Five months into my pregnancy, I began to grow excited. In a reserved way, in the only way, a mother of 3 boys and a miscarriage survivor could be. More than a rainbow baby, my daughter would be the tie that bound our blended family together, merging African-American and Vietnamese-American culture.
As important as it is for me to see images resembling myself in popular media, I knew it would be equally important for my daughter. And now, she can see herself in Naomi Osaka.
Her win against 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the US Open finals doesn't diminish William's legacy, but it will inspire mixed-race children everywhere.
If representation is scarce as a minority, try being a minority within a minority. Examples of celebrities that look like my daughter are limited. Daughters like mine need to see women like Naomi Osaka celebrated in sports and entertainment.
Entering the tournament as the youngest of the world's Top 20, Osaka went on to beat Williams in a stunning win at the US Open. Yet, her win has been marred in controversy after Williams was accused of cheating by an overzealous umpire and penalized for her emotional outbursts that followed. To add insult to injury, Williams was subsequently fined $17K from the referee's office.
Public outrage continues to grow as some of the top names in tennis defend Williams and point out the disparities between how men and women are treated in the sport.
(2/2) When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s “out… https://t.co/oFv3MsVYJs
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) 1536459662.0
On Twitter, tennis great Billie Jean King commended Williams for "calling out this double standard", noting that "When a woman is emotional, she's 'hysterical' and she's penalized for it. When a man does the same, he's 'outspoken' and there are no repercussions."
In a follow-up for the Washington Post , King explained how disappointed she was to see sexism steal the thunder of this historic match.
"What was supposed to be a memorable moment for tennis, with Serena Williams, perhaps the greatest player of all time, facing off against Naomi Osaka, the future of our sport, turned into another example of people in positions of power abusing that power," King writes.
And this wasn't just about a young player challenging her childhood idol.
Despite the odds, Osaka and Williams are women that became world champions amid the intense pressure of being brown-skinned in a historically white sport.
Osaka's victory is a win for mixed-race children everywhere, but also a win for Japan in more ways than one. Mixed-race (hāfu) children are often discriminated against and made to feel like outsiders in their own countries and communities. This has been felt in my daughter's own family: Fathered by a white American soldier, my partner fled with his mother from Vietnam to the US to avoid being the target of violence.
More recently, in 2015, Ariana Miyamoto was ostracized after being crowned Miss Japan because she was born to a Japanese mother and African-American father. She spoke openly about being constantly bullied and called the n-word while growing up in Japan and became an advocate for others after a mixed-race friend committed suicide.
By contrast, Osaka's win was heralded by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and she has been embraced as a Japanese champion , gestures I can only hope signify changing attitudes in Japan. In America, racist rhetoric makes it unpopular for Black people to claim all aspects of our heritage. When they do, they are not considered Black enough. To her credit, Osaka has boldly corrected journalists that try to erase her Haitian heritage.
By choice, she identifies as a Black woman of Japanese and Haitian descent. I applaud her decision and hope others begin to respect her choice as well. As a Black mother with Haitian roots and half Asian children - including a brown-skinned, mocha-hued daughter with keen eyes and a long curly mane - I have added Osaka to the list of positive Black and Asian role models they can refer to.
For our daughters whom we are forced to guide through a misogynistic world, we can take as many lessons from Osaka's quiet fortitude as we can from Williams unapologetic self-advocacy.
More than a tennis tournament overshadowed by sexism, I hope the public will be inspired by Osaka's journey and all that she represents for mixed-race Asians.