A major example of Osaka’s whitewashing is the wildly racist cartoon published this week in Australia’s Herald Sun, which depicted the tennis player as a white woman with blonde hair. More often, the erasure is more subtle, like when media outlets describe Osaka as “Japanese” without acknowledging her multiracial identity. Erasing Osaka’s Blackness further divides her from Williams, who, in turn, is often depicted as a stereotypical “angry Black woman.” Whether intentionally or not, the whitewashing of Osaka serves to reinforce a racist victim-and-villain storyline.
Most importantly, however, is that in ignoring Osaka’s Blackness, we fail to acknowledge how poignant it is that the young tennis player is being given the torch of tennis greatness by her idol, Williams. Tennis is such a white-dominated sport that fewer than 40 Black women have ever competed at the elite level.
Osaka, her sister, and their father have all followed the Williams sisters’ careers closely. Osaka’s father even went on to train his daughters just as Richard Williams trained Serena and Venus. For Osaka, facing off against her lifelong idol was about more than a match — it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Not to say that Osaka isn’t also Japanese. Osaka was born in Japan and professionally represents the country. But it’s important to note that her father, Leonard François is Haitian. Osaka and her older sister, Mari (who is also a professional tennis player), were both given their Japanese mother’s surname at birth for practical reasons — its easier to register for schools in Japan with a Japanese surname. The family moved to the US when she was just three years old, which makes Osaka a Japanese-Haitian-American woman.
Source: Brit + Co