams.

But Serena, unlike the others, has forgotten to go into decline. On Saturday, the 33-year-old Williams defeated Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4 to win her sixth Wimbledon title, concluding her 28th consecutive victory in a Grand Slam match. To the casual fan, another Serena victory has the shock value of a Meryl Streep Oscar nomination. But it’s worth pausing, if just for a moment, to consider just how remarkable Williams’ career has been.

--The 16-year gap between Serena’s 1999 U.S. Open win and Saturday’s Wimbledon championship is the largest in women’s tennis history. Muguruza, her Spanish opponent on Saturday, was five years old when Serena won her first Grand Slam title.

--Serena’s 21 Grand Slam victories is now the second most of all time since the Open Era began in 1968. Only Steffi Graf, the great German player who won 22 Slams in the 1980s and 1990s, has more. With four more titles, Serena would pass Margaret Smith Court with the most Grand Slam championships of all time, Open Era or not.

--Serena is the current champion of each of the four Grand Slam events: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. Should she win her seventh U.S. Open this September, she’d become only the second player to win each of the four majors in the same calendar year. (Graf accomplished the feat in 1988.)

--At 33 years and nine months, Serena became the oldest women’s tennis player to ever win a Grand Slam title, eclipsing Martina Navratilova, who won Wimbledon in 1990 when she was a month younger than Williams is now.


Even before Serena’s remarkable late-career surge, she was regarded as one of the best female tennis players ever to play. In the past year, however, she has transcended her sport and staked a claim as arguably the greatest American athlete of her era. Measuring dominance across different sports is an inexact science—how do you compare, for instance, a LeBron James to a Tiger Woods to a Serena Williams? But neither LeBron nor Tiger has yet matched Williams’ combination of dominance and longevity.

As she overcame some early jitters and dispatched Muguruza on Saturday, it became clear that Serena has not lost an ounce of poise, strength, agility, or skill despite her relatively advanced age. We aren’t just watching the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. We’re watching one whose greatest accomplishments, improbably, may be yet to come.


Wimbledon 2015: Serena Williams Defeats Garbiñe Muguruza and Closes In on Grand Slam

Saturday’s triumph on Centre Court gave Serena Williams a sixth Wimbledon singles title. Credit Julian Finney/Getty Images
WIMBLEDON, England — Three years had passed since the Wimbledon champion’s trophy was last in her possession, so Serena Williams had some fun with it.

She held it high on Centre Court with both strong arms (classic). She balanced it on her head like a book in a 1950s charm school and walked with it (unconventional). At one stage, she even playfully declined to hand it back to a Wimbledon official (understandable).

“At the beginning of the year, this is the one I really wanted to win,” Williams said. “So that was the first thing and the main thing on my mind.”

Winning Wimbledon — which Williams has now done six times — is normally a sufficient thrill on its own. And Saturday’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, which made the 33-year-old Williams the oldest Wimbledon singles champion of the Open era, was a remarkably pleasant contrast to her dark and disorienting experience at the All England Club a year ago.
In 2014, she lost in the third round in singles here and then stumbled around the grass in a doubles match before retiring. She cited a virus, yet was going through a difficult off-court period as well, according to her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

But Williams has proved nothing if not resilient during her increasingly phenomenal career — coming back from major health scares, downward tennis spirals, family troubles and tragedy, particularly the 2003 murder of her half sister Yetunde Price.

Williams’s mental strength, at this stage, looks much more like a fact than a subject of debate, and she will now need to test its limits again as she chases the ultimate tennis achievement — the Grand Slam — at this year’s United States Open.

“You better ask all your questions about the Grand Slam, because it will be banned soon,” she said, with a laugh, to a small group of reporters shortly after her victory.

With her victory at Wimbledon, Williams now holds all four Grand Slam singles titles — the so-called Serena Slam, which she also achieved over two seasons in 2002 and 2003.
But neither that run nor this one was the true Grand Slam, which requires a player to win the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the United States Open in the same calendar year.

Only three women have managed it: Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988.

For the first time since Graf, someone will arrive at Flushing Meadows with the first three legs of the Grand Slam completed. Unlike Graf, a German, Williams will be playing at home.
Muguruza, 21, was playing in her first Grand Slam final. She rallied in the second set but could not complete a comeback. Credit Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

“It would be really good to have this opportunity to go into New York being American with that amazing New York crowd,” Williams said. “Hopefully, people would be really cheering me on, to like push me over the edge and give me that extra strength I need to go for this historic moment.”
At this stage, history has become Williams’s major muse and only real rival. She is now 39-1 this season, although she has had plenty of anxious moments. The latest was her third-round match at Wimbledon, when she was two points from defeat against Heather Watson, a fast and unseeded British player with a clever game plan.

But Williams righted herself and then defeated three former No. 1 players — her sister Venus, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova — before overcoming Muguruza, a tall and big-hitting 21-year-old appearing in her first Grand Slam final who had upset Williams in the second round of last year’s French Open.

Despite the routine score line this time, victory did not come easily. Muguruza displayed few signs of nerves and plenty of clarity of purpose in the opening phase of the match and took a 4-2 lead in the first set before Williams grabbed the momentum.

Williams double-faulted three times in the opening game and lost her rhythm again as she served for the title at 5-1 in the second set.

With the Centre Court crowd strongly behind the underdog Muguruza, the Spaniard managed to break Williams twice in a row, saving a match point in the ninth game, and getting back on serve to 5-4.

But the rally (and the rallies) would soon end there as Muguruza lost her serve at love, missing a forehand wide on Williams’s second match point.

Wimbledon 2015

It was unclear initially whether Muguruza planned to challenge the call, but the ball had landed clearly out. No challenge came, and the chair umpire Alison Hughes haltingly pronounced the words: “Game, set and match, Miss Williams.”

“It was hardly her best match of the tournament, but it was the match she needed to win, and she did it,” said Mouratoglou, who has helped Williams win eight of the past 13 major singles titles since joining her team before Wimbledon in 2012.

As for the Grand Slam, he said: “She’ll have stress at the U.S. Open. But she showed again here that even when she had stress, she managed to shake free and win. It’s one of her characteristics.”

Muguruza handled the moment rather well herself on Saturday, attacking Williams’s second serve effectively. But she has little margin for error in her big game. Though her fighting spirit remained intact, the errors eventually piled up, and like so many talented women before her, she had few clever answers to Williams’s world-class power serving, even if Williams has served much better. (She finished with eight double faults and a 54 percent first-serve percentage.)

“In warm-up, my serve was off,” Williams said. “I just didn’t feel my serve today.”

But she still hit enough spots and corners under great pressure to break the family tie with Venus Williams, who has won five singles titles at the All England Club. Venus watched from the players box on Saturday as her sister held aloft the sterling silver platter known, by chance, as the Venus Rosewater Dish.

