As tennis greats Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka meet for the semifinals of the Australian Open, the headlines continue to try to lead us into picking a side. It is something that no matter what Black women do, we are often given an ultimatum of her versus me. But in 2018. at the US Open, we witnessed a major make or break moment for Black sisterhood, between Williams and Osaka. After a tense and emotion riddled match Osaka did something many of us strive for – she beat her idol. The crowd went insane, marrying her win with boos and jeers. Pushing her own emotions from losing a major title aside, especially to a young woman half her age, Serena Williams chose to try and calm the crowd while enveloping Naomi in love and support. This was a shining moment for Black sisterhood.
Black sisterhood is the powerful and inexplicable bond that forms when Black women continuously show up for one another. These bonds are a testament to our community and ancestral traditions of showing support to a fellow sister whether they are in need or not. Examples of Black sisterhood in its purest form can be found everywhere: it’s in the way your friends cocoon you in ‘you go girl’ messages when you’ve been promoted, it’s in the way an older woman passes on knowledge to young women she has taken under her wing, it’s also visible during the moments we share in kitchen with one another and on a broader scope the way Black celebrities rally behind each other during wins and losses. We have seen time and again how a sisterhood can grow or fail when Black women are pitted against each other in different industries.
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Dealing with some Black women in the workplace can be an extremely triggering experience, which it’s imperative to see two competitors like Serena and Naomi on the world stage pour love into each other. A lot of us have not always encountered such grace, in many cases we share the same lived experience of that one terrible superior who instead of choosing to support you took every moment they could to further impede your progress. These women due to their own traumatic experiences and respectability politics tend to feel threatened in the presence of another Black woman flourishing in a space it took them time to command. This is not the case with Serena, a fierce competitor who over the years has welcomed new players into the sport and has never shown a jealous disposition towards the younger girls who view her as their idol. Instead, she has created a space for mentorship and community.
Serena and Naomi play a sport that unfortunately feeds on rivalries and competition. Even with these factors they have both repeatedly stated the level of respect they share for one another and how the competition between them only serves as a driving force for each to play their best. They are two women who represent the past, present and future of tennis and continue to support one another as only those who lean into Black sisterhood can.
Neither has allowed the competition nor the fact that they are two of the best players in the world outshine the sisterhood they developed back in 2018. When Black women unite there’s an unmatched level of “Black Girl Magic” at play, it’s inexplicable, and that’s exactly what we see between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams – mentorship, community, love and support.