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Why it Matters that the Vegas Terrorist is White

This morning, I, like millions of other Americans woke up to the news of the horrible slaughter in Las Vegas. A sniper-style terrorist attack that targeted unsuspecting concert goers has left at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured. As horrifying as this grim story is, it has become a sadly routine occurrence in American life. As the body count and the human suffering rose, a few details about the shooter began to emerge. Phrases like “mentally ill” and “lone wolf” were used to describe the shooter before his photo or identity were released. Phrases like this are really cultural code words to denote that a terrorist or mass shooter is white. Calling someone who slaughters dozens of people “mentally ill” separates the person from the criminality of the offense. Calling him a “lone wolf” ignores the pattern of mass shootings the country has suffered and the similar themes of targeting people at soft targets. Of course, when Stephen Paddock’s name and photo came out, my suspicions about his race and gender were confirmed.

When I said as much this morning in a Facebook conversation, I was almost immediately chided by a friend with whom I had gone to college:

“Who cares what the nationality of the shooter . 50+ people died. We could have been one of those fifty. And the last thing we would think of before dying would likely not be if the person was white or not,” he said.

Of course from the perspective of an innocent person about to meet a violent death, my friend was right. But from a public policy perspective, my friend couldn’t be more wrong. And therein lies the problem.

Mass shootings in America are shockingly common, and each one seemingly more deadly than the last. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an event in which “four or more [are] shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” By this very grisly standard, America averages about one mass shooting every day.

Who are these mass shooters? The most notorious ones have names that live in infamy. Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, etc. have been the authors of the most vicious attacks upon unsuspecting people in schools, movie theaters, grocery stores, and church. All were white men. All targeted people where they least expected to be victimized. All have been described in the media as lone wolves and mentally ill. Public policy makers fidget uncomfortably when asked to describe these men as terrorists and this is a problem, because we know that the same actions would have been immediately deemed as terrorism if the men were Muslim (and ostensibly brown, rather than white).

This reticence to label white (mostly Christian) men  who commit acts of terror as terrorists stands in stark contrast to how policymakers deal with offenders or perceived offenders of other races and religions. America has repeatedly and aggressively pursued public policy initiatives directed at targeting groups of people who are perceived to be threats to public safety. Stop-and-frisk in New York, for example, which targeted black and Latino men, was infamously ineffective at stopping crimes before they happened.  In fact, nearly 90% of the people subjected to stop-and-frisk were determined to have committed no crime at all. But that didn’t stop Rudy Giuliani and other supporters from continuing to defend the practice even after its inefficacy was proven.

Donald Trump began his official presidential campaign by disparaging Mexicans: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

His campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along America’s southern border is now a serious public policy proposal to deal with the perceived hyper-criminality of Mexicans.

His so-called “Muslim ban” resulted in the United States Supreme Court rendering constitutional a travel ban that would halt travel from seven predominately Muslim countries because of fears of terrorism.

However, according to the FBI, they are investigating over 1000 cases of white supremacist or other types of domestic terrorist cases–roughly the same number of ISIS-related terror cases they are investigating. We are are very familiar with the public policy initiatives put forth to combat terrorists who are perceived to be Muslim–no fly lists, the Patriot Act, travel bans, limits on refugees, ect. However, there are no corresponding public policy measures put in place to combat murderous white men, who are disproportionately represented in the number of mass shooters and domestic terrorists.

Part of the reticence to label white men who commit terrorist acts as terrorists rests with what the people who dictate terrorism look like. When the vast majority of our country’s public policymakers are white men, it is much harder for that group to other a demographic that looks like them, or select them for pre-emptive criminal scrutiny. That is why even speaking in Arabic or Spanish in public can get a person harassed or detained under the suspicion that they have criminal intent or no right to be in the country, but white men openly carrying weapons in public barely register a raised eyebrow. Our country has done a very good job of convincing people that the folks you need to fear speak Spanish or Arabic, or have skin darker than a paper bag.

