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Serena Williams has a message for those who think she’s responsible for Alexis Ohanian’s resignation

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Kayleigh Dray
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Alexis Ohanian and Serena Williams

Serena Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, sat down during an Instagram Live to candidly discuss his decision to resign from Reddit.

Earlier this year, tabloids ran headlines claiming that critically-acclaimed documentarian Stacey Dooley was the driving force behind her boyfriend Kevin Clifton’s departure from Strictly Come Dancing. These same publications were similarly mortified by the mere suggestion that Meghan Markle “wears the trousers” in her relationship with Prince Harry.

And now, surprise surprise, they’ve hinted heavily that Serena Williams pressured her husband, Alexis Ohanian, into resigning from Reddit’s board and urging the company to replace him with a black candidate.

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Some context: Ohanian founded social media website Reddit 15 years ago with his college roommates Aaron Swartz and Steve Huffman.

In 2018, he stepped down from daily duties but retained a seat on the company’s board. Until, over the weekend, he announced via Twitter that he was stepping down “as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’”

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” he said in a video, addressing the ongoing anti-racism protests taking place all over the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”

Rather than listen to the important message Ohanian was sending, some assumed, wrongly, that his resignation was due to Williams’ influence. And so, in a powerfully candid Instagram Live video, the couple have sat down together to discuss Ohanian’s powerful decision together.

“When I thought about what Reddit needs, what business need now more than ever, is someone that has a position of power to say, ‘There are too many white faces around the table, there have been for too long,” explained Ohanian.

He continued: “I have been so heartened by messages I have received from total strangers in business, in particular a number of Black men and women who found my email, or through a friend sent me a note, saying how much they appreciated the gesture simply because of all the rooms, all the board rooms, all the executive rooms they have walked into, where they have realised they have had to prove themselves…

“I think if every company took a look around their board rooms on Monday and really had the honest, hard conversations, and said, ‘Are we doing the best by our customers, by our team and by our shareholders with this board makeup?’ I think we’d see more change.”

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Williams, who noted that Ohanian’s decision had come as a shock to her, added: “This is all Alexis, which is really cool.

“A lot of people think that I told you to do something, or that I forced you, or that I was in your ear… he doesn’t listen to me ever! So that’s not the case.”

The tennis champion went on to address the inequalities she herself has faced, explaining: “A lot of people don’t know, my whole life I’ve had to deal with so many different challenges. I’ve had to deal with a lot of inequality, I’ve had to deal with racism.

“Honestly, sadly, it has become… somewhat of a norm for me.”

Williams added: “It’s sad that someone on my level has had to accept being paid less [and] accept so many different things because of the color of my skin. I think I’d be very angry, very spiteful, very jealous if I didn’t have this spiritual background.”

Watch the Instagram Live video for yourself below:

The couple also touched upon the difficult conversations they will one day be forced to have with their two-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

“One of the things that really broke me at some point in the last week, was looking at Olympia and she is such a pure blank canvas. She only knows love,” Ohanian said. “There is not an ounce of hate in her body.”

Turning to Williams, he added: “You know that at some point, Olympia is gonna have a talk with you, a talk with us, but especially a talk with you, about how she’s gonna have to work that much harder, how she’s gonna have to deal with this much more..

“That pisses me off.”

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To paraphrase what we’ve said before, it’s worth remembering that non-black people need to educate themselves, listen more, and learn how to be a better ally in the fight against racism.

Here are just a few of the ways we can all do this:

How to support Justice for George Floyd:

Further charities and organisations to engage with:

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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