No, That Cartoon of Serena Williams Is Not Racist

Serena Williams argues with the chair umpire during a match against Naomi Osaka, of Japan, during the women's finals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

On Monday night, a new cartoon in Melbourne, Australia’s Sun-Herald by cartoonist Mark Knight of Serena Williams’ temper tantrum over her loss to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka hit the internet and was quickly lambasted as racist and repellant.


While the repellant part is in the eye of the beholder, the allegation that it’s racist is absurd.

Here is the cartoon:

Is the cartoon unflattering to Williams? Absolutely. But it’s meant to be! That’s what cartoonists do.

I’m just going to say this because I know what most people judge cartoons of anyone of African descent go by: Knight did not depict Williams as looking anything like an ape. So that idea is completely out. She was drawn to look like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, complete with a dropped pacifier (which as a mother who’s lived through those years knows is an apt comparison to what happened at the U.S. Open).

All that aside, the cartoon isn’t an unfair likeness of Williams that day.

I dunno, it looks like an apt comparison to me for a cartoonist to come up with.

Serena Williams acted abhorrently at the U.S. Open. Once again proving to be a sore loser and pulling the gender card when things weren’t going her way. Let’s not forget the player she was competing against is also a female minority.


People also immediately took exception to the fact that the artist portrayed Osaka as a blonde (and, therefore, white) girl. That seems true on its face until you realize Naomi Osaka had a dyed blonde ponytail that day.

I get the rush to be the first to decry racism in 2018, but this is not the dog whistle you’re looking for. If you don’t think individuals of African descent should be cartooned in a negative way ever, just say so. But don’t act like this cartoon was out of the norm for anyone, regardless of skin color.

Williams was ultimately fined $17,000 for her outbursts, which included destroying her racket and breaking sideline coaching rules. This cartoon isn’t racist and the event was well-placed for cartooning. The end.


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