Japanese basketball player オコエ桃仁花 Monica Okoye, whose mother is Japanese and whose father is a Nigerian of Igbo descent, plays for Denso Iris as well as the Japanese national team. Her older brother Louis plays professional baseball for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Like all fans of successful athletes, Monica Okoye's fans are happy to follow her achievements and share in joyous moments such as when she won a silver medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics. However, they were recently shocked and angered by something Okoye posted on her Twitter account.

On September 7th, 2022, she posted a Tweet revealing the contents of a direct message which was racially discriminatory in nature.

In the brief but shockingly hurtful message, the sender insulted her and her double heritage, ridiculing her parents by questioning her Japanese mother's decision to marry her Nigerian father.

Moreover, even more disturbingly, Okoye posted the screenshot of the message along with the words, "I'm so used to it that my mind is numb," thereby revealing that it was not the first time she had been subjected to such racial discrimination.

The post has been shared widely, garnering over 81,600 likes and 14,1000 retweets at the time of writing. Expressing their anger and voicing their support and encouragement, fans have left comments such as:

  • "There are dozens and dozens of times more people supporting you than those who say things like this!"
  • "What is important is not the color of one's skin but the color of one's heart."
  • "I can't understand why anyone would say such slanderous and racist things..."
  • "Now that Twitter Japan Inc. is registered in Japan, it's easier to request disclosure of information, so please use a lawyer and take legal action."

In July 2022, the statutory penalty for online slander was raised in Japan, making the crime punishable by prison time.

Even so, some Japanese people still send hateful and cruel words online.

We can only hope that with the harsher punishment, more people will be dissuaded from committing such acts.

Fortunately, Okoye is using the opportunity to promote a positive message. In a follow-up Tweet, she said:

"My mom and dad met and now I am here. No matter what anyone says, no matter what color my skin is, I am worthy of being loved.

You, the person in front of me. You, the person next to me. All of you are important to someone. Care about words. Care about your heart.

All of your heartwarming messages make me proud to be Japanese. Thank you."

Editor's note: Updated on Sep. 9th, 13:08 with Okoye's follow-up Tweet which she posted after this article was published.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.