Published: Thu, September 13, 2018
Arts&Culture | By Matthew Castillo

Aussie cartoonist slammed over 'racist' portrayal of Serena Williams

Aussie cartoonist slammed over 'racist' portrayal of Serena Williams

Serena Williams has been portrayed as an angry, overweight black baby in a cartoon in Australian newspaper The Herald Sun two days after the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion lost her cool in a dramatic US Open final.

And the editor of The Herald, Damon Johnston, said: "The cartoon is not racist or sexist... it rightly mocks poor behaviour by a tennis legend".

Even Amul's cartoon, filled with its usual buttery cuteness, drew ire for the accompanying text on Twitter: #Amul Topical: Ms William's tantrums in US Open Finals', because of the use of the word tantrums.

"What's hilarious about the discussion surrounding Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon is how ahistorical he and his supporters seem to be".

JK Rowling and Nicki Minaj were among a "tidal wave" of critics to denounce the image by Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight after it appeared in its paper on Monday.

In Mark Knight's cartoon, the umpire is shown telling a blonde, slender woman - meant to be Osaka, who is actually Japanese and Haitian - "Can you just let her win?".

Of course, one might ask if the cartoon had nothing to do with race, why he felt the need to draw Williams in a way that recalls the cartoons of Jack Johnson or cartoons of the Jim Crow south. Knight dismissed the criticism that his cartoon mimicked racist cartoons of the past, and defended his extremely exaggerated depiction of Serena's features.

"Mark has the full support of everyone".

Williams has won the Australian Open singles title seven times at Melbourne Park, including in 2017 when she was pregnant.

Underneath the headline "Welcome to PC world", the newspaper wrote: "If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very tiresome indeed".

Prior to disabling his account, his tweet of the cartoon had attracted more than 22,000 comments, majority critical.

"I'm here fighting for women's rights and women's equality", Williams said at a news conference after the match. They say I'm racist because I drew Naomi Osaka in the background with blonde hair.

Wednesday's cover featured several of Knight's cartoons, alongside reasons why they might also have been considered offensive.

In a searing piece, The Washington Post's cartoonist Michael Cavna said the "racist" sketch was reminiscent of the "vile imagery" popularised during the era of racial segregation in the US. "All he has done as cartoonists do is tell the truth".

America's National Association of Black Journalists called the cartoon "repugnant on many levels".

In 2016, Bill Leak was slammed for a cartoon that implied Indigenous fathers were alcoholics, poor parents and irresponsible, again painting a whole culture with historic and hurtful race-based stereotypes.

"I saw the world number one tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy".

"The September 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like", it said.

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