The problem with creating public policy in a way that creates the impression that only certain groups of people can be boogeymen is that malefactors who don’t fit the narrowly constructed paradigm of who is a public menace end up slipping under the radar.That’s how thousands of khaki-clad white supremacists could descend on Charlottesville, Virginia while blending seamlessly back into society after the terrorist attack was over.  Most black men know that open carry gun laws don’t apply to them in any meaningful way, whereas in Charlottesville, the white supremacists openly carried intimidating weapons with impunity. When violence erupted there and a young woman was murdered in a vehicle attack, there was no substantive discussion on how to create public policy designed to intercept criminally minded disaffected white men. In fact, Donald Trump even called the white supremacists “very fine people.”

Armed white supremacists in Charlotesville, VA.

When white men with guns transgress public safety,  groups like the NRA and politicians who count on them for donations insist that the only solution to a with a bad guy with a gun, is “a good guy with a gun.” This, however, is a sales pitch. It’s not a sound public policy prescription. In the time period between the Sandy Hook Massacre and the 2016 presidential election, gun sales skyrocketed–boosted in part by the erroneous belief that President Obama was going to take everyone’s guns away. However, despite the surge of “good guys with guns,” statistics don’t show that a better armed public correlated to a reduction of mass shootings and domestic terrorism incidents. By even the most generous definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, the frequency of these incidents hasn’t gone down since the Sandy Hook Massacre.

This observation isn’t simply whataboutism. I’m not simply suggesting that because other groups of people are profiled as criminals, that white men should be too as a way of bringing cosmic balance to the situation.  Rather, it is a serious look at who we are afraid of in this country and why. It’s been reported that Paddock had 18 legally obtained weapons in his hotel room, and dozens more in his home. We need to ask ourselves why a man amassing that kind of weapons stockpile didn’t raise any alarms? By comparison, various gun shops in recent years have indicated that they won’t sell guns to Muslim patrons, citing terrorism concerns. If Muslim people, by virtue of their religion alone, are enough to give some gun dealers pause about selling to them, then why aren’t the same proportion of gun dealers similarly nervous about selling weapons to white men, given high-profile mass shootings and acts of terrorism with white perpetrators?

What are the underlying reasons that white males represent 31% of the population, but 54% of mass shooters? Why don’t we have any policy proposals to address such a shocking disproportion when we have policy initiatives to address disproportion in other groups? What this Las Vegas massacre and other similar mass shootings demonstrate, is that while public policy discussions focus on building walls, travel bans, and what to do about “thugs,” a subset of people are slowly, but abundantly arming themselves and wreaking havoc on communities. If we continue to treat each of these ruptures in public safety as individual and unrelated acts, rather than as symptoms of a greater cultural crisis, then we will continue to miss the boogeymen right in front of us.

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Protests, Patriotism, and Profit–Why the NFL’s Owners Turned on Trump

Trump comments on NFL

Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy when he decided to begin his silent protest during last year’s NFL’s season. The decision to kneel cost him his football career, but earned him a place in the cultural zeitgeist as a hero or a villain depending on whom you speak to. At a campaign rally for an Alabama senatorial candidate who is now a footnote at his own campaign event, Donald Trump unloaded a heap of opprobrium upon NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. Though the invective was directed at all kneeling players in general, it was a thinly veiled reference to Colin Kaepernick. The president of the United States spewed, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off of the field right now! He’s fired!” He went on to say, “When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem, the only thing you can do better, is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave.” Beyond that, Trump also suggested that the efforts to improve player safety have ruined the game: “Today, if you hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game…They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game. It’s hurting the game.”

The entire league now thrown into a maelstrom, the NFL response at the commissioner and ownership levels was swift and severe in their condemnation of Trump’s comments. What’s important to note is that most owners as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, made Trump’s insults towards players the focus of their responses. However, I would argue that the motivation behind their strong responses wasn’t the “son of a bitch” comment or the veiled swipe at Kaepernick. Rather, it was the “leave the stadium…pick up and leave” comments. Therein lies the source of their discontent. After all, it’s not as if this was the first time that Donald Trump had singled out Colin Kaepernick for criticism over his protest. However, this was the first time that he called for a boycott of  the NFL because of the protests, and if the Wu-Tang Clan is to be beleived, the NFL’s philosphy is C.R.E.A.M.

