“I‘M NOT HALF ANYTHING!” Those words drop-kicked me in the psyche when they were hurled across the dining room table by my daughter after I made another stupid joke about her half-Chinese digestive system. She punctuated that with a clenched fist raised in my general direction and the words “I’M ALL ME!”
It was as if all those years of being “different” came rising, volcanically, to the surface: Her mom being mistaken for a nanny by paler hued mothers at the park. The strange looks she and her brother would get holding hands with their very white dad. The snickers she’d hear whenever she brought out her foreign-smelling lunch box in the school cafeteria.
It was over 25 years ago, after all, and a little ahead of the wonderful normalcy of interracial relationships we enjoy today.
But those still waters run bottomless. I guess that’s why my wife and I emotionally adopted Naomi Osaka when we first saw her win the U.S. Open against Serena Williams in 2018. She not only shared our daughter’s name, but a beautifully complex, Eurasian lineage of difference.
So, when the New York crowd fed off Williams’ in-match tantrums and violently booed Osaka as she accepted the trophy, both of us held back tears of rage. And when the tiny young phenom began to cry unconsolably, and physically wilted under the weight of that angry crowd’s taunts, our tears turned to sadness.
Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open and Wimbledon this year didn’t surprise us. Neither did her valiant struggle for mental health. Nor, certainly, did her courageous interview in Time magazine, where she proclaimed that “It’s okay to be not OK”
But this spot for the International Olympic Committee*, ahead of her appearance at the Tokyo Olympics—where she will represent both the nationality of her birth and the shared African American DNA of her blood—raises Naomi Osaka’s status to celebrity sainthood in my mind.
Because taking a stand for all those girls who are “different,” be it physically, sexually, psychologically, racially or interracially, and heralding them as the champions of change, inspires more tears—this time of joy.
And it reminds this father of two beautiful rainbow children that they are everything but HALF ANYTHING.
*This story has been corrected from the original, which incorrectly identified the advertiser.
Craig Redmond is a creative leader with Palmer Stamnes and Co, an independent family of marketing communication companies.