If only they'd invest in putting this many spices in their food...
Image by Mark Knight
I count several different issues (several flavors of insults, really) with this cartoon. Some of them are racist stereotypes, and others, microaggressions.
"SHE'S AN ANIMAL": Serena Williams (shown in the forefront of the image), is drawn by Knight in an ape-like fashion. Drawing Black people animalistic ways, especially as apes, is rooted in a centuries-old racist stereotype, which places Africans (the parent population of Black people) as the most basal version of humans (closest to the great apes). A related stereotype also places Europeans as the "apex" of humanity (furthest from the great apes).
"SHE'S NOT FEMININE": Her ape-like appearance and display of anger, combined with the stockiness and disproportionate length of her limbs makes "Serena" look masculine. The perspective in the picture guides our eyes back to the more slender, feminine figure of "Osaka". "Osaka" is not having an outburst. "Osaka" appears calm. And you know what happens next: we end up comparing the two, and "Serena" looks even uglier. The sexism that we've been force-fed from birth kicks in, and we sympathize with the masculine, ugly woman less. Somehow, she doesn't deserve our sympathy or understanding.
"SHE IS IMMATURE": Knight infantilizes "Serena" by showing her having a temper tantrum. Acting out is a psychological defense mechanism seen mostly from children. Note the pacifier he drew on the ground. Such infantilization of Black people is racist because it is rooted in the old stereotypes of Black people being impulsive, childlike, unintelligent, and more emotional than usual. (This is some of the propaganda behind the archetypal Black buck troupe.) In this instance, "Serena's" infantilization is also microaggressive because the disapproval that this cartoon is trying to evoke relies on an assumption of the western world's communication preferences (i.e. quiet, lackluster, and impersonal speech) as the standard/better version of communication. Not everyone agrees with that though. In this, we have yet another revolting example of how People of Non-Color center themselves whenever they can.
"SHE HAS ANGER MANAGEMENT ISSUES": The racket is destroyed as a result of her tantrum. Combined with the context of the "whites" in the background and her ape-like countenance, even this becomes a part of the racist narrative. Remember the "Black people are violent/criminals" stereotype? What about the Sapphire (angry Black woman) stereotype?
"SHE DOESN'T RESPECT PRIVATE PROPERTY!!! SHE'S AN ENEMY OF CAPITALISM!": It's subtle, but: We're inclined to weep for the iNnOcEnT racket under her feet because we've been conditioned by our capitalist systems to value property (often more than other people). She got a point penalty for "racket abuse" during the match. I suppose in the tennis world that's linked to the concept of pOoR sPoRtSmAnShIp or something? I guess we have to believe now that she has no scruples!!!
"OH??? SHE'S NOT FULLY BLACK? THEN, LET'S WHITE-WASH HER! MAYBE THAT WAY, WE CAN DEAL WITH OUR INFERIORITY COMPLEXES ABOUT SERENA'S DOMINANCE AS AN ATHLETE!": Naomi Osaka (who is Haitian and Japanese) is depicted as a Person of Non-Color. What type of delusional is Knight??? I mean, Naomi is visibly Black! LOLZ. I guess this is what happens when they "don't see color" sometimes.
"FORGET ABOUT POC UNITY, LET'S WORK TOGETHER TO CENSOR HER, BECAUSE I'M SICK OF ALL THE NOISE!": How could anyone watch what happen and just see Serena as being disruptive or noisy? But then again, if one doesn't believe that Black people have a right to advocate for themselves, I guess any of their attempts to do so would be seen that way. Look how they've talked in the media about the BLM protests.
"DO HER A FAVOR": "Can you just let her win?" What??? Honestly, if you ask me, that text bubble was the worst thing about the cartoon. (Let's ignore how People of Non-Color have tarnished the concept of meritocracy, ok?) lEt HeR wIn??? There's absolutely nothing that Naomi Osaka could deign to give to Serena Williams, who happens to be the most accomplished tennis player in the world (bar none). Not that I believe in it, but: what was Knight smoking to mock the BIPOC unity that was present that day, and instead, imply that white solidarity was afoot with the other Black player??? I mean, watch the video below! How can you have white solidarity when you only have one Person of Non-Color on the court??? LMAOOOOOO!!!
"NO ONE EVEN AGREED WITH HER!": We humans, despite how bad we are at it sometimes, are social creatures who care about consensus. In fact, consensus is how we often establish the boundaries of "truth" or veracity. Check out how the audience is drawn in the cartoon. It is drawn as a mass of nondescript heads. They are not interacting with what's going on on the court. But that's not how it was in real life. In truth, the much of the audience was sympathetic to Serena (because they were offended on her behalf that the umpire would have the audacity to insinuate that she would cheat--or even need to cheat--to win). When I saw her reaction in the video below, I ended up crying a little. I could really feel her indignation. I'd be indignant too, if I had invested in meritocracy the way she has with her exacting work ethic--only for some saggy, salty little fool to debase me. If you watch the whole match, you'll see that some members of the audience even began to boo the umpire on the court. Still others, like myself, felt the whole thing was rigged because of him.
Yeah, Naomi won, but: the referee seemed to have it out for Serena. Serena was clearly not at her best (recovering from childbirth still). I know that affected her performance. The referee did everything he could to agitate her. And he's not alone. (After the match, she was fined $17,000 by tennis authorities.) Between him, tennis authorities, and the media, they've been looking for ways to tear Serena down for decades. Check out how one reporter attempted to do this while she was still a child. Skip to ~3 minutes to see it.
I want to close with some positivity here. Please view the video below as a tribute to tennis champion and legend Serena Williams. Enjoy!
For more information about how the world ingested this cartoon, check out the links below...
The Australian Press Council Says That The Cartoon Isn't Racist: https://www.npr.org/2019/02/25/697672690/controversial-serena-cartoon-ruled-non-racist-by-australia-s-governing-press-bod
The Magazine Vox on the Issue: https://www.vox.com/2018/9/10/17841366/serena-williams-editorial-cartoon-racist
A Washington Post "Perspective Piece" on the Cartoon: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2018/09/13/a-racist-serena-williams-cartoon-went-viral-heres-how-to-caricature-her-the-right-way/
On The Racist, Sexist History of Tennis: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a23281447/serena-williams-vsnaomi-osaka-us-open-2018-tennis-cartoon-racist-sexist-history/