There are no plans to rename it the Venus and Serena Rosewater Dish, but the Williamses have combined to win 11 of the past 16 titles here.

Serena Williams with the Venus Rosewater Dish after defeating Garbiñe Muguruza, left. Williams, 33, has won eight of the last 13 major singles titles and the 2012 Olympic gold medal in singles. Credit Julian Finney/Getty Images
Plenty more tennis dignitaries were in the Royal Box on Saturday, including Martina Navratilova, who was a younger 33 when she won the last of her nine Wimbledon singles titles in 1990.

As for Muguruza, she was gracious and teary in defeat, becoming particularly emotional when she received an extended ovation at the trophy ceremony.

“I wondered, ‘Have I made all these people feel what I felt on court?’ ” she said.

This was Serena Williams’s 21st Grand Slam singles title, putting her just one behind Graf, whose 22 are the best of the Open era, and three behind Court, who won a total of 24.

Williams won her first in 1999 at the United States Open, fighting her way through a draw of her elders to create quite a surprise. But she has endured like few athletes in any sport, although she has company in her own sport with Roger Federer playing in Sunday’s men’s final at age 33 against Novak Djokovic.

“If I can do it, God knows he can do it,” Williams said.
But only Williams still has a chance at the ultimate tennis achievement this year: the Grand Slam.

“There’s a reason,” she said, “that it’s been 27 years since it’s been done.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 12, 2015, on page SP1 of the New York edition with the headline: Setting Up a Grand Finale.…/serena-williams-wins-wimbledon-serena-s…


Serena continues dominance with sixth Wimbledon, 21st Slam title

July 11, 2015
by Jon Wertheim
Sports Illustrated

LONDON – Three quick thoughts from the Wimbledon 2015 women’s singles final, where No. 1 Serena Williams defeated No. 20 Garbine Muguruza to win her sixth Wimbledon title and 21st Grand Slam title of her career.

A year ago, Serena Williams bowed out in the middle rounds of Wimbledon. It marked her third straight major loss and it triggered all sorts of speculation about her future. Since then? Calling Serena “dominant” fails to do justice to her achievements. It’s not simply that she has now won four straight majors encompassing 28 matches, including today’s final, a straightforward 6–4, 6–4 romp over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. It’s how she’s earned the wins. On different surfaces and in different climates and on different continents. On days when she has dazzled and overwhelmed with her power; on days when she is far from her best and simply, defiantly won’t lose.

Serena Williams defeats Garbine Muguruza to win Wimbledon 2015'
by Staff

Today there wasn’t suspense and, save a small hiccup at the end, we had little dramatic tension. Still, Serena showed why she is ruling the sport. She played with poise. She showed off her pace, but also her precision. There was defense to leaven the offense. When Muguruza reeled off three straight games to close to 5-4 in the second set, Serena smothered hope and closed it out. Want to know what's a time violation? Serena is almost 34 now, 16 years removed from winning her first major. And she is as good as ever.

• The range of performance for first time Grand Slam finalists is a vast one. Some players are paralyzed by the occasion. Others play with a just-happy-to-be-here disposition. Every now and then, a player is blessed by a blissful naiveté and swings away. (See: Maria Sharapova in 2004.) Garbine Muguruza, a 21-year-old from Spain, started in category three, blistering the ball and sprinting to a 4-2 lead. Serena has won 17 straight three-set matches—another from the comical bits of empiricals—but at a minimum, we had a competitive match on our hands. Then Serena emerged, Muguruza was rendered an onlooker. At one point Serena won nine of ten games, turning 2-4 into 6-4, 5-1. “She makes it look so easy,” a fan caught on camera was seen mouthing.

Muguruza then gave us a glimpse of both her gifts and her make-up, winning three games before capitulating. She came here as a borderline top 20 player with promise. She leaves as a borderline top tenner destined for stardom, potentially greatness. But today, she became the 21st opponent to be Serena-ed in a major final.

• In early June, American Pharoah headed to the Belmont Stakes in Long Island, hoping to achieve the sport’s ultimate box set, the Triple Crown. Now we have Serena Williams heading to same area code to achieve tennis’ ultimate quest. Seeking to insulate herself from additional pressure, Serena refused to answer questions about the Serena Slam this week. We can also imagine the hype and attention that will precede her coming to New York.…/serena-williams-and-the-fear…


Serena Williams and the Fear of a Dominant Black Woman

by Tomas Rios
July 10, 2015
The Daily Beast

Serena Williams is shattering every record in tennis this year. Why isn’t she being paid like the women she is dominating in the process?

Serena Williams is on the cusp of cementing herself as the best, most dominant athlete of her generation, regardless of gender. At the age of 33—ancient by the norms of tennis’s attritive nature—Williams is by far the top-ranked player on the WTA tour and bested 20th ranked Garbine Muguruza in straight sets to claim the 2015 Wimbledon title.

That means she now holds all the Grand Slam titles in tennis and will enter the 2015 U.S. Open with a chance to complete both a calendar year Grand Slam and tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles in the open era.

It’s an awe-inspiring accomplishment in the making, but one that will do little, if anything, to change the fact that Serena Williams’s legacy will be decided in the context of a society that has institutionally oppressed black women. This institutional oppression manifests itself across a broad spectrum of data.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that black women earn $100 less per week than white women. Black women have a median wealth of $100 compared to a median wealth of $45,400 for white women, according to the Center for Global Policy Solutions. A study by the Sentencing Project finds that black women have a 1 in 19 lifetime likelihood of imprisonment, while the same measure stands at 1 in 118 for white women. There’s even a gap in life expectancy between black and white women. The data we have all points to the conclusion that black women are institutionally oppressed and disadvantaged.

And one would need only to glance at the history of bankrupt accusations and bullshit levied against Williams for proof of how that oppression and its associated stereotypes play out in media. There was the time tennis great Chris Evert wrote an open letter to a then-24-year-old Williams chiding her for a supposed lack of commitment while Williams was battling through injuries.

“Despite quintupling Sharapova’s prize money and holding an 18-2 career record against her—including 17 consecutive wins head-to-head—Williams makes half of what her pseudo-rival manages in endorsements.”

There was also the time another tennis great, John McEnroe, baselessly accused Williams of allowing her father, Richard Williams, to fix matches between her and her sister, Venus.

Then there was the time Jason Whitlock (who is black, himself) wrote of his sexual attraction to Williams while comparing her to various animals, equating her to Paris Hilton, and repeatedly implying she was eating too much to ever topple the Grand Slam record she might tie this weekend. Whitlock was also one of many who criticized Williams for busting out a crip walk after winning Olympic gold, the underlying accusation being that Williams had somehow disrespected a hallowed institution by performing a brief celebratory dance.

