This Throwback Interview Of Richard Williams Defending Venus’ Confidence At 14 Is Black Fatherhood At Its Finest
Every few years, a video of Venus Williams having her confidence questioned by a reporter, and her father, Richard Williams, stepping in to defend her, resurfaces. But this time around, with the help of Chicago-based rapper and activist Ric Wilson (check out his recent EP, BANBA), it’s gone viral and been shared by a number of celebrities, and for good reason.
The interview happened back in 1995, and took place for the ABC News program, Day One. A then 14-year-old Venus conversed with correspondent John McKenzie about what she feels inside when she’s on the court, and her confidence when it comes to playing opponents who, at the time, were much older than her. When asked if she thought she could beat a player who isn’t identified in the resurfaced clip, she says, “I know I can beat her,” to which McKenzie responds, “You know [you can beat her]? Very confident.”
When she replies that she is indeed “very confident,” he then begins to quiz her about the reason she’s so comfortable in her abilities, asking, “You say it so easily. Why?”
From there, Richard steps in.
“What she said, she said it with so much confidence the first time, but you keep going on and on,” he said.
When Richard interrupts the interview, McKenzie tries to tell him that they can’t continue with his interruptions, but Richard lets him know they won’t continue if he keeps trying to break the spirit of a child.
“You’ve got to understand that you’re dealing with the image of a 14-year-old child,” he said. “And this child gonna be out there playing when your old a– and me gonna be in the grave. When she say something, we done told you what’s happening. You’re dealing with a little Black kid, and let her be a kid! She done answered it with a lot of confidence, leave that alone!”
McKenzie probably could have formed the question in a different way, but definitely, hearing him sound not impressed, but rather, a tad puzzled by her confidence is disappointing. Interesting enough, the segment actually earned him an Emmy nomination.
As for Venus, now 38, she certainly had a reason to be confident. She went on to win seven Grand Slam singles titles. Along with sister Serena, she is known as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, so it’s clear that Richard was right when speaking on the importance of not trying to interfere with a child’s confidence. This is particularly important for a Black child, who in this world, often struggles to be treated as a simple, innocent kid.
With that message in mind, plenty of people online reposted the clip, including Gabrielle Union, Kanye West and more. Check out the reaction to the interview, 22 years later.
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I just sat and watched this about 20 times with tears in my eyes. I have seen this video before but with @gabunion's words attached this hit me hard this morning. I sat in therapy yesterday working through another childhood trauma I wanted to pretend wasn't there. I have learned how trauma lives in the nervous system and has to be resolved and worked through and out of the body. I grew up with bullies of various kinds working what felt like overtime to make me doubt myself. My nervous was constantly in fight, flight or freeze. But the good news is it's never too late to retrain our nervous systems. I am slowly and gently learning how to do this…………………………………………………………………. Even as there is so much abundance in my life, so many things to be grateful for, my nervous system is often either looking for the threat or triggered to perceive there's one present whether there is or isn't. The reality for a a lot of black and brown folks, women, trans folks, immigrants etc. Is that the threats to our safety and life chances are real, those traumas are real. The nervous system doesn't know the trauma happened 10 years ago. The nervous system experiences the threat as happening now. But living in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze is not sustainable. I have learned this one the hard way………………………………………………………………. And this morning in this video I can sit looking at a beautiful black girl who knew she was the best, having that belief system protected, having the kind of confidence born not from delusion but from hard work, talent and the birthright of worthiness…………………………………………………… That beautiful black girl is now a beautiful black woman and a bonafide living legend, a champion. We don't all have Richard Williams's in our lives but we can learn to be that for ourselves and each other, to do the gentle work to heal. Thank you to everyone who had anything to do with this video and it's reemergence. We desperately need these stories. #blackgirlmagic #blackexcellence #tennis #VenusWilliams #VenusAndSerena #TransIsBeautiful