The League finds itself in a very vulnerable place right now. Though Kaepernick is not currently on anyone’s team, his actions inspired dozens of other players to take a knee during the national anthem this season. Television ratings and stadium attendence were down even before Trump’s comments this weekend. Amidst continuing controversy over the League’s handling of CTE, it was revealed that disgraced former New England Patriot and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, had one of the most severe cases of the disease ever recorded.  The NFL is a business first and foremost. And as any business facing countervailing winds in rough seas, the first instinct is to stop taking on water and right the ship.

The NFL is an organization in which 70% of the players are black. From an owner’s perspective, it would have been untenable to remain silent after Trump’s comments when so many players were already taking a knee during the national anthem and concerned that the league was apathetic (or even hostile) to racial inequalities and the impact of CTE on the brain. It would have been conceivable that players who were already angry enough to kneel or raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem, would have become angry enough to refuse to play at all. And as we’ve seen with Kaepernick’s protest, these things tend to spread.

If I were an NFL owner in charge of a 53-man roster in which a majority of the players were black, I would be more inclined to placate my workforce with solidarity (or at least the appearance of it), than to risk their general malaise mushrooming into a strike. Is this a cynical view? Perhaps. But the deafening silence of team owners during Kaepernick’s free agency leads me to believe that their recent conversion to free speech advocates may not have the purest motivations now that the man with the bully pulpit of the White House has weighed in on their business. Make no mistake. NFL owners are not just suddenly seeing the value of protest. Nor are they even asserting the lofty idea that protest can be a form of patriotism. They don’t dislike the president either. In fact, several NFL owners are either Donald Trump’s friends or politial benefactors. What the owners responded to en masse was a potential interruption of their profits. And that’s something that even Donald Trump understands.

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Sunken Place Saturday–Albert Haynesworth

This Sunken Place Saturday, our winner/loser is Albert Haynesworth, former NFL defensive tackle. Years ago, Haynesworth made the non-football related news for pleading no contest to fondling a black waitress’ breast in a D.C. area hotel. During the criminal investigation, Haynesworth denied the accusations allegedly claiming “I know what this is about: [The waitress] is just upset I have a white girlfriend. I couldn’t tell you the last time I dated a black girl.” Let’s pause here for a second. I’m not sure why he feels/felt that not liking black women is a defense against sexually assaulting them. I mean, are we supposed to believe that people sexually assault folks because they like them?

It’s important to note that said white girlfriend was Brittany Jackson, herself a former professional athlete and no stranger to the criminal justice system. Haynesworth and she were a couple for a few years and have a child together. Haynesworth took to Twitter yesterday

to complain that he had been a victim of domestic violence and racial animus at Jackson’s hands for years.  He alleges that Jackson called him nigger several times and that she also physically assaulted him on numerous occassions.


Now don’t that beat all? A guy who pled no contest to assaulting a black woman after giving the unprompted proclamation that he has a white girlfriend in an effort to exculpate himself from the assault accusation is now taking to social media to complain that the white woman is not only violent, but racist? Excuse me while I cackle like a billy goat.

You see, Fat Albert has what I call Becky Broke Me Syndrome. It goes something like this. Black guy goes out of his way to date/marry white women, while loudly proclaiming in word or deed his distaste for black women. All goes well for a time. Then everything goes sour in Beckydom. White woman gets murdered (OJ), alleges rape (Kobe), or gets cheated on (Tiger Woods), and black guy has a PR nightmare on his hands.  In the case of  Brittany Jackson, she claims that she just found out that the child she shares with Haynesworth is his seventh child. Child support money tends to get a little thin when you have enough children to field a basketball team with two subs. White people don’t want anything to do with black guy who hurts Becky, so black guy tries to turn back to the black community for support. Black community promptly laughs and points. Black Twitter, per usual, was generous with the slander.