There are plenty of other examples to cite, but you get the point: The mainstream depiction of Williams often hinges on depicting her as amoral, lazy, disrespectful, and animalistic.

Clearly, this isn’t just another case of a big-name athlete making for an easy target. No, because Serena Williams is a wildly successful black woman in a white-dominated sport, she occupies a fraught space both within the sport itself and the society actively informing our perceptions.

“American racist tropes tend to be constructed in ways that render black women one-dimensional,” says Mikki Kendall, a writer and cofounder of “So when Serena refuses to be the kindly self-effacing Mammy, the over-sexed Jezebel, or the harridan Sapphire, media organizations don’t know how to handle her. She is beautiful, strong, successful, and presents a model of femininity that is very familiar to black American communities, even if it is the antithesis of white expectations.”

The idea that Williams transgresses against feminine beauty norms, particularly within the context of tennis, is readily proven. After all, the common mental image of a women’s tennis player is white and lithe, in perfect harmony with Western ideals of feminine beauty, while Williams is black and built like a powerlifter. She is an unprecedented affront to our collective notion of the beautiful female athlete.

The cost of this transgression can be seen in Whitlock’s creepy sexualization and demonization of Williams’s body, a self-contradictory tactic that betrays a deep discomfort with Williams’s expression of femininity. Another more readily measured cost can be seen in the fact that Maria Sharapova—the 4th-ranked player in the world—is the highest paid athlete not just in all of women’s tennis, but in all of women’s sports. Naturally, Sharapova is tall, blond, and slender, a paean to the Western beauty ideals that net her endless endorsement opportunities regardless of her on-court performance.

Meanwhile, despite quintupling Sharapova’s prize money and holding an 18-2 career record against her—including 17 consecutive wins head-to-head—Williams makes half of what her pseudo-rival manages in endorsements. The racist notions of feminine beauty playing out here are as subtle as a forehand to the throat.

Further, because Williams’s body is itself so unfamiliar in a mainstream Western context, there is the sense that, like so many other black athletes, she has been gifted an unfair genetic advantage. This serves to obfuscate the fact that all elite athletes have some natural advantage of some sort while also minimizing the sacrifice and dedication it takes to become an elite athlete regardless of natural advantage.

In Williams’s case, not even her life story—one that aligns perfectly with the narrative of the American dream and has seen her represent the U.S. on some of sports’ most mythic stages—grants her the humanity she is so routinely denied.

“It’s weird, here you have Serena who won an Olympic gold medal representing the U.S. and has this rags-to-riches story, but it hasn’t helped her in the way it has helped prior black female athletes,” says Lou Moore, a history professor at Grand Valley State University who specializes in U.S., African-American, and sports history.

“Especially in the post-Civil Rights era, black female athletes representing the U.S. have been held up as examples of our progress,” he says. “But in Serena’s case, dominating a traditionally white, middle-class sport hits on American racism and sexism in such a way that it overrides the usual narrative.”

In that sense, it’s surprising that Williams’s story of picking up a tennis racquet in Compton and ending up the greatest women’s tennis player of all time hasn’t been turned into a homily on Americana.

“If Serena were smaller, lighter, and less connected to her roots she would probably be more popular,” says Kendall. “But racism means that many Americans look at her refusal to be ashamed of coming from the inner city, her rejection of European beauty aesthetics, and her spectacular record and see a negro that doesn’t know her place.”

In the strictest sense, Williams indeed does not know her place. She is a black woman dominating a white sport and that triggers the fear essential to the efficacy of racism and sexism. It is no secret that white men have owned most every sector of Western society for centuries now, and any progress made on that front has come with, at minimum, the overt vilification of those leading the fight.

And while Williams’s career will always be inextricably linked to the racism and sexism weaponized against her, there is a comforting fact at the core of this discussion: Serena Williams has already won. She has the trophies to prove it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Serena Williams Marches On

Serena Williams will play Gabrine Muguruza Saturday in the Wimbledon women's final. Here are some of the 33-year-old's amazing statistics:

Grand Slam titles: 20

Grand Slam finals: 24

Career titles: 67

Career prize money (going into Wimbledon): $69,676,428

2015 record: 38-1

2015 titles: 3

Sets dropped in 2015 Wimbledon: 2

Aces in 2015 Wimbledon: 69


Serena Williams beats Maria Sharapova to reach Wimbledon final
July 9, 2015

Serena Williams beats Maria Sharapova to reach Wimbledon final


LONDON: Serena Williams is just one win away from another Grand Slam milestone.

The top-ranked Williams maintained her 11-year dominance over Maria Sharapova, beating the Russian 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday to reach her eighth Wimbledon championship match and 25th career Grand Slam final.

In beating Sharapova for the 17th straight time, the five-time Wimbledon champion won her 26th consecutive Grand Slam match and is now going for a fourth straight major title -- a "Serena Slam'' - ..


...Actually as the Serena vs. Sharapova financial meme so brazenly demonstrates, contrary to the traditional African American proverb that one has to be "twice as good to get half as much" the truth is one clearly has to be FIVE TIMES AS GOOD to get half as much. Thus the hallowed racist myth that the treatment of black workers generally (which indeed includes professional athletes) is based in and strictly predicated on the sacred principle of MERIT alone is once again exposed for all the world to see as the huge self serving LIE that it is and always was...Stay tuned...

Serena Williams Beat Maria Sharapova For The 17th Straight Time. But Serena Still Makes Less Money.

by Judd Legum
July 9, 2015
Think Progress

Serena Williams crushed Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals of Wimbledon on Thursday. The 6-2, 6-4 thrashing was Williams the seventeenth straight victory over Sharapova.

It has been 11 years since Sharapova last beat Williams. Since that time, Williams has won an incredible 14 Grand Slam titles. Williams has won 20 overall, nearing the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court in 1974.

Sharapova has 5 Grand Slam titles. She has lost to Serena in a Grand Slam final three times.

Of late, Williams has been particularly dominant. If she is victorious in the Wimbledon final it will be her fourth straight Grand Slam victory. (The accomplishment is known as the “Serena Slam” since she achieved the feat in 2003.)

But it is Sharapova, not Williams, who makes the most money. In 2014, she was listed as Forbes highest paid athlete, earning $24.4 million. Serena earned $22 million.

The differences is endorsements. Sharapova earned $22 million in endorsements along and just $2.4 million in prize money. Williams, dominant on the court, took home $11 million in prize money but just $11 million in endorsements.

Serena Williams is the most dominant female athlete of our era and perhaps any era. So why isn’t she earning more in endorsements?

Kevin Adler, a marketing expert, suggested there is a double standard for male and female athletes. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular male athlete who doesn’t also have physicality and sex appeal. But that comes second to winning for guys, whereas for female athletes, looks come first,” Adler told Women’s Wear Daily in 2013.

