Megyn Kelly, Naomi Osaka & why some whites think they still own Black bodies
Naomi Osaka appears on one of three covers of the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Photo by Yu Tsai/ Sports Illustrated

“On Camera Karen” Megyn Kelly, the epitome of white female snobery and entitlement, just can’t help herself, apparently.

In response to tennis phenom Naomi Osaka being one of three Black women featured on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, Kelly the former Fox News host and forever policer of Black minds, bodies, and if she could, spirits, had harsh words for Naomi. So harsh, many have labeled Kelly’s hate as “bullying.”

Kelly could have easily taken the route of celebrating the brave and empowering move of a young woman courageous enough to bare her soul to the world about her issues with depression and mental health, mustering up the gumption to consent to the SI shoot.

But no, Kelly took the most “Kelly” route possible.

After images of Osaka’s cover were published recently, Kelly trolled the four-time Grand Slam champion for appearing on magazine covers “after” she withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon tournaments in order to protect her mental health. 

Kelly, never lacking in self-rigtheousness, responded to a tweet by another self-appointed policer of Black agency, right-wing sports commentator Clay Travis, who also trolled Osaka by implying that the timing of Osaka’s decision to prioritize her mental well-being was a bit too convenient for his tastes, as Osaka has several projects being released this summer, including a Netflix documentary and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue set to hit stands in August.  

“Let’s not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!” said Kelly, reminding the world that you can take the person out of Fox News, but you can’t take the Fox News out of the person.

Outdone by Kelly’s lack of compassion (or over-abundance of haterade), SI Swimsuit edition editor MJ Day called out Kelly for bullying Osaka. Day added that Kelly dragged the Gen Z member Osaka (23-years-old) in a hyper-public space without knowing all the facts surrounding Osaka’s SI shoot.

Hole-lup. Let me Blacksplain that for you. What Day was really saying was, “Megyn, don’t think that just because you have the whitest name in history that it grants you super powers. It doesn’t. You’re old enough to know better than to take out your own feelings of insignificance, inadequacy and insecurity on a woman young enough to be your granddaughter and talented enough to own your tired a$$ in a more perfect world. So, next time, before you go opening your mouth, don’t.”

“It’s such bullying and it’s so unnecessary, and this woman did nothing wrong,” Day actually said during an appearance on People’s “People Every Day” podcast.

To provde context and clarity, and to remind both Travis and Kelly, and all other small-minded folk who’ve been too long sipping on the tea of the white supremacy myth, Day pointed out that Osaka shot her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover in December 2020. That’s five months BEFORE Osaka declared that she wasn’t going to subject herself to the pressures of French Open press appearances. Appearances that she has explained always had her on edge, and served as triggers for more mental/emotional discomfort.

Speaking of triggers, Day said she was so triggered by Kelly’s attacks that she shared screen grabs of Osaka’s shoot with a December 2020 timestamp on her Instagram Stories to prove the point that Kelly, rumored to have been a journalist, should have engaged in some journalistic research, at the very least. I mean, how hard would it have been for “On Camera Karen” to find that out before going full a$$hole on Osaka?

“It broke my heart,” Day said, noting that Osaka is “living her life for the betterment of others, while also trying to pursue her own passion, which is tennis and fashion.”

Osaka did respond to Kelly, but in a manner that Kelly did’t deserve–with class and character.

“Seeing as you’re a journalist I would’ve assumed you would take the time to research what the lead times are for magazines, if you did that you would’ve found out I shot all of my covers last year,” the tennis star reportedly tweeted. “Instead your first reaction is to hop on here and spew negativity, do better Megan.”

I seriously doubt if Osaka purposely spelled Megyn’s first name wrong. But if she did… well done!

Yet, even though Kelly’s misplaced aggression and flat-out ignorance is a big enough story in itself in terms of a misguided attack on tennis’ new star, there’s a much bigger issue at work here.

With this latest episode in the Kelly chronicles (you may remember her stint at NBC only lasted a year because she earnestly and with ever fiber of her inner Karen defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes during an on-air segment) she is exhibiting what Blackfolk have been having to contend with for far too long: this idea that whitefolk have a divine right to control Black bodies, Black words, Black actions, Black ideas, Black work, Black rest, Black play and Black life.

It’s a story and an attitude and a worldview that some African American Studies instructors (namely me) argue emerged after the year 1472, when Spain was finally able to kick the Moors out of their country.

Without going into full “professor” mode, the Moors, cousins of those West African geniuses the Dogon (who mapped the movement of the stars and planets with pinpoint precision eons before NASA was even thought of; and whose great uncle, big mama, Nana & nem controlled the ancient world’s educational and economic centers in the ancient West African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai) ruled Spain from 711 AD until 1472.