For trying throw black women under the bus to extol his love for Becky, and to have said Becky mollywhop him and call him “nigger” for years, Fat Albert Haynesworth has earned his spot in the Sunken Place.

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Unbalanced–This poem blew my mind!

Y’all, every now and again your run into someone who so cleanly and clearly articulates the tangled mess of emotions we feel inside. Let me introduce you to Unruly Spoken a.k.a Jashonia McQuin (pictured above). In her piece “Unbalanced,” she captures the anguish, anger, resilience, and the suffering that comes with mental illness. It’s something we’re taught not to discuss as black women, but she goes there. Read and absorb…



by Unruly Spoken

Unseen wounds and scars make the battle invisible to those who remain clueless. Internal turmoil that comes with a beautiful smile and pep in her step leads all who see her to believe she is on top of the world. Little do they know that the demons she battles daily make the villains in comic books seem like pound puppies waiting to be adopted. The Dreaded words MENTAL ILLNESS, oh no…HELL NO. Black women are NOT mentally ill, they’re just crazy and controlling. Kiss my ass. We raise your children, clean your homes, suck your dick and stand by you on the front lines while “THE MAN” tries to take it all. White women, we clean your homes, care for your children, do your work while climbing the corporate ladder and you took the elevator. Think that doesn’t stick pins in my psyche? Think again Becky, you and Megan took what I earned and flaunted it in my face. Watch me blow up in my car on the drive home. Oh, Brad asked if chocolate tastes greater with milk deep inside of it, gather your man before I do. I will not fall…..I will not fall. I will not fall for the suck it up and smile line to appease the masses any longer. I will not prance around pretending to be stronger than I am to make the world comfortable around this angry black woman who could have torn this plant to shreds ages ago had she chosen to. How easily one forgets that without us…none of you exists. We fight this war daily and are told to get over it, we think we are weak once we do finally seek help and we hid it from others. We are like beautiful stained glass that has been shattered but can be repaired when the right hands and minds come together to take the time to put us back together again.

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Sunken Place Saturday: Omarosa

Sunken Place Saturday

This week’s nominee for Sunken Place Saturday is Omarosa. Sigh…just her name alone is enough to make us roll our eyes. Ever since she first stepped on the scene as a cast member on the first season of the Apprentice, she has been an attention-seeking opportunist. However, ever since she threw herself into Trump’s halo of conciliatory Negroes, she has firmly ensconced herself in the Sunken Place. Her support of this wretched administration and its orange overlord have been disgusting to watch. She parlayed said support into a White House staffer position in which she does what exactly? Is she in charge of teaching the Caucasian White House Staffers the electric slide? Does she provide the seasoning for White House potluck events? Perhaps she’s just there to convince Trump that one day, everyone will “bow down” to him as their massa/lord and savior/Supreme Leader?


During a disastrous appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference earlier this summer, she seemed unbothered by the administration’s support for police brutality. The NABJ was having NONE OF IT. There two things I swear fo God, you cannot do in a room full of black people. One of them is clapping on one and three.

 clapping GIF

The other one is look like you are defending police brutality. What was a dumpster fire of an appearance promptly had gasoline thrown on it after that.

Maybe if she retreated back to friendlier territory at the White House, things would go better for her? No go. She had worn out her welcome with Massa’s overseer, John Kelly. Her access to Trump has been severely restricted, and word on the street is, that she ain’t long for this job. While it seems to be true that the White Pride Piper himself still likes her, don’t get it twisted. She ain’t kin to him. Her name isn’t Ivanka or Jared, therefore her black ass is expendable. The funny thing is, that when she’s eventually fired, she will have no problem complaining about racism on the job then (as she’s done in the past when working for Donald Trump.) The racism and white supremacy of the Trump administration are okay so long as she can be on the payroll. For that, Omarosa needs to have an eternity of seats in the Sunken Place.

