The Herald Sun has defended a blatantly racist Mark Knight cartoon depicting Serena Williams‘ US Open final loss, saying that criticism of the image – and there has been a lot of criticism – is overblown.
For those who missed it:
My toon in today’s @theheraldsun on #SerenaWilliams @usopen pic.twitter.com/didwtQg1R5— Mark Knight (@Knightcartoons) September 10, 2018
In a piece published today, Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said yesterday’s cartoon “had nothing to do with gender or race,” and simply depicted an exaggerated version of the 23-time Grand Slam champion reacting to the controversial code violations doled out during her loss to Naomi Osaka.
Knight added that criticism of the cartoon shows “the world has just gone crazy,” and that “the cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race.”
Those statements come after widespread condemnation locally and further abroad. The Washington Post labelled the image explicitly racist, saying Knight’s depiction draws from a long visual history of “dehumanizing” caricatures of black Americans from the Jim Crow era.
In a statement, the National Association of Black Journalists said it was “repugnant on many levels” and that “Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like,” referring to historically racist depictions of black people in a children’s book series.
Condemnation has also highlighted how Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian descent, could be construed as a blonde, white woman in the image.
Other cultural luminaries have expressed their disgust at the image, too. Nicki Minaj awarded Knight her Cocksucker Of The Day Award (which, yes, carries its own troubling insinuations) on her Beats 1 radio show, while figures including Ben Simmons, J.K. Rowling and Ron Perlman have damned the cartoon.
To disrespect Serena Williams, a 23 time Grand Slam Champion, in this light is truly disappointing. As an Australian, I am truly disappointed #morethananathlete— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) September 10, 2018
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
Don’t know much about the Herald Sun. DO know this Mark Knight muthafucka shouldn’t be employed anywhere on this planet. https://t.co/46g7dh797h— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) September 10, 2018
This is Jim Crow-racist. He Sambo’d Serena Williams. I’m a bit surprised that @Knightcartoons didn’t include a watermelon. For those unfamiliar with the history invoked here, read about the coon caricature. https://t.co/ffmrk76MRM— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 10, 2018
But here we are, with Knight’s content being defended in one of our nation’s most prominent newspapers. Wonderful.
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