Racism, sexism, and double standards.
Mark Knight, the editorial cartoonist for the News Corp-owned Herald Sun in Melbourne, Australia, takes the cake for all three.
Knight sparked outrage worldwide for his controversial cartoon on Sept. 10, depicting Serena Williams as a toddler having a tantrum, stomping her racket — a pacifier on the court by her side — following her defeat by Naomi Osaka during the Women’s Singles Finals match in the U.S. Open.
Williams clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, demanding an apology after he initially issued a warning for a code violation in the second set’s second game for receiving coaching, which is not allowed during Grand Slam matches.
Williams did break her racket and sports commentators have since criticized how she handled things, calling her petulant, referring to her “tantrum.”
While the debate rages on as to the appropriateness of Williams’ behavior and Ramos’ penalties, was it really necessary for Knight to draw Williams with oversized lips and the large body frame that is rounded like the old “mammy” cartoons?
Knight used the most age-old, Jim Crow-era, stereotypical, racist imagery here to demean, mock, and, worst, dehumanize Serena. It’s blatant and undeniable.
It’s also notable that Knight chose to give Osaka — who is Japanese and Haitian — blonde hair, as if to play up her innocence (and erase her Blackness) in opposition to an “angry” dark-skinned Black woman. Osaka is essentially whitewashed into a faceless blonde being asked to let Williams win.
Knight said his cartoon was only about Williams’ behavior on the court and said those suggesting it was racist or sexist were misinterpreting it.
He also said he had “absolutely no knowledge” of the Jim Crow-era cartoons of Blacks and blamed social media for fuelling the outrage.
Whether Knight intended for his cartoon to be racist or not, people have said that they feel it is. Instead of issuing an apology, or learning from it, he has just doubled down — that’s really sad.
The Herald Sun’s editor, Damon Johnston, and Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia, Michael Miller, threw their support behind Knight and the cartoon.
The paper even republished the cartoon on its front-page on Sept. 12. Under the front-page headline, “WELCOME TO PC WORLD,” the Herald Sun wrote that “if the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed.” The cover included caricatures of other Australian and foreign political leaders drawn by Knight.
The veteran cartoonist suspended his Twitter account to protect his family and friends, he said.
News Corp — we agree with author J.K. Rowling on this one.
“Well done on reducing one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes and turning a second great sportswoman into a faceless prop.”