Culture

News Corp Is Rushing To Defend Mark Knight Over That Appalling Serena Williams Cartoon

It's not them, it's us, apparently.

News Corp is strongly defending cartoonist Mark Knight after his depiction of tennis legend Serena Williams was slammed as racist on social media and by celebrities around the world.

Knight’s cartoon, which depicted Williams as a large black caricature complete with enlarged facial features, was picked up by several international outlets overnight. It’s been described as racist by celebrities including J.K. Rowling, Nicki Minaj and comedian Kathy Griffin.

As many have pointed out, Knight may not have intended to be racist in his drawing, but his depiction of Williams draws on several racist tropes from segregation-era United States.

It’s not the first time Mark Knight has been accused of racism. Just last month, a cartoon depicting Melbourne’s “African gangs” was also heavily criticised. Knight’s original tweet of the cartoon now has more than 25,000 replies, most of them negative.

But not everyone is upset. Knight’s employer, News Corp, has rushed to his defence, claiming the cartoon simply depicted a sports star behaving badly. In an editorial, the Herald Sun has described Knight’s critics as “a tidal wave of ill-informed critics”.

“To argue the Williams drawing is racist is an attempt to defeat cartooning — and satire — with a politically-correct barrage,” the editorial says.

The Executive Chairman of News Corp Australiasia, Michael Miller, has tweeted his support for Mark Knight, saying the controversy “shows the world has gone too PC”.

Meanwhile high profile News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt says Knight’s critics are “deaf and blind”, and are only criticising the cartoonist because he’s white.

But in the real world, media organisations are lining up to criticise the cartoon.

Vox has described the cartoon as “nasty”, saying it’s disappointing but not surprising.

“Whether or not you think Williams’s behavior during the match warranted the penalties that eventually cost her the game, Knight’s depiction of Williams is a jarring reminder of insidious, racist tropes that undercut black women in America,” wrote Michelle Garcia. “And Williams has repeatedly been a target of those tropes — despite the fact that she’s one of the most prominent, successful athletes in the world, regardless of gender — throughout her storied career.”

In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna drew a direct line between Knight’s cartoon and “the dehumanizing Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries”.

“Knight’s cartoon conjures up a range of such caricatures that were branded on memorabilia and popularized on stage and screen of the era, including the minstrel-show character Topsy born out of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, as well as the title character in 1899’s ‘Little Black Sambo’,” Cavna wrote.

It’s always nice to see an Australian making it big on the world stage.