This isn’t to suggest that Serena Williams is not attractive. But perceptions of her body are frequently overlaid with racist stereotypes. Sharapova, by contrast, is blond, thin, leggy and has worked as a model. In the eyes of corporate marketers, that is apparently valued more than on-court performance. 

Serena Williams Vs. Maria Sharapova: By The Numbers
by Kurt Badenhausen
Forbes Staff

The two biggest stars in women’s tennis face off Thursday in the semifinals of Wimbledon with a berth in Saturday’s final on the line. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova meet for the 20th time in their careers in what has been a one-sided rivalry with Williams winning 16 straight times. Sharapova beat Williams twice in 2004, including her breakthrough win as a 17-year-old in the Wimbledon finals, but Williams has treated Sharapova as her personal punching bag ever since. Williams enters the match on a huge roll with only one loss in 33 matches in 2015. As the world’s No. 1-ranked player, she has 64% more rankings points than the No. 2 player, Petra Kvitova.
Williams and Sharapova shake hands after their latest match in the women’s singles final at the 2015 Australian Open. (Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Williams has established herself as arguably the most dominant player in the history of women’s tennis during her two-decade career. But for all of her brilliance, she has looked up to Sharapova when it comes to endorsement earnings since Sharapova was dubbed the “It” girl after her 2004 Wimbledon victory. Much has been made of the disparity, and Sharapova’s 10-year run atop the world’s highest-paid female athletes. Race, corporate bias, likability and beauty are all part of the discussion in why Sharapova earns almost twice as much as Serena from endorsements and appearances, despite only one-quarter the singles Grand Slam wins.

One big winner of the match already is Nike NKE +0.16%. The $30 billion-in-revenue sports giant has had both women under contract for more than a decade.

Here are some of the numbers that define the two stars.

1: Williams has been the No. 1 player in the world for 247 weeks during her career, which ranks fourth all-time. Her current 124-week run is the third longest in women’s tennis. Sharapova has held the top spot for 21 weeks in her career.

4: Sharapova’s current world ranking.

5: Career Grand Slam titles for Sharapova. Her 2012 French Open win made her just the 10th women to win all four major tournaments during her career. The win triggered lucrative bonuses from sponsors Nike and Head.

13: Straight years with a singles title for Sharapova, which is the fourth-longest streak in the history of women’s tennis.

17-2: Serena holds a decisive edge in their head-to-head matchups.

20: Grand Slam titles for Williams, which is four behind Margaret Court’s record.

31: In 2013, a then 31-year-old Williams became the oldest top-ranked female tennis player ever. Now 33, Williams is five years older than Sharapova.

35: Career titles for Sharapova. Williams has 67.

85.5%: Career winning percentage for Williams vs. 80.6% for Sharapova.

3 million: Bags of candy sold by Sharapova’s line of candy, Sugarpova. She launched the brand in 2012 and sales doubled in the most recent fiscal year.

$24.6 million: Williams’s earnings between June 2014 and June 2015, including $13 million off the court from appearances and partners Nike, Wilson, PepsiCo PEP -1.07%, Chase and Audemars Piguet. She ranked No. 47 on Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

$29.7 million: Sharapova’s earnings between June 2014 and June 2015, including $23 million off the court from appearances and sponsors Nike, Head, Samsung Electronics, Evian and Tag Heuer. She ranked No. 26 among the highest-paid athletes.

$69.7 million: Career prize money for Williams, which is double Sharapova who ranks second all-time.

$1.3 billion: Value of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, which Williams owns a small sliver of.

News & Commentary


10 Serena Williams Wimbledon Facts
by Susie Arth

June 25, 2015

We've got 10 facts to help you get your mind around everything Serena WIlliams has accomplished in her storied career at Wimbledon.
1. It's a first!

This year marks the first time Serena Williams has come into Wimbledon as the defending champion of the Australian Open and French Open. In 2002, Williams won the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open after an injury forced her to miss the Australian Open. She went on to complete the Serena Slam at the 2003 Australian Open.

2. Cashing in
Serena Williams has won $8,275,252 in her singles career at Wimbledon. Five of her 20 major singles titles have come at the All England Club.

3. All-around winner

In addition to her five singles title at Wimbledon, Serena Williams also has won five doubles titles (all with sister Venus) and one mixed doubles title (with Max Mirnyi).

4. Playing the percentages

Serena Williams' winning percentage at Wimbledon is .878. Her best winning percentage at a major is at the US Open, .898. Next is Australia at .883. The French is last at .830.
Venus Williams
Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images
Venus Williams is the only player on the planet to have more than one win over Serena Williams at Wimbledon.
5. Sister, sister

Serena Williams has lost 10 singles matches in her career at Wimbledon. Only one player has two wins over Serena at Wimbledon, sister Venus in the 2000 semifinals and in the 2008 final.

6. Upset special?

Of Serena Williams' 10 singles losses at Wimbledon, two have come against unseeded players (Jill Craybas and Virginia Ruano Pascual) and two against players seeded in the 20s (Alize Cornet and Sabine Lisicki). Serena has fallen to an American opponent four times (Venus twice and Craybas and Jennifer Capriati once), the most of any country. France is second with two (Cornet and Marion Bartoli).

7. Justice served

Serena Williams holds the record for most aces in a single Wimbledon. In fact, she's held it a few times. In 2008, she served 57 to tie Alexandra Stevenson. In 2010, she had 89 en route to the title to stand alone. In 2012, she served 102 to break her own record and once again won the title.

8. Looking out for No. 1

This will be the sixth time that Serena Williams is the No. 1 seed at Wimbledon. She has won the title as a No. 1 seed twice before, in 2003 and 2010. Her overall singles record as the top seed is 25-3.

9. Trophy time

With another championship, Serena Williams would tie Blanche Bingley, Billie Jean King and Suzanne Lenglen with six Wimbledon singles titles. Martina Navratilova has won the most with nine. Helen Wills Moody won eight, and Steffi Graf and Dorothea Lambert Chambers won seven. As for the men, only seven-time champions Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and William Renshaw have more than Serena.

10. Setting it up
Serena Williams lost five sets on her way to the French Open title earlier this month. In her five runs to the Wimbledon title, she has dropped a combined seven sets. Twice, in 2002 and 2010, she has won the Venus Rosewater Dish without dropping a single set.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

After 12 Years Outstanding Progressive Journalist and Social Critic Gary Younge Departs the U.S. for His Home in the U.K.

US News

The long read

Gary Younge: Farewell to America

After 12 years in the US, Gary Younge is preparing to depart – as the country’s racial frictions seem certain to spark another summer of conflict

by Gary Younge
1 July 2015
The Guardian (UK)
A man is arrested during protests against the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, in August 2014. Photograph: Whitney Curtis/New York Times/Redux/eyevine

For the past couple of years the summers, like hurricanes, have had names. Not single names like Katrina or Floyd – but full names like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Like hurricanes, their arrival was both predictable and predicted, and yet somehow, when they landed, the effect was still shocking.

