Last week, for me, was about Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the list of names of hundreds more black bodies that they joined. It was about protests and it was about anger. It was about 11 police officers wounded and five killed in a tragic slaughter in Dallas. It was about grief, and it was about my personal despair that the curtain of racism, inequality, rage, and violence that has covered the country since time immemorial may never be lifted.
Saturday, though, was also about Serena Williams and the magic of her easy 7-5 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon. For over an hour I had a respite from digesting and covering a week of pain as I watched Serena blast serve after serve and raise a single fist in joy after the final point was won. On Saturday Williams claimed her 22nd women's tennis Grand Slam title, tying Steffi Graf for the most in the Open Era. On Saturday, she swatted away any—already dubious—claims that she might not be the greatest.
The importance of Serena's victory and her sixth Wimbledon doubles championship win with her sister Venus is intimately connected with the week of trauma and the fact that cries of “black lives matter” currently ring out in the streets. Those cries are a demand for justice, yes, and that demand is inspirational to anyone who believes in said justice. But they’re also rooted in a fear that a better tomorrow may never come, and in terror and grief over the present cavalcade of images of dead black bodies. Saturday was a rare instance in which a sporting event was transfigured into something more, a symbolic victory that both helped assuage trauma and provided real hope. No living athlete—perhaps of any gender or in any sport—has represented the spirit of that hope more than Serena.