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Losing Kenneka: How the Death of Kenneka Jenkins Highlights that Black Girls and Women aren’t Valued

Kenneka Jenkins. Photo credit:

The death of Kenneka Jenkins, the Chicago-area teen whose body was found in a freezer earlier this week, hit me hard. Oh, no. Not another one, I thought. I scrolled through various news feeds, and each time was struck by the image of the precious young lady with the dimpled smile. She had an entire life ahead of her and was snatched away from the world in circumstances that are still unclear, but very suspicious.

What we do know is that Kenneka was last seen at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center last Saturday night. She had gone there with some friends for a party. We also know that she had gotten there in her mother Tereasa Martin’s vehicle.  According to Martin, Kenneka’s friends called Martin at 4 o’clock in the morning to advise her that they had lost track of Kenneka, but had her phone and were in Martin’s car. These details are enough to make any parent’s heart sink. Martin said that she headed over to the hotel, and after being given the runaround by both the hotel staff and the police, Kenneka’s body was found in the freezer nearly 24 hours after she had first disappeared.

What’s more is that there is a very disturbing Facebook Live video that seems to show Kenneka’s reflection in the sunglasses of the young lady filming the video. Some say that you can distinctly hear someone yelling “Help me!” before the music is abruptly turned up to drown out the sound. The most stomach-churning suspicion being bandied about is that Kenneka’s friends set her up to be sexually assaulted, and for a paltry sum of $200.

Martin says that in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of her daughter’s body, her friends kept changing their stories about the sequence of events that led to Kenneka’s disappearance. Martin further states that neither the hotel staff, nor the police initially took her concerns about her daughter’s safety seriously. Media coverage of Kenneka’s disappearance and subsequent death has been scant.

Unfortunately, this is a painfully familiar scenario when a black girl or woman disappears. The assumption often made is that she’s a criminal, a runaway, or a sex worker. Thousands of disgusting social media comments that lay the blame at the feet of Kenneka herself for her own disappearance and death have made the rounds. “She should have known better,” they say. “She should have picked better friends.”

Contrast that with what happens when young white girls and women disappear from anywhere. Their disappearances and murders become national headlines and we remember their names for years, even decades after they’ve disappeared or died. Natalee Holloway, Jon Benet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, etc.–the list goes on and on for white female victims of kidnapping, and murders, with only scant attention ever paid to a young black girl or woman who disappears. Based on the news coverage, you would think that white girls and women are the only ones targeted for kidnappings and murders. Think about it: how many names of black female murder/kidnapping victims can you name that have become national media stories? (I didn’t think so.) The reality is that there are more than 75000 missing black women and girls in the country, but you would never know it based on public perceptions about whose disappearances matter.

Could a more motivated hotel staff or police force have prevented what happened to Kenneka? I don’t know. But when casual observers, trained police agencies, and national media outlets seem resigned to the notion that the disappearances of black girls and women is “normal” and therefore not worthy of diligent followup or news coverage, it doesn’t bode well for women who look like me and my sisters. Kenneka deserved so much better than how her life ended. And in death she deserves even more still. For our own sakes, we all do.

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Sunken Place Saturday Double Issue: Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey

This edition of Sunken Place Saturday is a double issue for two reasons: Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey. These two have never missed an opportunity to coon for ingratiate themselves with wealthy, powerful white men.

First up, everyone’s second favorite football Hall of Fame accused double murderer, Ray Lewis:

Ray Lewis has really been diving head-first into the Sunken Place these days. The former double murder defendant/Ravens football great has gone out of his way to criticize Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest. Ever the faithful manservant to white supremacy, Lewis has articulated and “yassuh-ed” every stupid rationalization coming out of the mouths of Kaepernick’s detractors. Lewis’ latest verbal buck and shuffle is a complaint that Kaep’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab kept him from getting signed to the Ravens. Diab very famously posted the photo of Lewis and Raven’s owner Steve Bisciotti embracing à la Stephen and Mr. Candy. The picture didn’t have a caption, but it definitely spoke volumes, nonetheless.

