Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys tennis match has deeper resonance in Trump era

Race and politics will most likely be far away from the minds of the two twenty-something women.

 |  3-minute read |   08-09-2017
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Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates terrific essay "Donald Trump is the First White President" (read if you haven't already) immediately after watching the US Open all-American women's semi-finals on Friday morning and I couldn't help but think how relevant is the Saturday final between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

The match has a deeper resonance in the era of Trump's divisive politics; whose presidency, writes Coates, "is the negation of Barack Obama's legacy". It is evident in his administration's repeated attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare and reverse the environmental and educational policies.

Raising the race factor in the achievements of the two finalists is to not by any stretch take away from their wonderful performance at the tournament, but it is important to look at the backgrounds of the two players. It would make the white supremacists, racists and Neo Nazis who took to the streets of Charlottesville in Virginia go berserk.

Sloane Stephens is an African-American player. Much like her idols, the Williams sisters, she has her work cut out in winning approval. In the wake of tainted star Sharapova's comments on Serena Williams in her upcoming book Unstoppable: My Life So Far - "She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong," - one gets a sense of the inert racism that black players face on tour for their appearance.

sloane690_090817031207.jpgSloane Stephens is an African-American player.

Stephens' opponent Madison Keys is a bigger exception on tour.

Born to a black father and a white mother much like Obama, Keys may not identify herself as an "African-American" or "White" as per a New York Times interview but her mixed roots invariably make her a representative of the very America that many of Trump's supporters despise. She is an embodiment of the diverse, progressive, inclusive and changing America.

Race and politics will most likely be far away from the minds of the two twenty-something women who will compete to win their maiden grand slam title at Flushing Meadows in New York, whose residents have repeatedly stormed in front of Trump Tower to demonstrate their anger at his regressive policies and his bigotry.

madison690_090817031304.jpgMadison Keys was born to a black father and a white mother.

Trump will be far away from everybody's mind. Instead it would be the resilience of Stephens and Keys who have both overcome injuries - Stephens underwent a foot surgery in January while Keys got one on her wrist in June - to enjoy this career-high.

Trump may be busy watching Fox News or lazing at Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, if Hurricane Irma permits, but a majority of the American populace will be watching this contest, cheering not only for the two women's sheroic feats, but also, celebrating the America they love and are proud of.

Also read: We need to speak up for the Bihar journalist who was shot dead, too

Writer

Suhani Singh Suhani Singh @suhani84

The writer is Senior Associate Editor, India Today.

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