When Serena Williams demanded an apology from chair official Carlos Ramos at the US Open this weekend there was a moment so familiar to me. The moment happened when she said the word "never".
"You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life..." @49 seconds
The escalation in her voice, the thrust of anger, the unleashing of repression and restraint that could no longer be held in reminded me of a moment in my life.
8 years ago when my daughter was born she had breathing issues and had to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). After a few days her breathing stabilized but the results of an additional test they took for precautionary measures weren’t going to come back from the lab til the end of the following day. The lab had the results they just weren’t going to be “available” til the next day. I didn’t get it. I asked to meet with the doctor on call.
The doctor was white and male. Instead of sitting next to me he dragged a chair across the floor and brought it to the center of the room at a distance. I told him I wanted the results because my daughter was fine and keeping her in the hospital for another night was unnecessary.
The doctor agreed that she was fine but warned that there was a possibility she could use additional treatment based on the results of the additional test. If that was the case I said I’d like to find out sooner than later. Why delay it another day?
We went back and forth without much progress until the doctor thought it would be acceptable to say, “Look it’s not my fault your daughter has breathing problems.”
Which was when a rage erupted within me like I’d never felt in my life. I stood up and said “Fuck. You!”
When I said "you" there was that same escalation in my voice, that same thrust of anger, the same unleashing of repression and restraint that could no longer be held back. The same as Serena. Different circumstances but the same feeling.
Now remember how the results supposedly couldn’t be “available” until the next day? After I yelled the doctor picked up his cellphone, called the lab, got the results immediately and hung up. Immediately.
I imagine many Black women connected to the moment when Serena's voice broke because so many of us spend untold energy adhering to a system that does not consider us, respect us or honor us. So many of us reach points where our decency, our right to be in a space, our humanity is questioned. So many of us reach points where we are dismissed and minimized because we are Black. And there comes a point when we fight back.
And when we fight back that's when people cast us as the "angry black woman". They use that trope as a weapon and to further suppress our legitimate concern or criticism. They don't consider the restraint we employ on a daily basis or how much our back must be against a wall when we cry out with all our force and might because it's too much and we've had enough.
If you ever hear that cry come from the bowels of a Black woman realize there is so much more going on than what you are witnessing or what you may have provoked. If you hear that cry take a moment and question whether the person on the receiving end has asserted a power over the woman that is unjust, unwarranted, unwanted and steeped in a desire to keep a Black woman down.
If you hear that break come from the bowels of a Black woman lend your voice in defense or stop pushing for dominance based in ego, patriarchy and supremacy.
We have had enough. And we will fight back.