Ray-Ray complained the photo comparison was a “racist gesture”, and I’m not sure why. The comparison was pretty apt if you ask me. Bisciotti is an owner. Mr. Candy was an owner. Stephen worked for Mr. Candy for decades. Ray-Ray worked for Massa Mr. Bisciotti for 17 years. Stephen frequently and loudly criticized Django. Ray-Ray frequently and loudly criticized Kaepernick. Stephen was Mr. Candy’s emissary and cosigned everything he did. Ray-Ray was Bisciotti’s emissary and cosigned everything he did.  Both white men have used their faithful black manservants as their personal Negro whisperers. Ray Lewis seems committed to the notion that Mr. Bisciotti is “good white folks” whose sensibilities Diab and Kaepernick shouldn’t upset.

I don’t know what to make of guys like Ray Lewis. He doesn’t see the ridiculousness of pretending that Bisciotti didn’t blink twice about having a former double murder defendant signed to his roster, but somehow really struggled with whether or not to sign Kaepernick (who has committed no crime whatsoever).  For that idiocy and more, Ray Lewis has earned his place in the Sunken Place.


Next up, we have everyone’s favorite oversized porcelain veneer enthusiast, Steve Harvey.

Image result for steve harvey smile gif

When he’s not busy giving women bad information in his books and in beauty pageants, he is a full-time white supremacy apologist and opportunist. Whether it’s allowing disgraced racist Paula Deen to participate in his mentorship program for black boys, or agreeing to sit down with Donald Trump to discuss the needs of the black community, Harvey is a willing flag-bearer for white supremacy if he thinks it can get him some press or earn him a coin or two. This week, he lamented that he should have listened to his wife and not taken the meeting with Trump, and that he was “surprised” at all the backlash he received for meeting Foolius Caesar in January.

Image result for trump as caesar

However, Harvey still defended his decision to take the meeting saying:

“I have an obligation to take a seat at the table when invited.” He continued, “Change can only happen if you sit at the table. If you’re not at the table you can’t even… suggest what we should be doing. Therefore, it was very important for me to take the meeting. The only way we can heal the divide in this country is through conversation…If I’m going to keep getting stabbed at, then at least while you’re stabbing me, you should understand my intent for taking the meeting in the first place.”

I call bullshit. Why on earth, with all the talented academics, politicians, and civil rights leaders in the black community, would a newly elected president think that the host of Family Feud is the best person to reach out to in that community? Harvey knew he was being used as window dressing and he was okay with it. He figured that the meeting would ingratiate him with people who only watched Fox News and Family Feud on TV. Now, I’m not saying that those people are Trump voters, but if the Cracker Barrel fits, Steve Harvey’s going to shuck and jive in it. That’s why Steve Harvey has earned his spot in this weekend’s edition of Sunken Place Saturday.

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US Open Full of Black Girl Magic

Arthur Ashe Stadium was full of Black Girl Magic today as Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams each won their respective quarter-final matches to advance to the semi-finals in this year’s US Open. Stephens defeated Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia (6-3, 3-6, 7-6). Though Stephens might be a new name to a more casual tennis fan, she’s been on the professional circuit since 2007. She’s known for being an all-court player and for her well-balanced playing style. This will be her second semi-final singles appearance in a grand slam tournament.  Her first semi-final appearance was at the 2013 Australian Open.

Venus Williams needs no introduction. The seven-time Grand Slam winner put away Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitová (6-3, 3-6, 7-6)  this evening. The 37 year-old Williams will very likely become the #1 ranked tennis player in the world if she wins her semi-final match against Stephens. Venus has dazzled tennis fans for the last two decades with her formidable serve and adroit play at the baseline. No matter who wins in the semifinals, a black woman will definitely appear at the US Open Finals this year. Who can be mad at that?