Tennis superstar Serena Williams has a message in the wake of the latest string of police shootings of African Americans: “I won’t be silent.”
On Tuesday, Williams recounted on Facebook how a simple day with her nephew as he drove her around for meetings was disrupted when they spotted a police officer on the road, reminding her of the persistent reality that her nephew could be another victim:
Today I asked my 18 year old nephew (to be clear he's black) to drive me to my meetings so I can work on my phone #safetyfirst. In the distance I saw [a] cop on the side of the road. I quickly checked to see if he was obliging by the speed limit. [Then] I remembered that horrible video of the woman in the car when a cop shot her boyfriend. All of this went through my mind in a matter of seconds. I even regretted not driving myself. I would never forgive myself if something happened to my nephew. He's so innocent. So were all "the others"
Williams is not new to calling out injustice. During her acceptance speech for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year award last year, she recited Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” to call out the racism and sexism she’s endured throughout her record-breaking career.
Instead, her Facebook post is a reminder that even after she leaves the tennis court, she and her nephew, like many African Americans, know all too intimately that they face an ever-present possibility of police violence, and that justice isn’t guaranteed.
At least 2,195 people have been killed by police since Michael Brown was killed by former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson two years ago. A disproportionately high percentage of those killed were black. Traffic stops for minor violations are one of the common threads linking high-profile police shootings.
And despite the high frequency with which officer-involved killings take place, police are rarely indicted for killing civilians, even as more video evidence of those killings becomes available.
Williams put the extrajudicial killings in perspective: “Why did I have to think about this in 2016?”
She noted that this isn’t a simple argument about bad cops or about whether black people have proven themselves. The issue is simply justice.
“As Dr. Martin Luther King said[,] ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal,’” she wrote. For Williams, if there is any moment to speak up, that time is now.