Cartoonist defends his racist depiction of Serena Williams and fails

Ruben Hill
September 14, 2018

An Australian newspaper doubled down on its decision to run a cartoon of Serena Williams that has been called racist and sexist.

This Mark Knight's cartoon published by the Herald Sun depicts Serena Williams as an irate, hulking, big-mouthed black woman jumping up and down on a broken racket.

The cartoon fuelled a global debate over Williams' controversial defeat by Japan's Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open women's singles final in NY on Saturday.

Wednesday's Sun cover includes other cartoons of high-profile figures, including President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"Criticism of Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire", he said.

Or the post was too much for Twitter (it's not clear which.) As of Tuesday morning, Knight's Twitter account - where he was flooded with comments after proudly posting the cartoon on Monday - was no longer active.

"The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of colour at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports".

Defending the cartoon, Mr Knight has said he has no knowledge of these references. She later was fined $17,000 ($10,000 for verbal abuse, $4,000 for the coaching violation and $3,000 for racket abuse).

Still, Knight has come under withering criticism over the cartoon with many calling the thick-lipped facial features a "mammy character" and "racist". I think that's what's resonates with people so much about Serena's journey, and explains the hysterical reaction against her.

As noted by the Herald Sun, fellow cartoonist Michael Leunig said Knight's cartoon was not offensive, but truthful.

Knight told the newspaper that his cartoon was a reference to Williams's behavior.

She was she given three code violations by Carlos Ramos, which cost her a point penalty and then a game penalty. "I simply saw the world number one player having a dummy spit". You are the best player at the end of this event and because of the turn of events with the crowd and the booing and everything, it wasn't the way - that was the outcome I was referring to. "For me to say "thief" and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark".

But Knight's critics, which included Martin Luther King's daughter Bernice King, say the Sun's defense of Knight is "uncomfortable" and "without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today", she said.

"The enlarged facial features and the position of a dummy in the cartoon draws on pernicious stereotypes of African Americans as angry, childlike and in need of restraint by white masters", says Dr Kate Dossett, associate professor of U.S. history at the University of Leeds.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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