We do not yet know the name that will be attached to this particular season. He is still out there, playing Call of Duty, finding a way to feed his family or working to pay off his student loans. He (and it probably will be a he) has no idea that his days are numbered; and we have no idea what the number of those days will be.

The precise alchemy that makes one particular death politically totemic while others go unmourned beyond their families and communities is not quite clear. Video helps, but is not essential. Some footage of cops rolling up like death squads and effectively executing people who posed no real threat has barely pricked the popular imagination. When the authorities fail to heed community outrage, or substantively investigate, let alone discipline, the police, the situation can become explosive. An underlying, ongoing tension between authorities and those being policed has been a factor in some cases. So, we do not know quite why his death will capture the political imagination in a way that others will not.

The Counted: people killed by police in the United States in 2015 – interactive

The Guardian is counting the people killed by US law enforcement agencies this year. Read their stories and contribute to our ongoing, crowdsourced project

But we do know, with gruesome certainty, that his number will come up – that one day he will be slain in cold blood by a policeman (once again it probably will be a man) who is supposed to protect him and his community. We know this because it is statistically inevitable and has historical precedent. We know this because we have seen it happen again and again. We know this because this is not just how America works; it is how America was built. Like a hurricane, we know it is coming – we just do not yet know where or when or how much damage it will do.

Summer is riot season. It’s when Watts, Newark and Detroit erupted in violence in the 1960s, sparked by callous policing. It’s when school is out, pool parties are on and domestic life, particularly in urban centres, is turned inside-out: from the living room to the stoop, from the couch to the street. It’s when tempers get short and resentments bubble up like molten asphalt. It’s when, to paraphrase Langston Hughes, deferred dreams explode.

This is not my desire; it is my prediction. You can feel it building with every new Facebook post, viral video and Twitter storm. You can hear it from conversations with strangers at post offices, liquor stores and coffee shops. It is an unpleasant prediction to make because, ultimately, these riots highlight a problem they cannot, in themselves, solve; and it is an easy one to make because, as one bystander in Baltimore put it when disturbances flared there earlier this year: “You can only put so much into a pressure cooker before it pop.”

This is the summer I will leave America, after 12 years as a foreign correspondent, and return to London. My decision to come back to Britain was prompted by banal, personal factors that have nothing to do with current events; if my aim was to escape aggressive policing and racial disadvantage, I would not be heading to Hackney.

But while the events of the last few years did not prompt the decision to come back, they do make me relieved that the decision had already been made. It is  why I have not once had second thoughts. If I had to pick a summer to leave, this would be the one. Another season of black parents grieving, police chiefs explaining and clueless anchors opining. Another season when America has to be reminded that black lives matter because black deaths at the hands of the state have been accepted as routine for so long. A summer ripe for rage.
* * *

I arrived in New York just a few months before the Iraq war. Americans seemed either angry at the rest of the world, angry at each other, or both. The top five books on the New York Times bestseller list the month I started were: Bush at War (Bob Woodward’s hagiographic account of the post-9/11 White House); The Right Man (Bush’s former speechwriter relives his first year in the White House); Portrait of a Killer (Patricia Cornwell on Jack the Ripper); The Savage Nation (a rightwing radio talkshow host saves America from “the liberal assault on our borders, language and culture”); and Leadership (Republican former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s post 9/11 victory lap).

There has barely been a quiet moment since. First there was the jingoism of the Iraq war, then the re-election of George W Bush in 2004, Hurricane Katrina, disillusionment with the Iraq war, the “Minutemen” anti-immigration vigilantes, the huge pro-immigrant “¡Sí se puede!” protests, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, the economic crash, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Obama’s reelection and the current rise in anti-racist activism. Being a foreigner made all these phenomena intriguing. Politically and morally, I picked sides. But, when reporting, it was more like anthropology. I saw it as my mission to try and understand the US: why did poor white people vote against their economic interests? How did the descendants of immigrants become xenophobic? Why were people disappointed in Obama when he had promised so little? The search for the answer was illuminating, even when I never found it or didn’t like it.

But the cultural distance I enjoyed as a Briton in a foreign country felt like a blended veneer of invincibility and invisibility. I thought of myself less as a participant than an onlooker. While reporting from rural Mississippi in 2003, I stopped to ask directions at the house of an old white couple, and they threatened to shoot me. I thought this was funny. I got back into my car sharpish and drove off – but I never once thought they would actually shoot me. How crazy would that be? When I got home, I told my wife and brother-in-law, who are African American. Their parents grew up in the South under segregation; even today, my mother-in-law wouldn’t stop her car in Mississippi for anything but petrol. They didn’t think it was funny at all: what on earth did I think I was doing, stopping to ask old white folk in rural Mississippi for directions?

Yet, somewhere along the way, I became invested. That was partly about time: as I came to know people – rather than just interviewing them – I came to relate to the issues more intimately. When someone close to you struggles with chronic pain because they have no healthcare, has their kitchen window pierced by gunfire or cannot pay a visit to their home country because they are undocumented, your relationship to issues like health reform, gun control or immigration is transformed. Not because your views change but because knowing and understanding something simply does not provide the same intensity as having it in your life.

Gary Younge with his son in 2008. Photograph: Tara Mack

But my investment was primarily about circumstances. On the weekend in 2007 that Barack Obama declared his presidential candidacy, our son was born. Six years later, we had a daughter. For the most part I have kept my English accent. But my language relating to children is reflexively American: diapers, strollers, pacifiers, recess, candy and long pants. I have only ever been a parent here – a role for which my own upbringing in England provides no real reference point. One summer evening, a couple years after we moved to Chicago, our daughter was struggling to settle down and so my wife decided to take a short walk to the local supermarket to bob her to sleep in the carrier. On the way back there was shooting in the street and she had to seek shelter in a local barbershop. When the snow finally melted this year one discarded gun was found in the alley behind our local park and another showed up in the alley behind my son’s school. My days of being an onlooker were over. I was dealing with daycare, summer camps, schools, doctor’s visits, parks and other parents. The day we brought my son home, an article in the New York Times pointed out that in America “a black male who drops out of high school is 60 times more likely to find himself in prison than one with a bachelor’s degree”. Previously, I’d have found that interesting and troubling. Now it was personal. I had skin in the game. Black skin in a game where the odds are stacked against it.
* * *

Obama’s ascent, I was told by many and frequently during his campaign, would change these odds. Whenever I asked “How?” no one could say exactly. But his very presence, they insisted, would provide a marker for my son and all who look like him. I never believed that. First of all, one person cannot undo centuries of discrimination, no matter how much nominal power they have. Second, given the institutions into which Obama would be embedded – namely the Democratic party and the presidency – there would only ever be so much he could or would do. He was aspiring to sit atop a system awash with corporate donations in which congressional seats are openly gerrymandered and 41% of the upper chamber can block almost anything. He was the most progressive candidate viable for the presidency, which says a great deal, given the alternatives, but means very little, given what would be needed to significantly shift the dial on such issues as race and inequality.

