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Was The Serena Williams Cartoon Racist?

It used several key racist tropes

This is what caricatures look like

 Getty: Matthew Stockman / Staff

The caricature of Serena Williams by Mark Knight of the Australian Herald Sun engaged in racist imagery and de-humanization, believes Rebecca Wanzo of CNN. Her features as a black woman were exaggerated to look ugly, based on white standards of beauty. The way he drew her, with big lips, reminded strongly of the Jim Crow-era cartoons about black people. Questionable, too, is the depiction of Williams’ Haitian-Japanese opponent, Naomi Osaka, as a petite blonde woman. This fits a common racist trope of whites being victimized by obscene, ugly and primitive-looking black people. We cannot ignore the history of portraying black people so negatively.

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The depiction of Serena Williams in an Australian caricature was not racist, asserts Robert Phiddian of The Conversation. Confined to Australian viewership, without the reach of Twitter, this cartoon probably wouldn’t have caused such waves. The country has a different history with racism than the U.S. does. Additionally, it is very natural for caricatures to exaggerate a person’s features. Condemning Mark Knight's depiction opens the door to all caricatures of black people being off-limits. Criticism about the depiction of her opponent, Naomi Osaka, who is Haitian-Japanese, misses that her skin tone is almost as dark as Williams’. Accusations of racism go too far.

Keep on reading at The Conversation
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