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Serena Williams made headlines (and was fined $17,000) for her outburst over the officiating nightmare at the U.S. Open women’s final on Saturday. It was a polarizing moment, with Williams calling out the double standard for the conduct women’s tennis players and the inconsistent application of the rules. Now, days after the incident, a newspaper cartoonist from Australia has put his spin on it. And his spin is really, really racist.
The Herald Sun’s racist cartoon
Editorial cartoonist Mark Knight of the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun was so proud of his Serena Williams-U.S. Open cartoon, which was published in the newspaper, that he posted it on his Twitter account early Monday morning.
— Mark Knight (@Knightcartoons) September 10, 2018
If you’re wondering why he was proud, you’re not alone. He depicts Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all time, as a racist stereotype, with a huge nose and big lips. She’s drawn like a Hulk baby, her strength and power twisted into infantile ugliness as she stomps on her racquet with a pacifier on the ground.
As if the racist depiction of Williams wasn’t enough, there’s more. Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams on Saturday, is Japanese-Haitian. But in the cartoon, she’s drawn as a busty, blonde white woman. And the only words in the cartoon are uttered by the umpire, who says “Can’t you just let her win?” That makes it seem like he played zero part in Saturday’s controversy, but it also implies that Williams needs to be “allowed” to win because she’s not talented enough or because she’s too “angry.”
Twitter’s response was swift and angry
Considering that the racism in Knight’s cartoon was so immense that it could have been spotted from space, Twitter jumped on it immediately and called it out for what it was: racist, hurtful, and 100% unnecessary.
About as subtle as Fran Drescher’s voice 🤦🏿♀️ https://t.co/VM23b4XnlI
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 10, 2018
Did you mean for this to come off as racist as it does? Because it was a punch to the gut. Felt like I was looking at an archived cartoon from the 1930s. Wow…. just, yeah…. wow. Whatever point you were trying to make, you revealed a WHOLE LOT more about you, than Serena
— Pam Keith (@PamKeithFL) September 10, 2018
This cartoon is a great example of the modern day Jim Crow mentality that Black American women face in this country. To malign her features like she is a monster and make everyone else human, is in fact dehumanizing. This is appalling and inherently racist.
— #MommyFab [project] – Fabulously Imperfect 🇺🇸📚 (@EfabulousHB) September 10, 2018
This is today's cartoon in the Australia's Herald Sun by Mark Knight. This is one of most overtly racist drawing I have seen in my life outside of the Jim Crow art in the U.S. From the jiggaboo caricature of Serena Williams to the white-washed depiction of Naomi Osaka.
— Shaina McGahee ✊🏿🇺🇸✊🏿 (@smac0905) September 10, 2018
You couldn’t be more racist if you tried – and you reeeeeaaally tried. Using those classic sambo tropes- enlarged lips, overexaggerated body parts to depict Serena as hyper masculine- next time just use an old ad from the 1800s- no one would notice the difference in your racism
— Skipperdee (@Skipperdee2015) September 10, 2018
Whatever you think of the Serena Williams situation, I think we can all agree that this cartoon is disgusting. Erasing Naomi Osaka’s blackness alongside a grossly racialised caricature of Serena, invoking racist stereotypes, is obscene. https://t.co/Z09T7rt5tt
— Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel) September 10, 2018
I wish I could say I was surprised but given Australia’s racist history to people of color and natives, this just fits right in. This is a tone deaf cartoon that ignores clear double standards that exist in tennis and instead use the old angry black woman trope as poor humor.
— Head Wakandan Chef Extrordinare (@ChefBoyO) September 10, 2018
It’s 2018 how is this cartoon considered ok? This is going back to the early Disney racist disgusting characterizations of Black People. Just dehumanizing. Then, he made #NaomiOsaka into a white girl with blonde hair ? This is not just an insult to #Serena but to all Black Women https://t.co/WRcQz5BDR4
— Etan Thomas (@etanthomas36) September 10, 2018
Hey Mark bruv you should totally submit your latest masterpiece to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in the USA. I think it would be very well received!
— Steve Hewlett (@StevieHewla) September 10, 2018
It even spurred a comment from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
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. https://t.co/YOxVMuTXEC
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 10, 2018
There was another racist cartoon, because of course there was
When it comes to racist Serena Williams cartoons, Australia seems to be leading the charge. Because there’s another racist cartoon about Serena Williams, and it comes from Paul Zanetti, a syndicated cartoonist from Australia.
Just Don't Do It
— Zanetti Cartoons (@ZanettiCartoons) September 9, 2018
In this one, Williams is drawn like a racist stereotype again, with the big lips and nose, and very defined cheeks. Additionally, she barely looks like a woman, which is obviously intentional. She’s holding up a sign and being approached by a Nike executive, in an effort to tie in the brand’s recent Colin Kaepernick commercial and make it look like Williams fighting for herself on the court was just a PR move.
Williams’ race isn’t brought up in the text of the cartoon itself, but she’s still drawn like a racist stereotype. Zanetti made the choice to draw her that way, when drawing Williams like a person wouldn’t have changed the overall meaning of the cartoon at all. But he did draw her that way, because the point of the cartoon is to make Williams look bad, not just for challenging the double standard of women’s conduct in tennis and being emotional on the court, but apparently just for being African-American.
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