Petty people live to attack Black women. Whether they are on top of it all or after a shocking loss, there is a particular joy online trolls seem to take in spewing racist and sexist vitriol toward Black women.
Three months after Naomi Osaka reclaimed her time at the French Open, U.S. tennis player Sloane Stephens posted on Instagram Stories about hate messages she received. After her U.S. Open loss, tennis player Sloane Stephens posted to Instagram Stories that she received over 2000 abusive messages.
In an age when cries of cancel culture outpace the reality of alleged cancellation, Black women endure the often undeserved barrage of hate messages. Covering the online abuse for USAToday, sports journalist Analis Bailey tweeted the language in the posts was “disgusting and disheartening to read.”
The barrage of hate messages illustrates the burden Black women in the spotlight often bear. As a Black woman in professional tennis, let alone living and working in America, the 28-year-old Stephens isn’t the first to face such attacks.
“Disappointing loss yesterday, but I’m heading in the right direction. Honestly, so much to be proud of! Been fighting battles all year and haven’t backed down yet. Never stop fighting! You win, or you learn, but you never lose,” wrote Stephens.
This is not to say that other women don’t also receive hate messages. But there is a special type of hatred reserved for Black women.
Such attacks are rooted in misogynoir, a term coined by Black queer feminist scholar Moya Bailey. Referring to a specific form of anti-Black misogyny, the term was shaped in part by Bailey’s experiences engaging online.
Sister tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams have taught entire masterclasses on dealing with misogynoir on and offline. One would think with over two decades of the Williams sisters on the scene, the world of tennis would’ve learned a thing or two.
Outside of sports, Black women entertainers have faced an onslaught of online hate. The Los Angeles Times reported in July that iCarly star Laci Mosley was attacked by racist trolls. Upset at Mosley’s inclusion in the reboot, she was attacked with racist messages by alleged fans upset at her replacing Jeanette McCurdy in the role as Carly’s best friend.
Comedian Leslie Jones has been the subject of online attacks on a few occasions. Racist trolls also got in their feelings over a group of Black girls who were among the finalist for a team competition to do research at NASA.
Stephens won the U.S. Open in 2017. She has ranked as high as third in the world. After putting her haters on blast, Stephens also shared some of the positive messages she received.
In an August interview with Shape, Sloane reflected on the power of the platform. “I am so fortunate to have this platform and absolutely recognize the opportunity I have to positively impact others,” she told the magazine. Speaking about her foundation, she said her commitment was to making sure children would be inspired to dream big.
“I think it’s so important for young people, and especially young girls of color, to have positive role models that look like them and are doing amazing things. Once someone sees something, it creates that spark that they can do it, too.”