The racist Serena cartoon is straight out of 1910

WanzoRebecca Wanzo, associate director of the Center for Humanities and associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Arts & Sciences


What makes a bad editorial cartoon?

Mark Knight and some of his defenders will tell you the outcry against his Serena Williams cartoon, roundly criticized this week for indulging noxious racist imagery, are about “political correctness” or progressive silencing of dissent. Don’t believe that argument. It depends on the belief that people are incapable of making aesthetic distinctions. In an editorial, the newspaper defended his cartoon, saying it had nothing to do with race.

Mark Knight is participating in a long tradition of black stereotype, or what I often call a tradition of visual imperialism. I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes, believing that using the word “imperialism” is hyperbole. But if imperialism is about extending a nation’s authority through colonization, it is clear that European standards of beauty and fantastic representations of a black grotesque have thoroughly colonized every genre, and every medium. Knight’s cartoon depends on a black grotesque seeming natural, which makes it the very essence of visual imperialism.
Read the full piece in CNN.
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