Nothing good comes from Compton, California – or that’s what the media have told us over the seasons. Compton is about thug life, about the mythology and stereotypical thinking that white journalists often attach to Black folk.
But if the media were to look around, they might see how disconnected with reality their myths and their stereotypes are. They might see the truth unfold in front of them if they took a sec to notice one Compton native: Serena Williams.
For more than a decade, Serena has built a career around commitment, grit, pluck and guile. She has proved that champions can come from uncommon backgrounds, even from Compton.
She stayed atop the women’s tennis circuit over the weekend when she won her duel of strokes with Maria Sharapova. Serena came away the winner, 6-3, 7-6(5), in the Australian Open.
Her success now, however, shouldn’t surprise anybody. It doesn’t anymore, because she’s proved that greatness isn’t necessarily a byproduct of living in suburbia and having the benefits of middle class at her side.
"Growing up, I wasn't the richest,” Serena said during her acceptance speech. “But I have a family rich in spirit and support.''
Family is a wonderful framer of success. So is an unwavering belief in oneself, a fact frequently lost on Black boys and girls who don’t profit from the privileges tied to middle-class living.
That’s the lesson Black youngsters everywhere should take away from the win Serena had Down Under a night before the Super Bowl and all its fanfare. In Serena, they saw a champ who carried the same DNA as they did; they saw someone who could rouse them to dream wild dreams.
What those Black youngsters didn’t see was the hard work that made Serena’s dream come true. They didn’t see the hours of chasing down errant shots on bad courts with no one there to watch her grind away at the game with big sis Venus and their father the coach.
Youngsters – Black and white – don’t want to see the grind; they simply want to see the winner’s trophy. But the latter never comes without the former, a point Serena reminds people of after each victory.
And the victories keep piling up, even as Serena, 33, nears old age for a sport like tennis, a sport built around eternal youth. Yet here Serena is, winning still against talents a decade younger, and she shows no hint that more titles aren’t on the horizon.
That’s what Black youth can take away from her latest Grand Slam win; that’s the lesson she hopes they will take away.
“It's inspiring for all you guys out there who want to do something and want to be the best you can be and do the best you can do,” Serena said in her post-match speech. “You just never give up.''
The best women’s tennis player ever – a beautiful, graceful Black woman from Compton, California -- never has.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)