Cartoons in black and white


The last time a cartoon created controversy people died. Hopefully this time all there is to it is a lot of hot air:*

America has responded with shock and disgust over a cartoon depiction of tennis star Serena Williams which has been labelled “racist” and “sexist”.

The image by Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has created uproar in the US with commentators saying it is an example of Australia’s “blind racism”…

The backlash against Knight — and Australia more generally — intensified over 24 hours as the image made global headlines — and nowhere more fiercely than in the US.

The anger came thick and fast, and it quickly became less about Knight’s cartoon and more about perceived racism in Australia.

“Trust Australia to take a debate around racialised gender dynamics and ratchet up the racism tenfold,” Rachel Withers, a New York-based freelance writer, wrote in an article on The Slate. “The latest cartoon is very Mark Knight — and sadly representative of Australian cartooning and Australian racism in general.”

Columnist at The Root, Michael Harriot published a scathing op-ed. He called out the cartoon for choosing to illustrate Naomi Osaka, who is Haitian-Japanese, as a “blonde, fair-skinned damn-near white woman whose complexion is the same as the umpire’s.”

“I don’t think that Mark Knight sat down with his 64 Crayola super pack with hatred in his heart for Serena Williams. I honestly believe that, in Knight’s mind’s eye, that is actually how he sees Serena — as a hulking, brutish simian rampaging in front of the world,” Harriot said. “Which is racist and sexist.”

Meanwhile a Washington Post article said the cartoon used “dehumanising” facial features, while Brenna Edwards, a black journalist who reports on news and politics for Essence magazine in the US, told ABC News the picture “dates back to the Jim Crow era”.

“Honestly, my mouth dropped open, because I do cover a lot of black news and a lot of it is hard to take, but when I saw this — a blatant caricature of one of the most celebrated athletes in the world — it was offensive, shocking and completely uncalled for,” she said.

The New York Times wrote that the cartoon reflected a “wider pattern” of ignorance from Australians around race issues, saying the conversations in Australia were not as “robust and layered” as in the US.

The newspaper also tried to suggest News Corporation — owned by Rupert Murdoch, and the publisher of — had stirred racism “for decades” and bizarrely suggested this had intensified as the Liberal party struggled in the poll.

All the hyperventilating aside, Michael Harriot needs a new pair of glasses if he thinks that Naomi Osaka has been portrayed as  “blonde, fair-skinned damn-near white woman whose complexion is the same as the umpire’s.” Osaka dies her ponytail straw-blonde and her complexion in the cartoon is exactly the same shade as the not very serene Serena Williams – in contrast to the Latino umpire who’s got rosy cheeks to distinguish his “whiteness” from both tennis players. But if you can’t expect a calm and rational discussion of such a highly charged topic, why would you expect a factually accurate one?

Those who are shocked at the uproar and are defending the cartoonists’ craft, which relies on portraying people with exaggerated features, really don’t seem to have caught up on what, thanks to cultural Marxism and identity politics, the new rules of the game are. The controversy around Knight’s drawing is really no different to any other recent controversy revolving around the question of racism and relations between people of different ethnicities.

It’s all very simple: the world is divided into two groups: the oppressors and the oppressed, the perpetrators and the victims, the powerful and the powerless. In the former category you might find, depending on particular circumstances, white people, men, heterosexuals, conservatives, Christians; in the latter category  women and members of all other races, sexual persuasions, political beliefs and religions (or no religions). It’s the new Marxism, which doesn’t necessarily divide society anymore between the ruling capitalist class and the oppressed working class, but certainly holds on to Marxism’s Manichean dualism. The oppressed have the monopoly on the virtue and the oppressors have the monopoly on the vice. There is no room for individuality and nuance; tell me where you sit and I’ll tell you who you are.

Because the most important – really the only – factor is which group supposedly hold the power in society, there can be no room for any universally applicable rules. Treating the unequal as equal is unjust. The powerful need to be torn down, the powerless need to be elevated. Hence the equation that racism = prejudice + power, from which it flows that only white people can be racist because only they have power. Conversely, non-white people cannot be racist because they have no power, having been the historical victims of oppression, discrimination and mistreatment.

What does it all mean for the cartoonists? Simply that saying it is part of the craft to caricature people won’t hold water. It is a universally applicable rule and therefore it’s unjust. In fact, the only universal rule is that there are no universal rules. What you are or are not allowed to say or do to a particular person depend on whether they are the evil oppressor or the virtuous oppressed. You can draw the oppressors however you want, but to do so with the oppressed merely perpetuates their oppression. The oppressed should only be portrayed in the most flattering light. It doesn’t matter that the subject is a very famous and very rich woman – her defining characteristic is the colour of her skin. It also doesn’t matter that she lost to and complete took the shine out what otherwise should have been a glorious day for another woman of colour.  Dr Martin Luther King Jr would be considered a racist today to trying to judge people by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin. Today the colour of your skin is your character, just like your gender and sexuality likewise determine whether you are good person or not (Santa Claus will have a really easy job in these woke times).

Double standards? Yes, but for the left it’s not hypocrisy, it’s a social necessity.

* there are at the moment conflicting stories to explain the disappearance of Knight’s Twitter account: he either got suspended or deleted it over the death threats he was receiving. Stay tuned.