And in the process of their 700-plus year reign, these African sisters and brothers brought Spain and the rest of Europe out of one of its deepest, darkest, dankest “Dark Ages,” bringing them literacy, teaching them how to bathe, building libraries, universities and irrigation systems. And so, so much more. Without the Moors, it’s conceivable that many European nations may have fit the descriptor former reality TV star Trump used to describe African and Latino-led (and european-colonized, exploited and oppressed) countries.

But you know the Blacks; we’ll help anyone. But the Spanish weren’t grateful. Rather, they were hoping, praying, organizing for the moment to kick the Moors out of their land because, in the eyes of the Spaniards, the Moors were still a conquering or colonizing group of outsiders, no matter how much the Spanish appreciated learning the benefits of taking baths. And when 1472 came around, Spain finally had the wherewithal to run the Moors out of town. Oh Lord, I went all “professor” mode.

Okay. So, what does all this have to do with Megyn Kelly’s hate splattered upon Osaka? Well, once Spain emerged from 700-plus years (almost three times the lifespan of the U.S. as we know it) of being ruled by a people who were literally superior to them intellectually, hygenically, spiritually, mathmatically, scientifically, agriculturally, architecturally, etc., the Spanish (and many of their European neighbors) emerged with a Napoleon complex. In other words, they needed to prove to themselves and the rest of the world that they were not only just as good as, just as smart as the Moors, but that they were better, stronger, smarter, superior.

After 1472, the world is literally overrun with pseudo-sciences and theories and courses taught at the college level declaring with pseudo-scientific “proof” that the whiter a person was, the smarter they were, and the closer to God they were. And that skin color, cranium size, lip thickness, etc. “proved” scientifically a person’s genetic inferiority or superiority. You can make any nonsense sound official by putting the phrase “scientifically proven” in front of it.

Or that it was divinely orchestrated.

That bit of thinking came from the “Great Chain of Beings,” a belief that the Great I AM created everything in a hierarchy, with God on top, then angels, humans, animals, plants, fire and rocks. Not sure why they were hating on rocks.

Anyway. Within the human section, the Great Chain of Beings declared men higher (closer to God) than women, the rich higher (closer to God) than peasants and the landless and whites/Europeans higher (closer to God) than darker folk. In fact, the darker you were, the closer you were to animals.

So, this Great Chain of Beings madness that placed wealthy, landowning, royal-born, white males closer to God, gave them the divine “authority” to treat folk lower on this totem pole any way they so chose. Add to this, Spain was on a mission to prove their worthiness to themselves and others after being bested in every shape, form and fashion imaginable for 700-plus years by that group of Africans, they set out to claim lands for themselves and subjugate the darker peoples of the world as proof of their supposed superiority.

This mindset has festered, lingered and grown every year, every decade, every century since. But the foundational principles stayed the same: lighter folk had/have the divine right to police darker people, control their actions and profit off their bodies and talents, etc. And any sign of one of those darker folk daring to exhibit agency and control of their own lives (i.e. refusing to participate in required press conferences to protect their own mental/emotional well-being) must be stopped, deterred, quelled, squashed.

When Naomi Osaka dared to declare that she had ownership and agency over her own mental health, over 500 years of superiority complex (The Last Poets called it a god complex) welled up in some folk in ways that probably shocked them. And for many, Naomi Osaka’s name and image will forever remind them that these Black and Brownfolk today are daring to break free from the Matrix and take control of their own lives, ancient hierarchies be damned.

Megyn Kelly, Clay Travis, the French Open officials (initially), all responded out of this place of believed superiority and divine right to tell Blackfolk what to do. A belief deep in the recesses of their caucastic minds that they are ordained by God to literally own Black bodies, minds and spirits. The fact that slavery was abolished decades ago matters not to their subconscious. They still believe, on a DNA level, that if any Black or Brown person dares exercise full free will, they are to be put back in their place.

Any real or perceived advances for these darker people, then, must be met with force and violence, whether that force and violence be policies and laws detrimental to the Black and Brown; actual force and violence heaped upon them; or harshly worded tweets, dripping with entitlement and impacting the targets with…you guessed it… force and violence.

Look, I tried hard not to go the scholarly route, but please read Dr. Carol Anderson’s book on this topic, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. It outlines the sordid history of violent backlash against Blacks anytime something looked like it might make life a little more bearable for Black people.

Naomi Osaka sought to make life a little more bearable for herself by avoiding those press conferences that sent her anxiety through the roof. To Kelly and others, that was crime enough. But Osaka continues to push forward, live her best life, and do better by controlling what she can in her world.

I just wish Kelly and crew were as committed to doing better, as well.

And if you’re reading this, whatsonever you do, please y’all don’t let Kelly know that not only is Osaka on the cover of this year’s SI swimsuit edition, but also hip-hop hero Megan Thee Stallion and trans model Leyna Bloom. Kelly’s little priviledged head just might explode.

-The HuffPost Black Voices contributed to this article