Is Serena Williams racist? “What kind of question is that?”, you reply or “of course not” you answer! Or perhaps, you think she is and agree with the people below, who believe she is racist because she is extending help to a group of women of the same race as her with less opportunities, exposure and capital.
Let’s start from the beginning:
Serena Williams recently announced her business venture with Bumble – for those of you that don’t know, Bumble is a social networking app tailored towards helping people formulate different relationships, be it dating, friendships or professional networking.
Serena has invested in the bespoke Bumble Fund – Bumble Fund is a platform specifically focusing on providing investments to start-ups primarily led by black women and those from other underrepresented groups. The fund as a whole focuses on black women and other minority groups, however Serena’s investment in Bumble Fund specifically focuses on supporting and investing in black female entrepreneurs setting up their own business. This amazing and positive initiative by the tennis champion to encourage and help an underrepresented yet talented demographic has been marred with accusations of her being ‘racist’.
Serena shared the good news of her investment on social media with a compelling message “Things I won’t stop talking about: investing in women. Now through March 27th, Bumble Fund applicants will get an opportunity to pitch their idea to me and Whitney. We’re working together to build a bigger, more equitable table. If you’re a woman entrepreneur of color, apply through the app. Winners will receive a check between $25K and $50K depending on the need of the business!“
How Serena’s message triggered backlash and allegations of racism confuses me, this peculiar way of thinking essentially brands any platforms created to support minority groups as discriminatory.
Here are a few statistics, to put the situation into context:
- Black women are both the most educated and most entrepreneurial demographic in the U.S., but received only 0.2% of all venture funding for their startups last year.
- The average amount of venture capital funds raised by black women founders is just $36,000. That compared to $1.3 million in venture capital funding raised by white men for failed business ventures.
- Currently, less than 20 black women-led tech startups have raised more than $1 million of the $28.3 billion in tech investment funds.
Taking these statistics into consideration, it’s no wonder Serena wanted to tackle the representation gap within the entrepreneurial industry and focus specifically on black women.
If a black woman supporting other black women is discriminatory, does the same apply to an LGBT individual supporting and creating opportunities specifically for LGBT people? Does the same apply if a Jewish person creates opportunities to help the Jewish community? Or a Latino helps the Latino community? In my opinion, the reasonable (and obvious) answer to these questions is no this is not racism. Racism is defined as ‘prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.’ Let that definition sink in please, then really think about whether Serena’s actions fit the definition.
Where there is an imbalance of representation, if someone in a position of power and status addresses this and attempts to balance representation and opportunity by working alongside a particular demographic their efforts aren’t racist, their efforts are human, positive and necessary.
Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be buzzwords and a tick box exercise – we’re seeing tangible and pro-active efforts to really achieve diversity and inclusion across various spheres and that for me is one step in the right direction, let’s not take two-steps back by alleging the progressive steps being taken are racist.Is Serena Willams Racist?