Pointing this out amid the hoopla of his candidacy made you sound like Eeyore. I was delighted when he won. But somehow I could never be quite as delighted as some people felt I should have been. When Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic primary – in the first southern state to secede from the union, which sparked the civil war, where the Confederate flag still flies above the state capitol and a white supremacist recently gunned down nine parishioners at a black church – the crowds chanted “Race Doesn’t Matter”. (An odd rallying cry, since it was precisely because he was a black candidate that they were shouting it; it’s not like Hillary’s crowd would have shouted the same thing if she had won.)

I was delighted when Obama won. But somehow I could never be quite as delighted as some people felt I should have been

The symbolic advantages of Obama’s election were clear. For two years I pushed my son around in his stroller surrounded by a picture of a black man framed by the words “Hope” and “Change”. A year or so after Obama came to office, my son had a playdate with a four-year-old white friend who looked up from his Thomas the Tank Engine and told my son: “You’re black.” It was a reasonable thing for a child of that age to point out – he was noticing difference, not race. But when my son looked at me for a cue, I now had a new arrow in my quiver to deflect any potential awkwardness. “That’s right,” I said. “Just like the president.”

But the substantial benefits were elusive. Obama inherited an economic crisis that hurt African Americans more than any other community. The discrepancy between black and white employment and wealth grew during his first few years and has barely narrowed since. In 2010, I used this anecdote in a column by way of pointing out the limited symbolic value of having a black president. “True, it is something,” I wrote. “But when Thomas is safely back in the station and the moment is over, it is not very much. Because for all the white noise emanating from the Tea Party movement, it has been black Americans who have suffered most since Obama took office. Over the last 14 months the gap between my son’s life chances and his friend’s have been widening.”

Gary Younge covers Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign in 2008

This last statement was as undeniably true as it was apparently controversial. I had not claimed that my son was likely to do badly, simply that his odds for success were far worse than the kid he was playing with, and that they were further deteriorating. A study in 2014 found that a black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high-school dropout. “As the recession has dragged on,” the New York Times pointed out just a couple months before my son’s playdate, the disparity between black and white unemployment “has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field – in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.” But insisting that racism would have a material effect on my son’s life ruffled some readers’ feathers.

“Nonsense,” wrote one commenter. “Your middle-class status means his future will have more in common with his white friends than any poor black kid.” Another – a Guardian contributor, no less – also chimed in: “For you to claim shared victimhood on skin colour alone is highly disingenuous. Your son is highly likely to do OK, to say the least. He has most of the advantages in the world.”

Such responses betrayed complete ignorance about the lived experience of race in a country as segregated as the United States. Class does makes a big difference, of course: this is America. We have healthcare, jobs, university educations and a car; we live in a community with reasonable schools, supermarkets and restaurants. In short, we have resources and therefore we have options.

We do not, however, have the option not to be black. And in this time and this place that is no minor factor. That is not “claiming shared victimhood”, it is recognising a fact of life. Class offers a range of privileges; but it is not a sealant that protects you from everything else. If it was, rich women would never get raped and wealthy gay couples could marry all around the world.

To even try to have the kind of gilded black life to which these detractors alluded, we would have to do far more than just revel in our bank accounts and leverage our cultural capital. We would have to live in an area with few other black people, since black neighbourhoods are policed with insufficient respect for life or liberty; send our children to a school with few other black students, since majority-black schools are underfunded; tell them not to wear anything that would associate them with black culture, since doing so would make them more vulnerable to profiling; tell them not to mix with other black children, since they are likely to live in the very areas and go to the very schools from which we would be trying to escape; and not let the children go out after dark, since being young and black after sunset makes the police suspect that you have done or are about to do something.

The list could go on. None of this self-loathing behaviour would provide any guarantees, of course. Racism does what it says on the packet; it discriminates against people on the grounds of race. It can be as arbitrary in its choice of victim as it is systemic in its execution. And while it never works alone (but in concert with class, gender and a host of other rogue characters), it can operate independently. No one is going to be checking my bank account or professional status when they are looking at my kids.

Trayvon Martin was walking through a gated community when George Zimmerman pegged him for a thug and shot him dead. Clementa Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator, was in one of Charleston’s most impressive churches when Dylann Roof murdered him and eight others.

I have not only never met an African American who thought they could buy themselves the advantages of a white American; I have yet to meet one who thinks they can even buy themselves out of the disadvantages of being black. All you can do is limit the odds. And when one in three black boys born in 2001 is destined for the prison system, those odds are pretty bad. Having a black man in the White House has not changed that.
* * *

Most days, the park closest to us looks like Sesame Street. White, black and Vietnamese American kids climbing, swinging and sliding. Occasionally, particularly late on weekday afternoons, teenagers show up. Like adolescents the western world over, they are bored, broke, horny and lost. They don’t want to stay at home, but can’t afford to be anywhere that costs money, and so they come to the public space most approximate to their needs, where they squeeze into swings that are meant for smaller kids and joke, flirt and banter. Very occasionally they swear and get a little rowdy – but nothing that an adult could not deal with by simply asking them to keep the language down because there are little kids around. Oh, and in this park the teenagers are usually black.

Their presence certainly changes the mood. But the only time it ever really gets tense is when the police come. The better police chat with them, the worse ones interrogate them. Either way, the presence of armed, uniformed people in this children’s space is both unsettling and unnecessary. The smaller kids and those new to the park imagine something seriously wrong must have happened for the police to be there; the older ones (by which I mean those aged seven and over), and those who are already familiar with the drill just shrug: the cops are in our park again. It is difficult to tell which response is worse.

Once, when some adolescents were hanging out relatively quietly one afternoon, I struck up a conversation with a white woman. Her son was roughly the same age as mine, we both lived nearby and neither of our kids would have to cross a road to get to the park. We were discussing at what age we thought it would be appropriate to let our boys come by themselves. “The thing is, you just don’t know if it’s going to be quiet or if the junior gangbangers are going to be hanging around,” she said, gesturing to the youths on the swings.

