Protect your peace: ‘What’s In It For Us’ talks Naomi Osaka and cost of taking a stand

“There’s simply no soundbite that’s more important than her mental health,” said guest Renée Graham.

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, returns to Maria Sakkari, of Greece, during the quarterfinals of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Sakkari won 6-0, 6-4. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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How’s the saying go again? If it costs you your peace then it’s too expensive? This week on What’s in it For Us, host and theGrio politics editor Dr. Christina Greer, Ph.D., welcomes journalist and Boston Globe opinion columnist and associate editor Renée Graham to talk the politics of some of the biggest stories making the news, including the price Black athletes pay for putting their mental health first.

As the top tennis players from around the globe compete in Paris, France at the French Open over the next two weeks, one of the brightest stars in the game will not be taking the courts.

While Japan’s Naomi Osaka may be absent from the game, she is front and center in almost every major discussion around this year’s tournament. The 23-year-old powerhouse became the topic of conversation after announcing she would not be participating in the mandatory post-game pressers, citing a need to prioritize her mental health. The tournament fined her $15,000 and earlier this week, Osaka withdrew from the tournament entirely.

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Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates with the trophy after winning her Women’s Singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Day Thirteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Greer pointed out that Osaka is no stranger to taking principled stands, citing the athlete’s choice to wear the names of Black Americans killed by police and other racially charged incidents in recent years, including George FloydBreonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“We’re asking her to be at work, to perform at the height of excellence while also processing Black people being murdered by the state,” said Greer. “She’s taking a stand and saying: ‘I’m choosing me.’” 

Speaking of peace, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are experiencing anything but that after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have established a commission to open an official investigation into the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

The decision to not back the bill came after legislators heard testimony in support of the bill from the mother of Brian Sicknick, the police officer who died after being struck in the head during the riots. Graham said hiding the truth is a tried and true move from the GOP playbook.

“We’re right at this moment where people are talking about the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is history that was buried for 100 years, and we have Republicans attempting to bury American history again because they know exactly how the truth is going to indict members of their own party,” said Graham.  “But this time, citizens should not be accessories after the fact in pushing what happened away from light and accountability.” 

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Finally, the nation’s top lawyer, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, is calling on state and municipal district attorneys to directly address hate crimes in their jurisdictions. Graham said while she applauds Garland’s efforts, his acknowledgement of growing hate crimes is simply a first step especially as it relates to the violence experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Now that it’s been noticed, it needs to be addressed,” said Graham, citing the growing crisis of trans and gender non-conforming murders in the United States. “I think there has to be federal response, but locally you have to create situations where people feel that it is safe to go to the police and something will be done.” 

As Pride Month continues, What’s In It For Us will welcome LGBTQ+ guests hosts to share their perspective on what’s happening in the world around and, as always, to help us ask: With so much going on, what’s in it for us? 

Listen What’s In It For Us, the funny and politically edgy Black commentary podcast now streaming on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and wherever you can find podcasts.

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