Venus Williams wrote an essay published in The Players Tribune that was 15 years in the making. It speaks to one of the most racist moments in sports history when racial slurs were flowing out of the mouths of spectators at the sisters. But in the essay, she shares how it was her sister Serena who helped show her a side of forgiveness.
Venus’ words are below:
There is just something about being the big sister.
When you’re the big sister, you’re first — always, always first.
Sometimes, that’s a perk. Being the big sister means that you’re the first to earn your driver’s license. It means you’re the first to go out on a date. You’re the first to be allowed to stay up late, or home alone.
It means you’re the first to grow up.
In my family’s case, it also meant that I was the first to turn pro as a tennis player. The first to play in an official WTA tournament. The first to play against a world No. 1. The first to beat a top 10 player, to play in a Grand Slam, to make the final of a Grand Slam.
And, of course, it meant that I was the first to become famous.
I was the first to have articles written about me. The first to have autographs requested of me. The first to have TV specials produced about me, awards given out to me, shoes named after me.
I was the first to be known by my first name only.
Venus. Just Venus.
I was the big sister. I had to be first.
I’m proud of that.
Sometimes, though, being the big sister is a responsibility.
For me, being the big sister meant that, when I made my professional debut, I was the only player on tour who looked like me. I was the only player with my skin color, with my hair, with my background, with my style.
Being the big sister meant that, when I became world No. 1 in 2002, I wasn’t just world No. 1. I was also the first black American woman to reach No. 1. And it meant that I had to carry with me the importance of what I had accomplished. And I was honored to do that.
Being the big sister means that you don’t just pave the way. You show the way.
Being the big sister meant that, when my little sister made her professional debut, I became a lot of new things to her — her colleague, her competitor, her business partner, her doubles partner. But I was still, first and foremost, the one thing I had always been: her family. I was her protector — her first line of defense against outside forces. And I cherished that.
Being the big sister … I didn’t take that responsibility lightly. I knew what she was going through — debuting as a professional tennis player, growing up in front of a camera, entering public life as a young black teenager — and I knew how hard that could be. And I knew how much I would have loved to have had a big sister on tour during my first year, and how much pride I took in the knowledge that my little sister had me.
Serena always has me.
But I’ve never had to tell her. Being the big sister means that nothing ever has to be said out loud. It’s unspoken, and understood:
You can do it. I did it, so you can do it. Just follow my lead.
Being the big sister means that you don’t just pave the way.
You show the way.
Most of all, though, being the big sister is a bond. And a bond has no age, and no direction; it’s not defined by who’s older, or younger, or who has which responsibilities, or which perks. A bond is never about who’s first.
A bond is about strength.
Being someone’s big sister means being strong for them.
And sometimes “being strong” means, yes, being strong. But other times — more often than not — it really just means…