Cries of 'racism!' over newspaper editorial cartoon mocking Serena Williams's tantrum

I came to the conclusion decades ago that the cartoonist's artistic device of caricature was virtually off limits when it comes African-Americans and other victim groups as designated by the left.  Caricature seizes on some recognizable physical characteristics of appearance and exaggerates them, and nothing may ever be exaggerated and mocked when it comes to official victim groups, even when the specific individual is wealthy and successful beyond the dreams of ordinary mortals.

I was right.

In fact, it seems that American cartoonists understand this point better than I do, which is why the first kerfuffle over depiction of Serena Williams's on court meltdown after losing a big tennis match comes from tennis-mad Australia.

Mark Knight is the editorial cartoonist for Melbourne, Australia's Herald Sun.  The cartoon in question is copyrighted material and doesn't even appear in articles supporting Knight in  in other Aussie papers.  You can see it here.

Warren Brown of The Australian (behind paywall):

Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon ... has gone thermonuclear overnight thanks to the immediacy of social media.

It was a great, and simple, cartoon – it wasn't trying to make some grandiose, posturing, political statement – it was a bloody funny caricature of Serena Williams throwing a tantrum, jumping on her tennis racket, the umpire whispering to her Japanese-Haitian opponent Naomi Osaka: "Can you just let her win?"

We all watched Serena's churlish and infantile behaviour on court and we were all shocked.  When I saw the cartoon, for the life of me I didn't tumble that it was in any way problematic.  At the time I was wrestling with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's Wagga Wagga fiasco.

But the simple joke depicting a squillionaire sports star having a hissy-fit has been seized upon by everyone clambering over each other to plant the flag as the world's most outraged, denouncing the cartoon as racist and sexist – twisting it into some old-time blackface propaganda and painting Knight as if he were a paid-up sheet-wearing Klansman.

Drawing a long bow, critics have invoked the abhorrent Jim Crow, a racist negro stereotype that appeared in the US about 180 years ago (don't worry, I had to Google it, too) comparing the Serena cartoon with the pre-Civil War sentiments.

Even Harry Potter creator JK Rowling has gone in all wands blazing: "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."

You see – it's Mark's depiction of Serena as a giant, aggressive, Afro-American sporting a shock of wild hair and a tutu that's caused the outrage – but if I can give JK a heads up, that's what Serena Williams bloody well looks like.

She's one of the world's most instantly recognisable – and bankable – sports stars and her appearance is no accident.  She is a brand and even people who know nothing about tennis recognise her in a millisecond.

Brown's spirited defense is touching but distant as he is from our own social norms.  He was wrong when he wrote, "But then there are times when unexpectedly even the most innocuous cartoon will go off – with spectacular results."

Yes, it ought to be innocuous, but until some longed for post-racial future arrives, there will be lots of people in America and elsewhere who scream in outrage over anything that appears to exaggerate anything about a victim group.

The Herald-Sun editorialized in support of its cartoonist:

Mark Knight's cartoon depicting Williams destroying her racquet and jumping up and down, with a dummy spat nearby, mocked the star player for her behaviour.

Indeed, such was the gravity of her angry remonstration it later left Osaka, who became Japan's first player to win a Grand Slam singles title, in tears.

But Knight's critics have focused on what they wrongly claim is some sort of inherent racism and sexism.

Williams herself claimed her treatment by Ramos was sexist and the penalty amounted to theft – and the ensuing debate seems to have heightened a critical but faulty radar for anything Williams' supporters may see as supporting that racism or sexism.

Knight, like almost every cartoonist, mocks the powerful and famous when required; whether it be prime ministers like Malcolm Turnbull or presidents like Donald Trump.

Regardless of race or sex, they are lampooned because of their behaviour.

That last line is exactly how it should be, and until it is true in America, we will not have achieved anything close to our goal of a society in which the "content of our character" matters more than the "color of our skin."  But alas, there is too much political advantage to be had by those who cry racism whenever a chance presents itself.

The Aussies may be able to stand up to the real racists – the ones who insist on double standards.  But let's see if they start picketing the NewsCorp headquarters building on Sixth Avenue in New York City, a very visible symbol of the company because of Fox News's street-level studios and news crawl sign.

