May 01, 2014
Serena Williams’ father says he won’t return to Indian Wells, Calif., the site of a tournament his daughter has skipped since 2001, when their family was booed — and subjected to racial epithets, according to his new book.
“I would never go back,” Richard Williams said in a telephone interview.
But he added that it’s up to Serena whether to play at Indian Wells again.
“She was taught to make terrific decisions,” he said. “Any decision she makes, I would be behind, 1,000 percent.”
His book, “Black and White: The Way I See It,” comes out May 6. It goes into detail about how Indian Wells, in his words, “disgraced America.”
Serena was on the entry list for the event this year but withdrew, citing a back injury.
The book covers plenty of other ground, although there is not much that is revelatory about the professional tennis careers of Williams’ daughters Serena and Venus. He said he has another book, focused more on them, in the works.
First taught the game by their father, the sisters have won a combined 24 Grand Slam singles titles and have both been ranked No. 1.
“From the beginning, I decided that if people came to me later on and told me my daughters were great tennis players, I had failed,” he writes. “Success would be if they came up to me and said my daughters were great people.”
Written with Bart Davis, the 292-page “Black and White” reads as part autobiography, part parenting guide (“I feel that we’re way too soft on our children,” Williams says in Chapter 19), part self-help book, part tennis instructional manual.
“I released the book because Serena kept telling me to,” Williams said. “She thought it would help a lot of people.”
It is dedicated to his mother, and much of the early chapters concerns lessons she imparted to him and her influence on his life — and, by extension, his children's lives.
There are meditations on the American dream, ambition — and, above all, racism. The latter is the prism through which he learned to see the world and, as he repeatedly hammers home, still does to this day.
“If a person doesn’t know where they started from, they sure as heck don’t know where they’re going,” he said in the interview. “As they read, they can kind of relate more to who you are and where you’re from and where you’re going to.”
In the book, Williams explains how his world view was shaped by growing up in Louisiana and during his time in Chicago as a young man.
There are tales upon tales of run-ins with the police and confrontations with strangers, often ending in violence.
“I could not embrace a turn-the-other-cheek philosophy,” he writes.
At another point, he writes: “I became fascinated with stealing at the age of eight. I don’t know if the thrill was being able to get away with a crime, or that the crime was against the white man. Either way, it was the start of a prosperous career.”