As Americans, we have had issues with race relations unlike any nation before us. From slavery, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement, race relations have shown America at its worst while also showing the good in our country.
Men like Martin Luther King helped to change America and promote progress between races. Dr. King showed us the injustice in our society and called upon us, as Americans, to fix it.
The Civil Rights Movement helped Americans fix problems domestically and also created a foundation for Americans to fight injustice throughout the globe. There needed to be new leaders to replace men like Martin Luther King.
Men of law and politics were looked upon to continue the fight for equality. However, one of America's leaders did not come from law school or politics. He came from a tennis court.
He was Arthur Ashe.
Arthur Ashe was born in 1943 in Richmond, VA. He was a successful tennis player, winning three Grand Slams, and was a trailblazer for the sport. Among many other firsts, he was the first African American to win the US Open, Wimbledon, and play for the Davis Cup. However, his achievements on the court paled in comparison to his actions off it.
Along with his crusade against AIDS and his attempts to promote education in the African-American community, he crusaded against injustice around the world. One of his famous stances against race injustice occurred in 1970 when he was denied a visa to travel to South Africa and play in the South African Open.
Instead of accepting this injustice, Ashe fought back. He used this to launch a campaign against the evils of South African apartheid. In 1973, he received a visa to travel to South Africa, but he did not stop his battle against injustice.
In my mind, Arthur Ashe was the most important figure, outside of South Africa, in the effort to end apartheid. While Stephen Beco and Nelson Mandela fought on the frontlines, Arthur Ashe openly protested and spoke against the South African government in an effort to create American support for the anti-apartheid movement.
He was even arrested for protesting against apartheid.
He was an athlete, but he did not care about what endorsement deals he would have lost. He did not care about what the tennis world thought about him.
He cared about ending injustice.
Today, it seems, the tennis world has forgotten Arthur Ashe. Sure, there is Arthur Ashe Stadium, but who cares? What good does his name do, when his message has been destroyed?
The United Arab Emirates denied an Israeli woman, Shahar Peer, a visa to travel to Dubai and play in the Barclays Dubai Tournament. They stated that this action was taken because of the security risk an Israeli would be in a Muslim nation. That should not be an issue. They could easily protect her from any anti-Semitic people.
And let's get this straight; in Dubai, there is a deep-seated animosity against Jewish people, as with almost all Muslim nations (with a possible exception for Turkey). That tells me that they do not lack the ability to protect an Israeli, but lack the desire to protect an Israeli.
Now, what do the players of today do to show their disgust with the people of Dubai? Nothing. Sure, they have made statements supporting Shahar Peer, but they are still going to play in the tournament because they do not want to let the sponsors down.
In essence, the dollars are more important than justice. None of these women or men are willing to stand defiantly against discrimination.
It is shocking and disturbing that Venus and Serena Williams are not showing any backbone in the matter. As the two biggest American players in the world, they need to set an example for the entire tennis community to follow, just as Arthur Ashe did.
It does not matter that they are African Americans, because all Americans have a responsibility to fight discrimination, segregation, and other forms of race-related injustice. For Americans are not defined by their creed or their color, but by their character.
February is Black History Month, and ESPN will probably show a piece on Arthur Ashe. However, looking at tennis today, celebrating Arthur Ashe's legacy means nothing. Naming stadiums, having journalists talk about him, and showing documentaries is not what Ashe would have wanted.
Instead, he would have wanted us to stand up for Peer and against the Muslim discrimination against Israelis. In fact, it would be best to remove Arthur Ashe's name from every stadium and statue.
For what is the point of keeping his name alive, when we have killed his message?