Yesterday, the online world erupted in rage and vitriol (what else?!) over a cartoon depiction of Serena William’s disgraceful tantrum at the US Open.
And I’m not sure why…
Australian cartoonist Mark Knight draws what he sees, as do all artists, I suppose, albeit with some creative license. And what he saw—what we all saw—was a powerhouse female athlete, who just happens to be African American, spit the dummy and behave in a foul manner. Her opponent, who should be receiving all the media attention and glory, is drawn in the cartoon, too, with a speech bubble saying, ‘Can’t you just let her win?’ I didn’t see the match live, but I imagine that at some point Ms Osaka implored the umpire to make it stop. I think it’s safe to say that Ms Williams’ outburst embarrassed Ms Osaka, as well as the world. It was begging to be drawn.
I simply don’t understand where the racism is in this cartoon. Ms Williams dragged herself to the depths of an enraged frenzy. A woman who is strong and competitive, fit and fierce, showed the world her anger. She did it. Ms Williams had a choice: she could have been a gracious loser but she chose to expose herself as a screaming, foot-stomping baby. JK Rowling came blazing in with a sarcastic tweet about Mark Knight reducing Ms Williams to racist and sexist tropes. Um, sorry? Serena Williams is female, is African American, so she has to be drawn such (otherwise it might truly be a racist and sexist cartoon), and she chucked the most deplorable tantrum I’ve seen. Mark Knight was only drawing what she did on the court.
It seems these days we have to be outraged by something. We have to light a fire of fury and watch its orange flames burn through lives, and ignite the otherwise flexible demeanour of others. Once Ms Rowling made her thoughts known, it appears as though everyone in the world had to weigh in as well. Including me.
The cartoon has divided opinion, no doubt. But I think we need to take situations as they come. Mark Knight drew a depiction of a woman embarrassing herself on a tennis court. That is all.