On the wake of the unusual emotional outburst Serena Williams displayed at the U.S. Open, a racist, sexist cartoon created by Mark Knight and published by Australia’s Herald Sun give many flashbacks of a sad history of black women’s femininity attacked through humor.
The depiction shows Serena with grossly exaggerated body and face stomping on her racket with a pacifier nearby. In the background we see her opponent, presumably Naomi Osaka, depicted as a petite and much more “feminine looking” blond woman.
I find that representation interesting for its symbolism. The writer deliberately depicts Serena as large, muscular and monstrous and the opponent, who in real life is mixed race with an obvious black phenotype as a delicate white woman. The cartoonist has just revealed his racial bias in plain sight while he denies it while peeing on our leg and telling us it’s raining.
I remember watching Tom and Jerry as a child. On the rare occasions that a human was depicted coming between the character’s antics that person would often appear as a large, obese black woman devoid of any femininity who bossed Tom around with a sassy country accent. If there was ever a non-black female–animal or otherwise–was shown, she was soft, beautiful and dainty.
The following cartoon shows the sharp contrast the cartoonist makes between the black woman “Mammy” and a dainty white woman.
So when Mark Knight glibly tells the Huffington Post that his cartoon wasn’t about racism but behavior, somebody needs to send him these cartoons and ask him if any of this looks familiar to him.
“The fact is, the world is still both a sexist and a racist place. It still expect its female sports figure to “act like a lady” at all times, while men are allowed to express their frustration on the field because “boys will be boys.” But black women in face additional scrutiny because of the color of their skin,” says Mario Almonte, a public relations professional and commentator on politics and social issues. “As high-profile public figures, professional athletes like Serena Williams deal with incredible pressure every day. Williams, unfortunately, also faces an additional challenge in that she does not have the “slim, feminine” figure fans expect from women in tennis. If she was a man, fans would marvel at her powerful physique. Because she’s a woman, they think she is too “masculine.” How many male athletes have ever, in the history of tennis, been accused of looking too feminine? The Herald Sun cartoon exemplifies all three.”
Have we ever thought that the reason WHY Serena’s outburst was even news? It’s news because this is highly unusual for the GOAT, who, for decades has displayed superior sportsmanship, composure and restraint in the face of racist and sexist attacks on her very humanity. From when Serena and her sister Venus came to the scene from Compton with braids and beads, they have faced more abuse from all sides, more that most of us could not ever imagine. The level of self-control, self-esteem, and self-restraint is truly a marvel.
If anybody deserves a little bit of grace, it’s Serena.
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