So…About Mark Knight’s Racist Serena Williams Cartoon
I must admit it takes a lot to shock me or even make me do a double take. I work in news. I work in Black news. It often feels as if every week I write about Black people being abused and/or mistreated in some aspect…and that’s when we are not being killed.
That being said, when I saw Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight’s depiction of Serena Williams in light of her upset at the U.S. Open, my eyes widened and the air lodged in my throat. Because, in summary, wtf?
You only need two brain cells to rub together to even begin to recognize how problematic, misogynistic and racist that drawing is.
Exhibit A through Z:
It is disgusting. It is beyond offensive.
Why is Serena, one of the most gorgeous, athletic women in the world displayed as a hulking mass throwing a tantrum? Why are her features so over-exaggerated, with the huge reddened lips taking me back to a darker time in our history when black face and the mischaracterization of black features was the norm?
These are all, of course, rhetorical questions.
You and I know exactly why Knight chose to depict Serena like that. She’s a Black woman, a Black woman who stood up for herself in the face of injustice after being unjustly penalized in a way that a white, male tennis player never would have been.
The misogynoir is real and in case you thought it wasn’t one only has to explore the drawing further.
Why is Naomi Osaka, someone who is Haitian-Japanese, with decidedly darker skin, depicted as a small, delicate, white-passing blonde figure? Why is Carlos Ramos, the umpire who caused this whole, mess between these two black women, stealing the shine from Osaka’s first U.S. Open win, also depicted as white-passing?
Again, these are all rhetorical questions. And I certainly am not the only one who picked up on the juxtaposition.
The irony behind this all is that when called out for his crap, Knight attempted to defend himself by posting another cartoon that he drew about Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, saying it amassed to the same thing…when it isn’t. Apples and oranges are not alike.
In this cartoon, Knight described Kyrgios as “sulky” and acknowledged that he should have been escorted off the court after his display, showing a female official pulling him by the ear. The over-exaggerated features, the exaggeration of Serena’s frustration….all of that is decidedly missing.
Sometimes I feel like it’d be easier if people would acknowledge that they hate Black women, or at the very least they hate when we attempt to assert and stand up for ourselves. The fact that this comic even got cleared is a sham and both Knight and the Herald Sun should be ashamed of themselves.