UK Editor: Impossible To Draw Serena Williams Without Being Racist

“It’s bloody difficult. Especially the lips. Make them too big and anti-racist people will accuse you of being a white supremacist…But too small and they don’t look like the lips of very many black people.”


Serena Williams is arguably the most gifted tennis player in the world, right? Arguably, because there are some people in the world, who can’t handle the idea of a black athlete — and a woman, to boot — being good at anything.

After Williams lost the U.S. Open final to Japan’s Naomi Osaka amidst highly controversial conditions, cartoonist Mark Knight, who works for the Herald Sun in Melbourne, drew a satirical caricature of the legendary tennis player stomping on her racket with a pacifier lying nearby — except the cartoon looked nothing like Williams but was a gross exaggeration of all the worst stereotypes associated with African Americans.

Predictably, Knight experienced worldwide backlash for his racist impression of the athlete; however, there are those who believe he did nothing wrong. Quite the contrary, British editor Rod Liddle has rose up in support of the cartoonist, proving himself to b a true apologist for racists.

In an opinion piece on The Spectator, Liddle displayed exactly how “un-racist” the racist sketch was — which he described as  “a very funny cartoon of the perhaps inaptly named tennis player Serena Williams having a temper tantrum on court” — drawing on some of the most racially-charged generalizations of the black community.

“I have spent the morning trying to draw a cartoon of a black person without it being racist. It’s bloody difficult. Especially the lips. Make them too big and anti-racist people will accuse you of being a white supremacist peddling, in their words, the old ‘sambo’ myth. But too small and they don’t look like the lips of very many black people. It’s the same with the color,” Liddle wrote in the op-ed.

The old “Sambo” myth the editor is referring to is the characterization of black men, who are considered carefree, irresponsible and lazy — exactly how many racist, white people in the world view people of color.

Liddle also did not shy away from using the racial slur repeatedly in his essay.

“At first, on my cartoon, I used a black felt-tip pen and so the figure came out very black indeed. ‘Sambo’ territory again, especially when I added big red lips and very white teeth. In the end I used cross-hatching with a pencil but this was, to my mind, unsatisfactory,” he wrote.

Liddle did not write exactly why he added “big red lips and very white teeth” to his drawings. People of African descent do not have those characteristics and such depictions are merely the result of discriminatory, racist tropes perpetuated by people like Liddle and Knight.

However, Liddle even had an answer for that.

“The job of a cartoonist is to exaggerate physical characteristics into an immediately recognizable caricature for comic effect, not to assuage people with skin as thin as the surface tension of water,” he said.

“Recognizable caricature,” he said. But the image of Williams was hardly that and if removed from the context of the tennis court, it’s doubtful whether anyone would be able to recognize the 23-time Grand Slam champion as anything other than a random “angry black woman.”

Never mind the fact that Williams, despite her well-deserved stardom, is one of the most discriminated players in history, who has dealt with the unjust and unfair system, not to mention the sexist discouraging tripe from her male counterparts, all her life and has weathered the ordeals with a calm countenance most of the time. But she put one step out of the line and that was the chance for racists to brand her as a hormone-driven woman who is a talentless sore-loser.

“I have to say I found nothing terribly shocking in her behavior — it reminded me a little of my reaction when my father beat me 21-4 at table tennis when I was nine years old. If I could have channeled that intense loathing, fury, resentment, bitterness and frustration into my game I might have become a table tennis player of some repute,” read the essay, dripping with sexism, racism and ignorance. “Serena Williams does not like losing and her antipathy to defeat is one reason she is such a successful player. Paddies like hers are always a good laugh, but they are hardly unique in the world of tennis or in any other competitive sport. What rankled was the speed with which Serena clambered into acquired victimhood to explain it all away, wreathed in self-pity and blaming her hormones.”

The article rants on and on but it’s obvious that Liddle knows very little about the sports industry and thinks even less about the trailblazers in communities of color.

The op-ed in of itself is hardly surprising, considering Liddle has been accused of racism against the African-Caribbean community over a decade ago, when he wrote, without a shred of evidence, that most of the sexual-violent crimes in London were committed by the aforementioned community.

Since then, he has said and done nothing much to get himself rid of the impression.

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

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