I was stunned. Whenever I have written about police killings at least one reader reminds me that black people are most likely to be killed by black people. This is both true and irrelevant. First, because all Americans are overwhelmingly likely to be killed by assailants of their own race, so what some brand “black-on-black crime” should, more accurately, just be called crime. But also because black people are not, by dint of their melanin content, entrusted to protect and serve the public. The police are. Over the last decade I have reported from many impoverished neighbourhoods, populated by all races, where I have felt unsafe. That hasn’t made me fear black people or any other racial group; it has just made me loathe poverty and gun culture in general, since it is that toxic combination that both drives the crime and makes it lethal.

This woman and I were looking at the same kids but seeing quite different things.

“What makes you think they’re going to become gangbangers?” I asked. She shrugged. The conversation pretty much dried up after that.

There is a section of white society – a broad section that includes affable mothers who will speak to black strangers like me in the park – who understand black kids as an inherent threat. Beyond the segregated ghettos where few white people venture, the presence of black youth apparently marks not just the potential for trouble but the arrival of it. When George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin, he didn’t see a 17-year-old boy walking home from the store. He saw someone “real suspicious”, “up to no good”, whom he assumed bore some responsibility for recent burglaries.

“Fucking punks,” he told the police, referring to Trayvon. “These assholes, they always get away.”

Indeed black children are often not even regarded as children at all. In Goose Creek, South Carolina, police demanded DNA samples from two middle school students after they were mistaken for a 32-year-old suspect. After the killing of Tamir Rice – the 12-year-old shot dead by police in Cleveland after someone reported him brandishing what they assumed was a “probably fake” gun – a police spokesman said it was his own fault. “Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5ft 7in, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.” When testifying before the grand jury into the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Darren Wilson described his assailant more like an animal than a 18-year-old: “He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” Even after Wilson shot Brown he continued to depict him as both physically superhuman and emotionally subhuman. “He was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”

The evidence is not merely anecdotal. A study last year published in the American Psychological Association’s online Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that white Americans overestimated the age of black boys over the age of 10 by an average of four and a half years; white respondents also assumed that black children were more culpable than whites or Latinos, particularly when the boys were matched with serious crimes. “Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection,” wrote Phillip Atiba Goff PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” My son is tall for his age; these are the things you worry about.

It wasn’t long before my wife and I began to notice the degree to which some white adults felt entitled to shout at black children – be it in the street, or on school trips – for infractions either minor or imagined.

Last summer, on the afternoon I arrived home from reporting on the disturbances after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, there was a barbecue and music at the local park. I took the kids. The park has a water feature that shoots wet jets from the ground and sprays kids in fountains from all sides as they paddle around. The younger ones peel down to their underwear while the older ones just pile in whatever they have on. It was a scorching day and my son and several other kids were having a water fight – a tame affair with very little collateral damage for those not involved beyond the odd sprinkling. At one stage, while in hot pursuit of his main rival, my son splashed a woman on her leg. She yelled at him as though he’d hit her with a brick.

I’d seen the whole thing and ran over.

“What’s the problem?” I said.

“Look. He’s covered me in water,” she shouted.

I looked. She was barely wet. But even if he had …

“You’re standing in a children’s park, on a hot day, next to a water feature,” I said. “Deal with it. Just stop shouting at him.”

“Don’t you tell me what to do,” she barked.

“Now you’re shouting at me,” I said. “Just stop it.”

“Who the hell are you?” she yelled.

“I’m his dad that’s who.”

“You’re nobody, that’s who you are,” she bellowed. “Nobody.”
* * *

One of the first stories I covered on my arrival was the funeral of Mamie Till Mobley, the 81-year-old mother of the late Emmett Till. In 1955 Mamie sent her 14-year-old son, Emmett, from Chicago to rural Mississippi to spend his summer holiday with family. She packed him off with a warning: “If you have to get on your knees and bow when a white person goes past,” she told him, “do it willingly.”

Emmett didn’t follow her advice. While in the small town of Money, in the Delta region, he either said “Bye, baby” or wolf-whistled at a white woman in a grocery store. Three days later his body was fished out of the Tallahatchie river with a bullet in his skull, an eye gouged out and his forehead crushed on one side.

Raising a black child in a racist society poses a very particular set of challenges. On the one hand, you want them to be proud and confident of who they are. On the other, you have to teach them that they are vulnerable precisely because of who they are, in the knowledge that awareness of that vulnerability just might save their life. We are trying to raise self-confident children for long lives, not hashtags for slaughter.

We are trying to raise self-confident children for long lives, not hashtags for slaughter

Explaining the complex historical and social forces that make such a dance necessary is not easy at the best of times. Making them comprehensible to a child is nigh impossible without gross simplifications and cutting corners. Once, during our 10-minute walk to daycare, my son asked if we could take another route. “Why?” I asked.

“Because that way they stop all the black boys,” he said.

He was right. Roughly twice a week we would pass young black men being frisked or arrested, usually on the way home. He was also four, and until that point I was not aware that he had even noticed. I tried to make him feel safe.

“Well don’t worry. You’re with me and they’re not going to stop us,” I told him.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because we haven’t done anything,” I said.

“What have they done?” he asked.

He had me. From then on we took another route.

When I interviewed Maya Angelou in 2002, she told me that the September 11 attacks of the previous year were understood differently by African Americans. “Living in a state of terror was new to many white people in America,” she said. “But black people have been living in a state of terror in this country for more than 400 years.” It is that state of terror that has been laid bare these last few years.

The American polity and media episodically “discovers” this daily reality in much the same way that teenagers discover sex – urgently, earnestly, voraciously and carelessly, with great self-indulgence but precious little self-awareness. They have always been aware of it but somehow when confronted with it, it nonetheless takes them by surprise.

The week I arrived, in December 2002, the Senate minority leader, Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, resigned from his leadership position after he said in a speech that America would have been a better place had the segregationist Strom Thurmond won the presidency in 1948. The mainstream media saw nothing outrageous in this – as if it was just the kind of thing a conservative southern senator might say. It took bloggers to make it a story. As I write, some southern states are debating whether to keep the Confederate flag flying on state grounds in various guises – as though it took nine people dying on their doorstep to understand its racist connotations.

It is as though the centuries-old narrative of racial inequality is too tiresome to acknowledge, except as a footnote, until it appears in dramatic fashion, as it did after Hurricane Katrina or the protests in Ferguson. At that point the bored become suddenly scandalised. In a nation that prides itself on always moving forward, the notion that they are “still dealing with this” feels like an affront to the national character. That’s why Obama’s candidacy had such a simple and uplifting appeal to so many Americans. As the radical academic and 1970s icon Angela Davis explained to me in 2007, it represented “a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference, the change that brings about no change”.

This most recent episode of racial awakening has lasted longer than most. For the last couple of years the brutal banality of daily life for some people in this country has become visible and undeniable to those who have no immediate connection to it. But nothing new has happened. There has been no spike in police brutality. What’s new is that people are looking. And thanks to new technology (namely the democratisation of the ability to film and distribute), they have lots to look at. As a result, a significant section of white America is outraged at the sight of what it had previously chosen to ignore, while a dwindling but still sizeable and vocal few still refuse to believe their eyes.

