Comic Riffs Covers Controversial Serena Williams Cartoon

Michael Cavna covers the fallout from Australian cartoonist Mark Knight’s work on the Serena Williams/Umpire U.S. Open flap.

From the piece:

In doing so, Knight draws facial features reflecting 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.”


6 thoughts on “Comic Riffs Covers Controversial Serena Williams Cartoon

  1. Honestly, the only racist caricature cliche that’s missing is a bone through her nose.

    I don’t have a problem with superstars who throw tantrums being knocked down a peg, but this isn’t the way to do it.

  2. “…as well as the title character in 1899’s ‘Little Black Sambo.'”

    Are you aware of the fact that the story “Little Black Sambo” takes place in India, and that Sambo himself is not African, but Indian?

  3. Though unfamiliar with Mark Knight’s stuff, this caricature of Serena is not racist at all. If you draw a caricature of Barbra Streisand, do you exaggerate her big nose? If you caricature Obama, do you exaggerate his ears that stick out? Is it now taboo to caricature black people because racist artists of the past
    exaggerated black people’s negroid features?

    My criticism of this caricature is not that it’s racist, but that he didn’t get a likeness of Serena. A caricature that misses the mark on getting a likeness is a failure.

  4. Please. Serena William’ lips aren’t huge in real life. So no, this is not like exaggerating Streisand’s nose or Obama’s ears. It’s not taboo to caricature black people. Just don’t do it the way they did it 100 years ago.

  5. The name “Sambo” has been used for black — not Indian — characters far longer than that particular storybook, which inexplicably sets the book in India but not only gives the main character a name strongly associated with Africans but names his parents accordingly — Jumbo and Mumbo. She was likely trying to tag onto the popularity of the Jungle Books, published five years earlier.

    In any case, “Sambo” is definitely, absolutely aimed at Africans and subsequent editions of “Little Black Sambo” were illustrated with African, not Indian, children.

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