Hat tip: John McMahon

I came to the conclusion decades ago that the cartoonist's artistic device of caricature was virtually off limits when it comes African-Americans and other victim groups as designated by the left.  Caricature seizes on some recognizable physical characteristics of appearance and exaggerates them, and nothing may ever be exaggerated and mocked when it comes to official victim groups, even when the specific individual is wealthy and successful beyond the dreams of ordinary mortals.

I was right.

In fact, it seems that American cartoonists understand this point better than I do, which is why the first kerfuffle over depiction of Serena Williams's on court meltdown after losing a big tennis match comes from tennis-mad Australia.

Mark Knight is the editorial cartoonist for Melbourne, Australia's Herald Sun.  The cartoon in question is copyrighted material and doesn't even appear in articles supporting Knight in  in other Aussie papers.  You can see it here.

Warren Brown of The Australian (behind paywall):

Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon ... has gone thermonuclear overnight thanks to the immediacy of social media.

It was a great, and simple, cartoon – it wasn't trying to make some grandiose, posturing, political statement – it was a bloody funny caricature of Serena Williams throwing a tantrum, jumping on her tennis racket, the umpire whispering to her Japanese-Haitian opponent Naomi Osaka: "Can you just let her win?"

We all watched Serena's churlish and infantile behaviour on court and we were all shocked.  When I saw the cartoon, for the life of me I didn't tumble that it was in any way problematic.  At the time I was wrestling with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's Wagga Wagga fiasco.

But the simple joke depicting a squillionaire sports star having a hissy-fit has been seized upon by everyone clambering over each other to plant the flag as the world's most outraged, denouncing the cartoon as racist and sexist – twisting it into some old-time blackface propaganda and painting Knight as if he were a paid-up sheet-wearing Klansman.

Drawing a long bow, critics have invoked the abhorrent Jim Crow, a racist negro stereotype that appeared in the US about 180 years ago (don't worry, I had to Google it, too) comparing the Serena cartoon with the pre-Civil War sentiments.

Even Harry Potter creator JK Rowling has gone in all wands blazing: "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."

You see – it's Mark's depiction of Serena as a giant, aggressive, Afro-American sporting a shock of wild hair and a tutu that's caused the outrage – but if I can give JK a heads up, that's what Serena Williams bloody well looks like.

She's one of the world's most instantly recognisable – and bankable – sports stars and her appearance is no accident.  She is a brand and even people who know nothing about tennis recognise her in a millisecond.

Brown's spirited defense is touching but distant as he is from our own social norms.  He was wrong when he wrote, "But then there are times when unexpectedly even the most innocuous cartoon will go off – with spectacular results."

Yes, it ought to be innocuous, but until some longed for post-racial future arrives, there will be lots of people in America and elsewhere who scream in outrage over anything that appears to exaggerate anything about a victim group.

The Herald-Sun editorialized in support of its cartoonist:

Mark Knight's cartoon depicting Williams destroying her racquet and jumping up and down, with a dummy spat nearby, mocked the star player for her behaviour.

Indeed, such was the gravity of her angry remonstration it later left Osaka, who became Japan's first player to win a Grand Slam singles title, in tears.

But Knight's critics have focused on what they wrongly claim is some sort of inherent racism and sexism.

Williams herself claimed her treatment by Ramos was sexist and the penalty amounted to theft – and the ensuing debate seems to have heightened a critical but faulty radar for anything Williams' supporters may see as supporting that racism or sexism.

Knight, like almost every cartoonist, mocks the powerful and famous when required; whether it be prime ministers like Malcolm Turnbull or presidents like Donald Trump.

Regardless of race or sex, they are lampooned because of their behaviour.

That last line is exactly how it should be, and until it is true in America, we will not have achieved anything close to our goal of a society in which the "content of our character" matters more than the "color of our skin."  But alas, there is too much political advantage to be had by those who cry racism whenever a chance presents itself.

The Aussies may be able to stand up to the real racists – the ones who insist on double standards.  But let's see if they start picketing the NewsCorp headquarters building on Sixth Avenue in New York City, a very visible symbol of the company because of Fox News's street-level studios and news crawl sign.

Hat tip: John McMahon