* * *

I’ve never found it particularly useful to compare racisms – as though one manifestation might be better than another. Every society, regardless of its racial composition, has overlapping and interweaving hierarchies. Insisting on the superiority of one over another suggests there are racisms out there worth having – a race to the bottom with no moral centre.

In June 1998, as the public inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence laid bare one of the more insidious examples of British racism, news arrived from Jasper, Texas, about the murder of James Byrd. Byrd, an African American, had been picked up by three men, one of whom he knew and two of whom were white supremacists. Instead of driving him home, they took him to a remote country road, beat him, urinated on him and chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck before dragging him for more than a mile until his head came off. Then they went for a barbecue.

The next day, during an editorial meeting at the Guardian which featured a discussion of the Lawrence inquiry followed by the Byrd murder, one of my colleagues remarked, of Byrd’s killing: “Well at least we don’t do that here.”

“That will be of little comfort to Doreen and Neville Lawrence,” I thought.

I have more cousins in the US than in Britain. They are doing fine. At one stage I fully intended to immigrate here. While that plan no longer stands, it still doesn’t strike me as insane.

While I have been in America, I have not been shot at, arrested, imprisoned or otherwise seriously inconvenienced by the state. I do not live in the hollowed out, jobless zones of urban economic despair to which many African Americans have been abandoned. I have been shouted at in a park, taken different routes to school, and occasionally dealt with bigoted officials. (While driving through Mississippi to cover Katrina I approached a roadblock that all the other journalists had easily passed through, only to have a policeman pat the gun in his holster and turn me around). These experiences are aggravating. They are not life-threatening.

I am not Michael Brown. But then Michael Brown wasn’t Michael Brown before he was shot dead and had his body left on the street for four hours; Eric Garner was just a man trying to sell cigarettes in the street before he was choked to death in Staten Island; Tamir Rice was just a boisterous kid acting out in a park before a policeman leaped out of his squad car and shot him within seconds. Being shot dead by the police or anyone else is not the daily experience of black people in America.

But what became clear following the Department of Justice report into the Ferguson police force was just how extreme and commonplace these aggravations could be. To cite just a few examples: between 2007 to 2014, one woman in Ferguson was arrested twice, spent six days in jail and paid $550 as a result of one parking ticket for which she was originally charged $151. She tried to pay in smaller instalments - $25 or $50 a time - but the court refused to accept anything less than the full payment, which she could not afford. Seven years after the original infraction she still owed $541 – this was how the town raised its revenue. It was not a glitch in the system; it was the system.

Then there was the 14-year-old boy that the Ferguson police found in an abandoned building, who was chased down by a dog that bit his ankle and his left arm as he protected his face. The boy says officers kicked him in the head and then laughed about it after. The officers say they thought he was armed; he wasn’t. Department of Justice investigators found that every time a police dog in Ferguson bit someone, the victim was black.

Then there was the man pulled out of his house by the police after reports of an altercation inside. As they dragged him out he told them: “You don’t have a reason to lock me up.”

“Nigger, I can find something to lock you up on,” the officer told him.

“Good luck with that,” the man responded. The officer slammed the man’s face into a wall and he fell to the floor.

“Don’t pass out, motherfucker, because I’m not carrying you to my car,” the officer is claimed to have said.

This was the same month Brown was killed. Were it not for the disturbances following Brown’s death, there would have been no investigation – not only would we have heard nothing of these things but, because no light had been shone on them, the Ferguson police would be carrying on with the same level of impunity. This was a small midwestern suburb few had heard of – unremarkable in every way, which is precisely what makes the goings on there noteworthy. If it was happening there, then it could be happening anywhere.

It is exhausting. When the videos of brutality go viral I can’t watch them unless I have to write about them. I don’t need to be shocked – which is just as well because these videos emerge with such regularity that they cease to be shocking. Were it not for the thrill of seeing an unjaded younger generation reviving the best of the nation’s traditions of anti-racist resistance, I would be in despair.

The altercations in the park, the rerouted walks to school, the aggravations of daily life are the lower end of a continuum – a dull drumbeat that occasionally crescendos into violent confrontation and even social conflagration. As spring turns to summer the volume keeps ratcheting up.

“Terror,” the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai writes in his book Fear of Small Numbers, “is first of all the terror of the next attack.” The terrorism resides not just in the fact that it happens, but that one is braced for the possibility that it could happen to you at any moment. Seven children and teenagers are shot on an average day in the US. I have just finished writing a book in which I take a random day and interview the families and friends of those who perished. Ten young people died the day I chose. Eight were black. All of the black parents said they had assumed this could happen to their son.

As one bereaved dad told me: “You wouldn’t be doing your job as a father if you didn’t.”

Gary Younge, a feature writer and columnist for the Guardian, is the author of No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through the American South, and The Speech: The Story Behind Dr Martin Luther King Jr's Dream. Twitter: @garyyounge

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Gary Younge (born 1969) is a British journalist, author and broadcaster.

1 Biography
2 References
3 Bibliography
4 External links

Younge is a feature writer and columnist for The Guardian. He writes a monthly column for The Nation, "Beneath the Radar". His book No Place Like Home, in which he retraced the route of the civil rights Freedom Riders, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award in 1999.

In 2011, he moved to Chicago, where he now lives with his wife Tara Mack and his son, Osceola.[1] He intends to move to Hackney.[2] His brother Pat Younge is chief creative officer of BBC Vision.[3]

About Gary Younge
Media Guardian 100 2010: 98. Pat Younge, The Guardian, 12 July 2010.

The English Question Gordon Marsden (Editor), Tony Wright (Editor), Robert Hazell, Ian McLean, Austin Mitchell, Mary J. Hickman, Gary Younge (Fabian Society, 2000, ISBN 0-716360020); (Manchester University Press, annotated edition 3 April 2006, ISBN 978-0719073694)
No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through the American South (Picador, 1999, ISBN 978-0330369800); (Picador, 2000, ISBN 978-0330369817), OCLC 44485209; (University Press of Mississippi, 2002, ISBN 978-1578064885, OCLC 49226176
Stranger in a Strange Land: Encounters in the Disunited States (The New Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1595580689), OCLC 62421357
Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? (Viking, 2010, ISBN 978-0670917037), OCLC 500783871
The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream (Haymarket, August 2013, ISBN 978-1608463220)
External links

Official website
Column archive at The Guardian
Memoirs of a teenage Trot, The Guardian, 19 February 2000
Column archive at The Nation
Gary Younge on Twitter
Appearances on C-SPAN
Works by or about Gary Younge in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
Article archive at Journalisted
Gary Younge at DMOZ